Uganda: Protest turns into manhunt for Indians, three people killed

Last week, Joshua Goldstein wrote about Ugandan bloggers’ reaction to Ugandan government's decision to give away 7,100 hectares of Mabira Forest to private investor for sugarcane plantation. The decision has been criticized by the Ugandan civil society, whose resistance to the allocation included the use of SMS.

Yesterday, Ugandan bloggers were busy blogging about violence and deaths at a protest in Kampala against the government of Uganda and the private investor, Mahendra Mehta. It is reported that three people died after the protest turned violent. Two of them were shot dead by the police.

The private investor involved in the saga is of Indian origin. Ugandans of Indian descent became the victims of mob attacks during the violence. Communists Socks and Boots writes:

There are riots in Kampala. Over Mabira forest, and the planned give-away of part of it. Some guys want to mint money off an irreplacable phenomenon (commonly-called `Mabira Forest’), and others want it preserved. The guy supposed to buy part of that forest is a Ugandan for generations, but he is of Indian origin. So, South Asians have been the victims of you-wanna-disposess-us noise. And I have heard that two have been killed in the scuffles in the city. I hope that isn't true. Because, if it is, it shows the one thing I hate about democracy. (Hey, the Danes can find something to write about!)

I've Left Copenhagen for Uganda reports:

Several people died today in Kampala during what was intended to be a peaceful demonstration in favour of Mabira Forest. Sometimes things escalate fast, and today the ever so friendly Kampala simply went mad. The man behind the company who is to buy the piece of the forest is Indian, and apparently the rally took an unexpected direction and turned its anger into a manhunt for Indians or the ones who look like.

Her Iranian friend was trapped in the middle of the riots after she was mistaken to be of Indian origin:

I was in a meeting all day and only heard of the riots around 11 am where one of my development worker colleagues explained how she got trapped in her red MS car the middle of the riots on her way to Nakesero Market. She is of Iranian origin so the mob took her for Indian. When you see others being stoned by a mad mob, pulled out of taxis, shops being looted, you do think ‘to hell with a scratched car!’ – and she made it out of there.

Others didn't. Some were stoned, some were shot at by the police and others were hit by cars.

Nobody expected the situation to turn into a manhunt for anyone of Asian origin:

We did not imagine that things would come to a head so quickly and so badly. A protest to save trees has quickly turned into a manhunt for anyone of Asian origin. For those who may not be Ugandan, the person to whom the government wishes to give the forest is an Asian. They have been pulled out of taxis and their shops have been vandalised. As a write, I have seen the body of a young Indian man lying on the back of a pick-up truck. I wonder if and when his family will find him.

The protest, argues Kelly's Uganda Journal, has lost its enviromental focus:

And I was right! It is only 11 o'clock and sadly two people have already died, they were hit by a speeding car on Kampala road that was trying to flee from people stoning the vehicle. Also the protest has lost its environmental focus and taken on an anti-Asian tone. Apparently from the reports we are getting demonstrators are chanting, “go away Muhinde!” (Indian) and the likes. An Indian was also attacked near Centenary bank on Kampala road and Entebbe road junction and his motorcycle was burnt. So far no tear gas though… I give it one hour!

Ernest Bazanye goes as far as saying that Ugandans do not really care about the environment, they are simply looking for people to blame for their problems. The rich become the target: “Envy has turned into racism, which has turned into murder,

Ugandans don’t care about the environment. Well, you might, but that that mob doesn't. If Ugandans gave a shit, why would we still have a problem with buveeras and why would people still not be using energy saving bulbs, and why would they still be doing their laundry at the lakeside, right next to the sign that asks them not to, and what about that mess called Nakivubo channel? And why are they always encroaching on wetlands? They are encroaching on forests too! And what about all the kasasiro and rubbish heaps everywhere you go? And why is it everyone’s ambition to own a gas-guzzling smoke belching 4-wheel drive?

That riot wasn’t about the environment. I bet if that demo had been peaceful there would have been hawkers making a killing selling mineral water and kabalagala wrapped in buveera at the site.

People don't care about the environment. Poor people just want someone to blame for their lot, and so they blame the rich. Through some twisted reasoning this justifies what we did.
Envy has turned into racism, which has turned into murder.

Kelly's Uganda Journal has more details of the violence in the streets of Kampala:

-Oh it didn't even take that long, five minutes after I typed the paragraph above we were notified that tear gas has been deployed. Apparently people are also stoning any vehicles driving by and all the Indians are scared and have closed their shops and gone into hiding. All roads leading to the area are blocked by police.

-Now they have burnt more stuff and killed an Indian, also Indians, about 50 have fled to a nearby mosque in the area and are held up inside- I can only imagine the derogatory, hate filled conversations going on inside that mosque in hindi and urdu, Punjabi and what not, about Ugandans… if only I were an Indian dialect speaking fly on the wall!… Police are trying to secure the area around the mosque.

- Indian driving a tractor trailer truck in Katwe was burnt, truck destroyed, he was rushed to Mulago hospital… how did this get all the way to Katwe?

- The military has been deployed to assist the flailing police, rioters have spread to CPS, Constitutional Square and the State House… tear gas has deployed by Parliament, Entebbe road from Kampala road to the clock tower, as far as Katwe market, and at the above, CPS, etc…

This has really gotten out of control! Frankly I don't see why the police can't contain this, there are only 400 demonstrators supposedly???

-Lots of gun shots heard.
-The military are ferrying Indians to Central Police Station (CPS) for safety
– Military has also secured a mosque near owino for Indians to go to.
– Reported targeting of bazungu (whites) and Chinese, Canadian ISU teacher driving on Mukwano on streatch between ggaba road light and clock tower was stoned in his car and had to race through the mob so people would move to avoid being hit.


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