By Mable Nakibuuka
The police in Wobulenzi town, Luwero District, are hunting for goons who attacked Wobulenzi Magistrates Court on Wednesday and set it on fire as they demanded the release of National Unity Platform (NUP) presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu aka Bobi Wine.
This comes after a statement issued by the Judiciary condemning the attack and calling upon all Ugandans to ensure that courts are given the respect they deserve, because they are independent organs that function independently of the state.
The statement, issued by Sarah Langa Siu, the Chief Registrar to the Judiciary, reads in part thus;
“Riotous Attacks On Wobulenzi Court Unacceptable
Rioters on Wednesday 18th, November 2020, attacked Wobulenzi Magistrates Court and set it ablaze, destroying property, mainly furniture in the Court Hall.
The Judiciary is dismayed by this act of hooliganism. This action is an unwarranted direct affront on the independence of the Judiciary which is guaranteed under the Constitution. Under Article 128 of the Constitution, no person or authority shall interfere with the courts or judicial officers in the exercise of their judicial functions.
As the Judiciary, we condemn in the strongest terms, this unfortunate incident and call upon everyone to desist from any form of attack on the Courts. Such attacks interfere with the operations of the Courts and the administration of justice generally.
The matter is being investigated by the police, and the culprits will be brought to book.
We urge all Ugandans to exercise restraint and avoid attacking the Courts that are mandated to defend the Constitution, promote the rule of law and safeguard their human rights.”
Death Toll Rises
Meanwhile, the death toll from the ‘Free Bobi Wine’ protests that have ravaged the country ever since he was arrested on Wednesday has since risen to 16, although some media reports put the number at 30.
Sources indicate that the number has since risen to sixteen from the initial 5 people that were earlier reported to have been killed in Kampala during the protests.
However, at a press conference held Thursday, Uganda Police’s chief pathologist Moses Byaruhanga said 14 of the fatalities were caused by gunshot wounds, although the death toll only includes victims who were brought to the city’s mortuary, yet there are several others who died in various parts of the country.
At the same press conference, Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesperson Patrick Onyango said more than 300 people have been arrested as protests continue.
Bobi Wine, a popular musician-turned-politician was arrested while campaigning in Luuka District, where he was set to hold his presidential campaigns although the police blocked him, reasoning that his acts were likely to expose people to risks of getting infected with COVID-19.
He has since been denied access to his family, lawyers and medical team.
“The Government must ensure the safety of all election candidates and their supporters, whatever political affiliation,” tweeted the European Union’s foreign affairs representative Josep Borrell Fontelles on Thursday.
The Red Cross in Uganda said it was offering medical assistance to people injured during the protests, the humanitarian agency said on Thursday.