Calm returning to Uganda after riots, witnesses say

Residents of the Kasubi suburb, west of Kampala, try to flee from violence as a soldier takes photos.
An uneasy calm swept through Uganda’s capital Saturday after loyalists of a traditional kingdom battled with government forces for two days, killing at least four.

Local media reports put the death toll at 13 since the rioting started, but attempts by CNN to confirm with local authorities were unsuccessful. The streets of Kampala were strewn with debris, including torched cars and burned tires, witnesses said. Police and the army were patrolling the city in military convoys. “Some soldiers are walking in a single file, waiting for rioters and ready to confront them,” said Allan Mugabi, a resident of Kampala. Tensions between the Buganda kingdom, headed by King Ronald Mutebi II, and President Yoweri Museveni have intensified in recent years. The two sides spar over land, sovereignty and political power. Kings in the east African nation are limited to a ceremonial title overseeing traditional and cultural affairs. Violence flared Thursday when the government said it would not allow the Buganda king to travel Saturday to an area inhabited by a renegade rival group. The Bagandans — the nation’s dominant ethnicity — make up the Buganda kingdom. After the travel ban, young Bagandans took the streets, stealing ammunition from a police station and confronting officers, whom they accused of harassment, said Maj. Gen. Kale Kayihura, the nation’s police chief. They also burned tires and cars, set fires to buildings and looted stores, according to witnesses.

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“Some of the rioters were just opportunistics looking to take advantage of the situation,” Mugabi said. Police and army officers were injured and at least four people were killed, Kayihura said Friday. Museveni said he tried to contact Mutebi to discuss the issue as “mature people,” but he could not reach him by phone. The president has accused the Buganda kingdom of receiving foreign funding to carry out a hate campaign against the government. Buganda is one of the nation’s four ancient kingdoms.