NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 23- In a show of ‘brotherhood’, hundreds of Kenyan youths marched in the streets of Nairobi, to agitate for the release of all political detainees in Uganda and specifically MP Robert Kyagulanyi, popularly known as Bobi Wine.
Dressed in red and carrying placards, the youths expressed their disgust over the recent developments in Uganda.
Chants and liberation songs rented the air as the protest kicked off on Thursday morning from Nairobi’s Uhuru Park freedom corner through Kenyatta Avenue, Parliament Road, Harambee Avenue, Moi Avenue and eventually headed to the Ugandan High Commission.
“We are fighting for freedom…” went Bobi Wine’s song, which was popular among protestors.
Notable among the protestors was human rights defender Boniface Mwangi, Alamin Kimathi, lawyers drawn from the Law Society of Kenya, local musicians like David Mathenge popularly known as Holy Dave among others.
Outside Kenya Parliament Buildings, they protestors waited for about 20 minutes for any “young MP” to receive the petition, but none was forthcoming.
Upon a directive by Activist Mwangi, the youths tossed coins inside the Parliament Buildings, “to bribe them, so that they can accept our petition.”
“Tumewahonga (we have bribed you)” went the chants after the incident.
And slowly, they proceeded to Harambee Avenue.
They were irked by the continued infringement of human rights against the dissents and continued detention of MP Kyagulanyi and 33 others.
“Say no to torture, Kenyans in solidarity with Ugandans” reads a section of the placards.
MP Kyagulanyi was earlier Thursday released by a military court where he was facing possession of illegal firearms charges but was shortly re-arrested by police to face other charges.
Other detainees remained in custody.
Ugandan authorities also arrested Kizza Besigye, a strong opposition figure in the troubled country and a longtime critic of President Yoweri Museveni 35-year rule.
Tension has hit the brim in the neighbouring country after the arrest of two key figures seen as top critics of President Museveni.
Bobi Wine’s dramatic arrest came days after spending several days in the military detention, fueling protests in the country.
According to his lawyers, the MP was tortured and requires an urgent medical attention.
He was arrested last week on Monday and initially charged with treason, but the charges were later reduced to illegal possession of firearms and ammunition at a military court in Northern Uganda’s Gulu region.
Others in custody include MPs Kassiano Wadri (an independent candidate who won the by-election in Arua), Gerald Karuhanga, Paul Mwiru and Francis Zaake.
Legislators Karuhanga, Mwiru and Zaake alongside 30 other individuals have since been charged with treason in a magistrate’s court in the Northern Uganda town of Gulu.
-What activists said-
Activist Mwangi said Thursday’s protest was a clear indication that “African youths are ready to fight impunity.”
“We believe Bobi Wine is an idea and not individual. You cannot jail ideas. Wine is an innocent man and should be released.”
His counterpart Kimathi said more pressure will continue to be piled on President Museveni, to respect human rights as enshrined in the Ugandan constitution and other international treaties, they are signatory too.
“Uganda must be part of the civilized communities of nation and must stop making it a laughing stock within the international community,” he asserted.
Law Society of Kenya Vice-President Chiggai Harriet on Wednesday pointed out that “Security officers allege that they found firearms in his hotel room, allegations which have been refuted by the hotel management and those present on the day of the arrest.”
Kyagulanyi’s driver Yasin Kawumwa was shot dead by security forces.
Among their demands include a probe on all allegations of torture and other ill-treatment in detention to ensure those found culpable are brought to book and insist the findings must be made public.
“We are troubled that the Government of the Republic of Uganda is wilfully disregarding international laws such as the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community, The United Nation Convention Against Torture, The African Charter on Humans and Peoples Rights, The Universal Convention Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. These conventions guide every party state on human rights issues,” Kenya Human Rights Commission Executive Director George Kegoro said.
In a statement, President Museveni said Uganda is stable just like her “economy. The Monday groups were operating in small groups, burning tyres and, then, sending them to social media, working for those who pay them, to show that Uganda is unstable.
The enemies of Uganda are now worried at the emerging strength of the economy of Uganda.”
The President was, however, ‘irked’ by authorities for using excessive force against demonstrating youths.
On attacking of journalists, the Uganda head of state said, “I condemn, again, in the strongest terms the beating of journalists by elements of the Security forces.”
He added, that “It is true that the journalists working for foreign interests or for our own local parasites tell lies, they do not do balanced reporting.
On account of that, you can block them because sometimes they interfere with the scene of a crime. If they refuse, you arrest them and charge them with disobeying lawful command. Beating, however, is wrong because the Security forces do not have that power.”