The protests were sparked by the arrest of popular music star turned presidential candidate Bobi Wine for contravening Covid-19 regulations at a campaign rally last Wednesday. As the news of Wine’s arrest broke, protesters took to the streets of Kampala, clashing with police and military who responded with tear gas.
While authorities have said the restrictions are necessary to curb the spread of Covid-19, opposition members and their supporters say that they are an excuse to curb campaigning before the upcoming January election.
Witnesses told CNN that police, military and plainclothes gunmen fired high caliber rifles in dense urban areas to quell the protests. Their accounts are backed up by multiple videos shared on social media during the chaos.
Uganda police spokesperson Fred Enanga told CNN that authorities are investigating “a number of incidents” of police officers “allegedly conducting themselves unprofessionally” during the protests. He said some officers fired bullets in self-defense in attempts to disperse the crowds.
The Ugandan military has not responded to multiple requests for comment.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Enanga also said 836 people had been arrested during the protests, and 362 had been in charged in court.
“We do understand the right to protest but we also come out to say to the public that even amidst these protests people come out and take advantage to break the law,” he said, listing incidents of alleged looting and significant damage caused by protestors to private businesses and government property.
Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, entered the political sphere in Uganda in 2017 and won his parliamentary seat the same year. He has been arrested and detained several times since launching his political career.
Wine is now challenging incumbent President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power for more than 30 years.
“I am sad that people are getting hurt and getting killed,” Wine told CNN. “But, again, I am confident and proud that these people are getting killed are unarmed and they are non-violent, so it is the total responsibility of President Museveni and the military — that is shooting at innocent unarmed citizens,”