Yearender: Disasters, terror attacks, political uncertainty haunt Uganda in 2010

08:12, December 23, 2010      

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Uganda made it through the year among worst natural disaster, terror attacks along with increasing concerns on political uncertainty relating to the country's general elections slated for early next year.

The East African country and the rest of the world on March 2 woke up to the sad news of a mudslide in the eastern part of the country that had destroyed 85 homesteads in Nametsi, Kubehwo and Namangasa villages in Bukalasi sub-county, Bududa district.

The mudslide sparked off by torrential rains the previous night, left over 300 people feared dead. Up to now, the remains of the victims have not been completely recovered from the ruins.

A few months down the road, terror struck the capital Kampala as three bomb blasts left over 76 people dead and scores of others injured as they were watching the World Cup final in a restaurant and a rugby club.

The al Shabaab, a Somali militant group which claimed the attacks threatened of more attacks if Uganda does not withdraw its peacekeeping troops from Somalia.

Uganda and Burundi have about 8,000 peacekeepers deployed in Somalia under the African Union Mission in Somalia.

As the terror threats intensify, there is also increased political uncertainty as the country starts its election process for the 2011 polls.

Observers are predicting a violent election process judging from the violent party primaries where people were injured.

Since the bomb-blasts, public vigilance and security alertness has increased with most public offices and shopping malls installing security checks.

There is also increased police foot and motorized patrols in the capital city and other major towns in the country.

"In our part as police, we have put in place extra measures in form of foot patrols, motorized patrols and general vigilance to prevent not only terrorism but also other violent crimes," said Kale Kayihura, Uganda's Inspector General of Police.

Security at the country's border points has also been beefed up.

Idi Senkumbi, Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesman said that whereas security agencies have now built capacity to handle any terror threat, the public should also remain vigilant and shun places that do not have access control measures.

Despite these measures, several attempts have been made to sneak in bomb making materials into the country.

Police seized bomb-making materials on a passenger bus at a customs check point earlier this month. In a separate incident police also seized explosives on a passenger bus in western Uganda.

Political uncertainty also continues to unravel everyday as the country's general elections slated for February 18, 2011 draw close.

Some political analysts have predicted that the election process may be embroiled in violence; a prediction government doubts can come true.

"There are all possible indicators of political violence to happen. There is lack of political consensus and unfairness in these elections," said Mwambutsya Ndebesa, a senior lecturer of history and development studies at Makerere University.

"The incumbent (President Yoweri Museveni) is saying, he is going nowhere and the opposition (Kizza Besigye) saying he will not go back to court again. This is an indicator of what is going to happen," Ndebesa added in an interview with Xinhua.

Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, the Chief of Defense Forces of the Uganda People's Defense Force last week said that he had placed the army on high alert citing possibilities of unrest arising from the elections.

He said several months ago a politician who he did not name was found with documents detailing plans of war.

"We will not tolerate any nonsense that is likely to undermine our gains in the area of peace and security because we have done so much. We cannot let anyone squander it," he said.

To beef up the country's security, Kale Kayihura, the police chief recently announced that the police will soon recruit over 18, 000 constables who will police the electoral process.

These constables will be reinforced by thousands of crime preventers who are currently being trained.

Each village is expected to have at least 100 crime preventers who will among other things prevent or report criminals during the electoral process.

The opposition political parties, however, see this as an attempt by the ruling National Resistance Movement to create a militia group ahead of the elections.

Meanwhile, the country's electoral body is appealing to the public to remain tolerant during and after the election process.

Badru Kiggundu, the chairperson of the Electoral Commission said government officials at district level and police commanders have also been instructed to stop intimidating voters or candidates.

"We want to appeal to supporters of various camps to learn to tolerate each other. Do not disrupt anybody's campaign program," he said.

Vincent De Visscher, the head of the European Union delegation to Uganda on Wednesday said that so far the campaign process for the presidential candidates has been peaceful with no major incidents.

Still, he cautioned the Electoral Commission to be on the lookout and warn government officials against using government resources to run their campaigns.

Source: Xinhua
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