The two divisions of Arua Municipality became a battle ground within hours on Monday, August 13 as different political groups intensified their grip in the run up to the Parliamentary by-election.
While President Museveni and NRM supporters took up Arua Hill grounds, the FDC bigwigs and their supporters were at Arua primary school grounds. The third group that had rallied behind independent candidate Kassiano Wadri, commanded a huge crowd at Arua Government Prison primary grounds.
President Museveni had earlier commissioned a demonstration farm at GiliGili and passed by the prisons to address NRM supporters at Arua hill. However, while heading to Pokea Primary school grounds to board his chopper at around 6 pm, his convoy met a mammoth crowd that had blocked the way on Ediofe road.
Here, the People Power camp headed by Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine had hired a grader from a construction firm within Arua town to carry people for their campaigns.
“Several supporters had climbed on the grader and the driver could hardly see ahead. This grader ended up blocking the President’s convoy, and when this happened, the crowd on the grader started insulting the President,” an eyewitness told this publication in Arua.
At this point, the president’s security team was charged and was ready to open fire at the rowdy people but the President stopped them as he continued to Pokea to board.
A security officer in Arua, who preferred anonymity, said that members of the Special Forces Command (SFC) who had remained behind were quickly notified and rushed to intercept the grader, which has since been parked at the police grounds for further investigations.
Isaac Enzama, one of the eye witnesses who was caught up in the melee while on his way to Arua town, told our reporter that Wadri’s supporters had advanced from Ediofe road to the main street when soldiers started shooting at the crowd. Enzama realized that he had also been shot and is now nursing injuries at in Arua hospital.
“I did not know that I had been shot but felt something funny at my back only to turn and see blood, immediately I fell down and some sympathizers came to my rescue and rushed me to Arua hospital where the doctors discovered three bullets had remained in my stomach. They rushed me to the theatre where I was operated.” Enzama narrates.
While this happened, the same group proceeded through Arua town to Kamure Park on Adumi road but according to Yophas Eyotre, one of the gunshot victims, Wadri’s supporters were ‘intercepted by fully armed soldiers who drove and parked in front of DFCU bank and started firing at the people.’
“At around 6:30 pm, I saw a crowd running and I chose to turn back but now the shooting was wild. I and other people chose to go through the corridor behind OB plaza but the shooting there was very serious and I got myself flat down, they shot me from the back,” Eyotre narrated.
Michael Abiriga, another victim of the shooting narrated that the shooting occurred near DFCU bank where some armed personnel in civilian wear were centered, and shooting randomly. He said the passed through my chest and was later put on oxygen for three days before he regained consciousness.
Meanwhile, according to some eyewitnesses who were caught up next to the MTN service center, the soldiers later advanced and surrounded Hotel Pacific where MP Robert Kyagulanyi, his three colleagues and driver had booked for accommodation. Here, they were seen whipping the hotel staff.
According to one of the hotel staff who preferred anonymity, the soldiers beat them indiscriminately, before breaking through the reception counter. All staff at the hotel had to run for their lives.
Luigi Candia, the proprietor of the hotel spends the entire day at the verandah adjacent to the hotel due to his physical disability. He told this publication that he saw multitudes of soldiers descending on the hotel in the evening, but could not figure out their motive until they started breaking doors and vandalizing the hotel.
In front of the hotel, was the body of Yusuf Kawuma, who was at the time driving a Tundra Toyota vehicle belonging to MP Robert Kyagulanyi. But according to Luigi, the driver was shot elsewhere and later driven in the same vehicle to the hotel. He was unsure about the details of the shooting.
However another source who preferred anonymity told this publication after the ensuing clash between Kassiano Wadri’s supporters and the President’s convoy, Kyagulanyi and Kassiano Wadri took off on a motorcycle after sensing danger.
The source adds that Kawuma remained in the vehicle and drove towards the hotel but as soon as he arrived, a plainly clothed gun wielding man approached him. No gunshot was heard, but moments later, he was seen profusely bleeding. Moments later, the place was cordoned off, and the search for the group leaders mounted.
While gun shots went on at the center of Arua town, some security personnel also opened bullets at the offices of Wadri Kassiano, firing over ten rounds which scampered the supporters who had already reached the offices on Lemerijoa road.
More than 30 people were netted in the swoop, and have since been charged with treason. Those arrested include; MPs; Francis Zaake, Paul Mwiru, Gerald Karuhanga, Robert Kyagulanyi Sentamu, also known as Bobi Wine, Kassiano Wadri, the eventual winner of the Arua Municipality by-election, and former MP Micheal Mabikke, among others.