Cablegate: Uganda: Deaths, Detentions, and Distrust After Kampala

DE RUEHKM #1055/01 2571157
R 141157Z SEP 09



E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. KAMPALA 01046, B. KAMPALA 00946

1. (SBU) Summary: Calm returned to Kampala on September 12 after the
King of Buganda cancelled his trip to Kayunga district. At least 21
people were killed and over 100 wounded during the September 10-11
riots (ref. A). Negotiations between the government and the Buganda
remain at an impasse, with President Museveni accusing Buganda of
conniving with opposition parties and the Libyan government to
undermine the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM).
Authorities continue to close radio stations and arrest journalists.
End Summary.

The Dead, the Wounded, and the Detained

2. (SBU) Rioting in Kampala subsided on September 12 after the King
of Buganda postponed his visit to the disputed district of Kayunga
(see reftel for background). There was sporadic gunfire during the
morning of September 12 on the outskirts of Kampala, as well as road
closures and checkpoints near the city center amidst a heavy police
presence. Several police posts and dozens of vehicles were burnt
during the riots. One reportedly Asian-owned paint factory was also

3. (SBU) On September 14, state media reported 21 dead and over 100
injured (including 13 police officers) during two days of rioting.
Some of those brought to Kampala's overflowing Mulago hospital,
including a two year old child who was killed, were hit in their
homes by stray bullets. An independent newspaper, the Monitor, is
asking citizens to report the names of those killed and wounded so
the newspaper can compile a separate, unofficial tally.

4. (SBU) On September 12 Buganda Prime Minister John Baptist
Walusimbi asked the Inspector General of Police, Kale Kayihura to
"restrain his officers and men from indiscriminate shooting against
unarmed civilians in order to cool the temperatures." The NGO Human
Rights Watch also accused Ugandan police of using excessive force,
and we have received credible reports of security forces using
batons, whips and rifles to disperse groups of innocent civilians
caught at the wrong place at the wrong time.

5. (SBU) An estimated 550 to 650 people were arrested during the
riots. Local media reports only 82 of these have been charged,
meaning that the rest should either be charged today or released.
Those arrested include one Member of Parliament, Issa Kikungwe, and
one well known radio talk show host, Robert Kalundi Sserumaga (see
para 12). Kikungwe is an ethnic Baganda who belongs to the
opposition Democratic Party (DP). Police have accused him of
inciting rioters.

Museveni-Buganda Tensions Still High

6. (SBU) Buganda officials insist the decision not to travel to
Kayunga was based on internal assessments of the King's security and
had nothing to do with government orders to cancel the visit.
President Museveni had said he would allow the King to visit Kayunga
under two conditions: the King receives written permission to travel
from the leader of the Banyala, a small ethnic sub-group in the
district; and he reins in what Museveni perceives as anti-government
rhetoric emanating from the Buganda-owned Central Broadcasting (CBS)
radio. The government turned CBS off shortly after the riots began
on September 10. Buganda regards both of these conditions as

7. (SBU) Both the Buganda and the government have disavowed rumors
that the King was under house arrest. Museveni and the King
reportedly spoke on the telephone on September 13. A face to face
meeting may occur later this week. According to local press
reports, President Museveni dispatched Maj. Roland Kakooza Mutale,
an ethnic Baganda and key presidential adviser on political affairs,
to meet with the Buganda King over the weekend. Just two weeks ago,
Mutale was accused of kidnapping, holding incommunicado, and
torturing a civilian.

Museveni's Reasoning

8. (SBU) In a largely extemporaneous speech to ethnic Baganda NRM
Members of Parliament on the evening of September 10 (state media
later released a heavily edited version of the address), Museveni
accused the King of "meddling in politics", while Uganda's
constitution restricts the affairs of traditional leaders to
"cultural" issues only. Museveni listed the inflammatory rhetoric
of the Buganda owned CBS radio station and Buganda's long-standing

KAMPALA 00001055 002 OF 003

opposition to proposed government land reform as reasons for
clamping down on the Kingdom. He accused the King of supporting
tenants responsible for the recent lynching of a land owner in

9. (SBU) Museveni said Buganda was working with opposition parties
to undermine the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM).
Information Minister and Chief NRM whip Daudi Migereko on September
12 accused "certain elements" of "dragging cultural institutions
into partisan politics in contravention of Article 246 of the
Constitution." Migereko singled out Uganda's three main opposition
parties - DP, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), and Uganda
People's Congress (UPC) - as the main offenders.

10. (SBU) Museveni also accused Libyan leader Muamar Qadhafi of
trying to destabilize Uganda by funneling funds to the Baganda as
payback for Museveni's opposition to Qadhafi's United States of
Africa proposal. Other commentators, including one columnist in the
government-run New Vision newspaper, have suggested that by
defending the tiny Banyala against the behemoth Buganda in Kayunga
district, Museveni is encouraging other small minorities within the
Buganda Kingdom to also assert their independence and further weaken
the Kingdom.

