Saturday, April 30, 2011

Riots in Kampala

Just as we headed out of Kampala yesterday morning, riots broke out across the capitol city. We got bits and piece of news throughout the day: AK-47 fire forced a shut down of all businesses, the U.S. Embassy was on lock-down, and traffic between Kampala and Jinja (the road we were driving) was interrupted.

“Oh Uganda!” – the headline we woke up to in the independent Daily Monitor – is right.

Outrage with President Yoweri Museveni over skyrocketing inflation (200-percent in the past two months for fuel and food) reached a tipping point this week when a popular opposition leader was violently arrested. Dr. Kizza Besigye had started a “walk to work” campaign to protest the soaring inflation, and the people we've met are grateful to Besigye for doing something.

"The government just doesn't care that we're suffering - that we can't afford to drive places or feed our families the same way," a mother of five told me. But by shooting, tear-gassing and beating Besigye, military police prove that the government isn't merely indifferent to the people's plight, it is ready to rule by force.

One editorial asked the chilling question “Is Uganda returning to the days of Amin?” – referring to Idi Amin who became known as the “butcher of Uganda” for his brutal rule.

We kept tabs on the riots throughout the day while filming some beautiful stories and scenes in quiet rural villages around important family planning work in the country. Around 7pm, we received the all-clear to head back. In the end, at least ten people were killed and about 100 injured. (Picture: Children surround photographer Beth Balaban in the village of Kitayunjwa.)

Things are quiet in Kampala today—“Weekends are for fun,” someone told us, so I guess we’ll wait to see what happens Monday.

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