By Victoria Nyeko
If a musician in Uganda can be stopped from staging a musical concert and immediately put under house arrest by police, how do we know who will be arrested next for practicing their trade?
I was reminded of Martin Niemoller, a German anti-Nazi theologian who once said, “When they locked up the social democrats, l kept quiet after all l was not a democrat. Then they came for the Jews and l didn’t speak up because I was not a Jew. Then one day they came for me, there was no one left to speak out.”
According to Niemoller, he was afraid of being killed in Adolf Hitler’s holocaust in the 1940s, but even more frightened of meeting God and being asked “where were you from 1933 to 1945 when human beings were incinerated and killed here?”
As in Germany then, in Uganda now many innocent civilians find themselves living in constant fear of the very security organisations that are supposed to protect them, their properties and human rights.
Nobody knows who will be arrested next and for what reason. And, therefore, the Easter weekend, normally known for being peaceful with family reunions and Churches celebrating Jesus’ resurrection, turned into a nightmare for Mr Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine.
The musician-turned-politician was blocked and arrested at the entrance of his One Love Beach Busabala in Kampala. Heavily armed policemen stood guard at the property. From the appearance of the deployment, it was difficult to tell if they were guarding the property or responding to an eminent attack on Ugandan soil.
As it turns out, Bobi Wine was approaching the vicinity to perform at a music concert that had taken several months to prepare with advanced communications and police in the know.
The MP was soon arrested, and according to his Facebook post, “Everybody, the entire nation knows that Gen Museveni just does not like my songs.” Perhaps the closest to an explanation for police blocking the Kyarenga concerts.
Ordinarily in different parts of the world, if there was an issue of personal security from known or unknown threats, police that has adequate crowd control training, would provide both individual and public security.
Therefore, police continuously blocking Bobi Wine’s musical concerts suggests that Uganda Police Force, 1) perhaps is hiding their lack of training and inability to provide security and crowd control, 2) Is under pressure to provide security for only a selected few individuals and 3) Is no longer a professional Force with a constitutional mandate to Ugandans, but allegiance to the NRM government.
According to the 1995 Constitution, chapter 12 section 212, the mandate of the Uganda Police Force is to protect life, property, preserve law, order, prevent, detect crime, cooperate with civilian authorities, security organs and population to protect rights of individuals.
Therefore, the public’s expectations are that police should be a highly trained national institution that is capable of controlling large crowds using internationally accepted means.
Instead, in the wake of their reason for blocking Bobi Wine’s concert, many are now questioning their capacity to secure the public’s safety in the event of large gatherings.
The Kyarenga concerts could have been an opportunity for Uganda Police Force to demonstrate their prowess in crowd control.
Also, the NRM government could have used the same platform to demonstrate democratic political environment it has created over the last 30 years that is tolerant of political Opposition and other Ugandans that may disagree with their political ideology. But sadly, it was a missed opportunity.
Ms Victoria Nyeko is a media commentator.