Radio Closings and Journalist Arrests

11. (SBU) The government closed five radio stations on September 11
- two CBS stations plus Suubi FM, Radio Sapientia, and Radio Two
Akaboozi Kubiri - for violating Uganda's Electronic Media act. At
least two other stations - Radio Simba and WBS TV - have been warned
to censor their reporting or risk closure.

12. (SBU) On September 11, well known Radio One talk show host
Robert Kalundi Sserumaga was abducted by unidentified assailants
riding in an unmarked sedan as he left the WBS studio. He was later
dumped in front of a police station and arrested. During a
September 12 press conference, Sserumaga's wife, Sarah Nsigaye,
appealed for her husband's release. Noting that her grandfather had
been bundled into a car and killed by Idi Amin's government in 1976,
Nsigaye said "today it is my husband and I don't know what is going
to happen."

13. (SBU) Police spokesperson Judith Nabakooba later confirmed that
Sserumaga was in police custody and said the Criminal Investigations
Division (CID) was currently considering charging him with
unspecified "media related offenses." Inspector General of Police
Kayihura said Sserumaga had committed "grave offences" during a WBS
TV show. WBS TV is under orders not to release a recording of the
show to inquiring diplomatic missions or human rights organizations.
The government has reportedly threatened to shut WBS down
completely if any copies of the recording are released.

14. (SBU) The Uganda Broadcasting Council has also suspended WBS TV
talk show host Peter Kibazo, and Radio Simba's morning show hosts
James Senkubuge Siasa, Andrew Benon Kibuuka, and Gold Kimatono.
Three journalists working for the Monitor newspaper also reported
being beaten by security forces outside the gates to the Buganda
palace on Mengo hill. In the district of Kayunga, Moses Kibuuka of
NTV and Yahaya Iga Muyingo of Voice of Africa, were detained by
local authorities.

15. (SBU) These events follow the arrests of several other
journalists in August. Police arrested three journalists working
for the Monitor newspaper in early August - two of these arrests
stemmed from the Monitor's publication of a letter by President
Museveni over the Banyoro crisis (ref. B). On August 18 police
arrested and subsequently released on bail the three senior editors
of the news magazine The Independent after they published a cartoon
of Museveni reviewing a plan for rigging the 2011 presidential

Comment: An Avoidable Confrontation

16. (SBU) While calm has returned to Kampala, the underlying
political conflict between President Museveni and the Buganda
Kingdom is far from over. The loss of life over the past few days
is particularly unfortunate given that last week's confrontation was
likely avoidable had there been greater goodwill and more open lines
of communication on both sides of the conflict. The subsequent
crack down on journalists is equally disheartening. For the moment,
Museveni has won a tactical victory by forcing the King to back down
over his planned visit to Kayunga. Strategically, however, Museveni
may have permanently alienated a constituency he has depended upon
in the past to win elections and stay in power. As one commentator
last week noted, Museveni has managed to do in just 10 days what his

KAMPALA 00001055 003 OF 003

most formidable political opponent, Kizza Besigye, couldn't do in 10
years: turn the Baganda against him.

© Scoop Media

World Headlines


Tale Of Two Pandemics: Follow The Science And Do Not Forget One At The Cost Of The Other

Covid-19 has posed innumerable health, economic, and social challenges for all, including people living with HIV. It has exposed the fragility of health systems around the globe and has diverted political attention and funding from other infectious diseases like TB and HIV... More>>

UN: Rights Chief Calls For Prompt Release Of Protestors Held In Cuba
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Friday called for the prompt release of protestors and journalists detained during anti-government demonstrations in Cuba, some of whom are being held incommunicado... More>>

Scarce Goods: Isolating Daraa Al-Balad Threatens 40,000 With Starvation

The siege imposed by the Syrian government forces on Daraa al-Balad since June 24 would lead to serious humanitarian repercussions if it continues, Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor said in a statement on July 15, calling for lifting the siege urgently and allowing the entry of basic humanitarian supplies... More>>

Focus On: UN SDGs

Shaping The Future Of Food Systems: Thousands Commit To Dialogues Amidst The COVID-19 Pandemic

More than 130 governments are making food systems a top priority amid the pandemic and committing to an unprecedented programme of Dialogues in the run up to the UN Food Systems Summit in September... More>>

UN: Play:Fair For People And Planet – A Major United Nations Music Activation
organized by the UN SDG Action Campaign in partnership with Music Innovation Hub, Keychange, the city of Milan, the Milan Triennale, and partners from the SDG Music Network, will be held at an unexpected location in the center of Milan, Italy, taking into account safety measures with a limited on-site audience consisting of activists and fans... More>>

UN: Next 18 Months Seen As Pivotal In Global Efforts To Achieve Key Goals

Next 18 months seen as pivotal in global efforts to reverse punishing pandemic impacts and boost actions to achieve key goals - Even as pandemic erases decades of gains in development, response efforts show signs of renewed global commitment to accelerate SDG progress... More>>