Uganada’s protest movement shifts away from urban centers
July 17, 2012
Uganda’s anti-government protesters are shifting their rallies to villages with asmaller police presence. The protesters have been combated with heavy police brutality in the capital city in their campaign against the misrule of the country’s long-serving leader.
Instead of tear gas and batons encountered in Kampala in the past, protesters are met with apparent indifference in the countryside. Rallies in rural areas went ahead undeterred in recent days, but protest leaders caution that it might also be because it is more difficult there for the government to quickly mobilize resources such as anti-riot police or tear gas.
The village rallies come at a time when the party of President Yoweri Museveni — who has been in power for more than 25 years — is suffering defeats in by-elections in places where it was once hugely popular. Museveni’s party, already distracted by a power struggle over who might succeed the leader when he leaves office, has lost five of six electoral contests this year.
Museveni’s opponents are eager to try him even harder in his own backyard, western Uganda, the scene of boisterous rallies that the police failed to block this and last week.
“We are fighting for change,” Ingrid Turinawe, an opposition activist who has become one of Museveni’s most vocal critics, said in an interview Monday.
“We have achieved a lot since we started,” raising awareness and encouraging Ugandans to stand up for what they want, Turinawe said. In villages now, people “are more alert and ready for the struggle. The ones in Kampala are intimidated,” she added.
Opposition activists with the group Activists for Change, or A4C, started a protest movement in April 2011 against Museveni, who had just won re-election but whose government the activists accuse of massive corruption and economic mismanagement.
The activists called their campaign Walk to Work and staged a series of popular protests in which they walked the streets of Kampala, gathering supporters along the way. One such protest is depicted in the photograph above.