The long dry spell that has hit and affected Teso, Karamoja, Elgon, Busoga in eastern Uganda and other areas of the country has left many without food and water for themselves and their livestock. In Karamoja, we have lost both human and their livestock and in Isingiro families have migrated from their ancestral lands. The dry spell hit the country as early April 2016 and has left millions starving but with little relief interventions to help them survive.
Isingiro is an Agricultural economy based district and many call it the food basket of Ankole. According to Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperative economic profile, 97.1% of the Isingiro district population derives their livelihood from Agriculture. Isingiro district has an equatorial climate with minimum annual rainfall of 1,200mm and the rain season is normally in the months of March to April and September to November.
In November 2016, Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) Uganda’s opposition political party reached out to the people of Western Uganda in the district of Isingiro where many were migrating to neighboring districts in search of water sources for their livestock and food for themselves to prevail the dry spell that desolated their farms and garden left them with no option but to look for an option for their survival.
I spoke to the FDC Secretary of Mobilization Ms. Ingrid Turinawe and she confirmed to me that 2,000 bags of food were given to the people of Isingiro. This relief was received with gladness by the locals but left a bitter taste in the political mouth of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) leaders.
Enter Toroma, Katakwi.
Following Forum for Democratic Change’s Teso Regional meeting where the party is evaluating itself after the 2016 Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government elections, the leadership had another stop over to make in the region and this had to be Toroma County in Katakwi. I read a Facebook post from Margaret Wokuri Madanda the Mbale District FDC Chairperson; “Off to Katakwi, where the FDC and the People’s Government will hand over food to the community.”
The day started well and that was like good music to my ears, having such a great intervention to be done in Toroma County was a good gesture until the Police and deployed to stop them from distributing this relief. It never hit me that they would stop anyone from receiving food that they are so much in need of until I watched videos of a charged and violent Police force against an angry and hungry population. There was an outburst of Social Media when pictures of Police blocking FDC leaders from giving the people of Toroma County food.
84 Year Old Ekilek Defies Police’s Live bullets and tear gas.
The charged police on the orders of Regional Police Commander Francis Tumwesigye and the Resident District Commissioner Filbert Ocailap were not resting their cell phones, a move that confirmed that they were remote controlled by their superiors. Locals started running out of patience and an exchange between local leaders of the FDC and the Police went on and on. RPC Francis Tumwesigye gave an order to his men to disperse everyone and then live bullets were shot in the air, canes onto the bodies of the locals and tear gas fired all over the place.
When all this happened there was one brave man that defied and withstood all the threats. Mr Vincent Ekilek an 84-year-old from Oboguti village did not move an inch. His mission was to shake the hand of Dr Kizza Besigye which he did while there was heavy shooting and tear gas. He said; “I have been hungry for long and when I heard that Dr Kizza Besigye and FDC were coming to talk to us and give us some food I did not sleep, I woke up early to travel here and be able to get my share.”
All these statements would not change the minds of a charged Police they continued to disperse everyone, including 84-year-old Ekilek to go away from the Toroma County grounds. FDC leaders resorted to using MegaPhones to speak to the waiting locals because the public address system that was hired was confiscated by the police. Later on, Dr Kizza Besigye went to Toroma Health Center IV to visit those that were injured during the scuffle and the Police tried to stop him from entering, but he used another entry point to access the victims of Police Brutality.
After running battles, the leaders of FDC resolved to have food handed over to Citizen Relief Initiative (CRI) that was represented by retired Bishop Obaikol for storage until it can be distributed.
When citizens of any country are going through a challenge like this one that threatens their existence, it is imperative that a bipartisan approach is sought to solve the challenge for the good of the country. In times like these, the people of our country ought to be united as One people solve a common concern. This is when political differences are buried for a greater good. The Toroma Country violence against the peaceful and hunger stricken people was an abuse of the human right to life. Our constitution is charged to provide for the welfare of the citizens of the country.
This duty has been abused and the constitution has been abrogated. Going forward the Police should understand that the reason why Ugandans do not trust them is because they have reduced themselves to an NRM political tool used to settle political differences in the country.
Toroma in Pictures. (Ronald Muhinda)