Coronavirus — Two Ugandan MPs Arrested at Protests

  • The two MPs arrested are Gilbert Olanya and Samuel Odonga Otto, from Kilak County.
  • To date, some 450 COVID-19 cases, and no deaths, have been reported across Uganda.
  • On May 18, the Ugandan police arrested another activist, Stella Nyanzi, for allegedly inciting violence.

Two Ugandan lawmakers were arrested on Monday by the country’s police force on allegations that they mobilized protests against the re-opening of the borders with South Sudan amid a new surge in cases of the coronavirus. In particular, the protesters alleged that the new coronavirus infections are being caused by transporters crossing the Elegu border.

The COVID-19 pandemic was confirmed to have reached Uganda in March 2020. As of May 31, there are 417 confirmed cases and no reported deaths.

The two MPs arrested are Gilbert Olanya and Samuel Odonga Otto, from Kilak County. They were picked up by the police near Cerellenu, a suburb of the city of Gulu. Prior to his arrest, Otto said that Gulu Regional Referral Hospital had a small capacity of handling COVID -19 patients. As per records at the Hospital, there are 65 COVID-19 positive patients.

A security force spokesman said that the politicians were arrested on the grounds that they did not request permission to demonstrate. “We shall use every means we have including force not to give way for such meaningless demonstrations,” a Ugandan army officer told the media. “They break the social distance protocol during which we potentially risk getting more infections.”

On their part, the demonstrators continue to express the urgent need for the closure of the borders. “The government is reluctant to close Elegu border so that they keep us in lockdown, yet the people are starving,”

Tony Oboma, one of the protestors, said. “Our interest is that the government shuts down Elegu border and lock down the entire town for two weeks in order to control infections currently stemming from there and spreading across Acholi region.”

Olanya expressed similar sentiments. “There could be cases of the virus in the community since the truck drivers have interacted freely with the community,” he said.

To date, some 450 COVID-19 cases, and no deaths, have been reported across Uganda. On May 18, the Ugandan police arrested another activist, Stella Nyanzi, for allegedly inciting violence as she led a small group of demonstrators protesting against the government’s failings in respect of the most vulnerable citizens, affected by the restrictions caused by the coronavirus. The woman was arrested along with some activists during the march to the office of the prime minister, Ruhakana Rugunda, in the capital, Kampala.

Yoweri Kaguta Museveni is a Ugandan politician who has been President of Uganda since 1986. Museveni was involved in rebellions that toppled notorious Ugandan leaders Idi Amin (1971–79) and Milton Obote (1980–85) before capturing power in the 80s.

With a petition, Nyanzi and her colleagues urged the government to review anti-coronavirus measures, which brought “benefits” to wealthier families and “created an apartheid state and caused avoidable suffering for many Ugandans in vulnerable conditions especially women and low-income people.”

Through the petition, the activists also asked to proceed with the distribution of food for the most needy and with the free supply of masks for all, as well as with the release of political prisoners and those who were imprisoned for violating the measures aimed to contain the spread of COVID-19.

“We detained her for inciting violence,” police spokesman Patrick Onyango told Reuters in reaction to her arrest. “She is exploiting the COVID-19 situation to advance her political motives.”

Uganda has implemented one of the strictest lockdowns on the African continent. This includes the curfew from sunset to sunrise, the closure of all commercial activities and schools, the prohibition of public meetings, and the use of means of transport, with the exception of medical personnel and those who move for reasons of necessity and urgency. 

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Vincent Ferdinand

News reporting is my thing. My view of what is happening in our world is colored by my love of history and how the past influences events taking place in the present time.  I like reading politics and writing articles. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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