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Colour of violence in 2021 elections

Baker Kasumba’s hands were nailed together with the ‘offending’ yellow NRM beret.

It’ll be bloody if yellow, red clash

Kampala, Uganda | RONALD MUSOKE | ‘What to wear in Uganda.’ That is a common briefing topic for visitors to Uganda. Some of them are told not to wear black or blue garments – because they attract disease carrying tsetse flies. Recent events, however, show that residents might also need to be careful what colour they wear. Yellow and red, it appears; need to be worn with caution as the country heads into the 2021 general elections.

Baker Kasumba says he is paying a high price for wearing the wrong colour as a recent gruesome photo on social media shows. The shocking photo which surfaced on Aug.29 shows the young man, who police later identified as Baker Kasumba, 21, on a hospital bed, with two six-inch nails sunk into his palms.

Kasumba says his attackers were punishing him for wearing a yellow outfit – the colour of the ruling party, NRM. He says he was wearing a yellow beret, which his attackers nailed together with his palms. These claims could not be independently verified because Kasumba is being kept away from the media by officials of NRM.

Until this incident, red has been the colour inviting trouble on those who wear such outfits.  In one incident 27 pupils of Winterland Primary School in Kyebando, their two teachers and ten security guards, including plain cloth police personnel accompanying them were attacked and beaten at an event at Nkumba University in Entebbe municipality. Their crime was wearing their red uniform or costumes.

Then the parliament of Uganda banned red ribbons. In another case, the RDC of Lamwo District in northern Uganda, James Nabinson Kidega, ordered police to arrest anyone wearing red. Kidega said red attire is linked to combative conduct, inciting violence and lawlessness.

Recently, in August, the police banned party colours from court rooms after a magistrate in Kampala was attacked. Many people were arrested, most of them wearing blue shirts which is associated with opposition political party—the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC). But the ensuing condemnation centred on the red colour of the People Power political grouping led by rising political star, Robert Ssentamu Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine (MP Kyadondo East).

In another incident, in October last year, police raided and searched the home of Edith Byanyima, sister-in-law to Dr. Kizza Besigye following intelligence information that “illicit materials” were going to be used to incite violence. After four hours of searching, police confiscated over 20 red napkins which, according to Edith, were used as teaching aides for girls who were learning how to knit.

‘We have been saying this’

But it is the recent attack on Kasumba which has raised most attention on how the colours people wear are becoming a political issue. Police and politicians have condemned the attack.

“It is wrong for anyone to be injured for wearing colours of their favourite political party and it is wrong for anyone to be attacked for their political beliefs,” said Joel Ssenyonyi, the spokesperson of the People Power group in an interview with The Independent on Aug.30.

He said People Power condemns the attack and added: “This is what we have all along been saying; that People Power members are not criminals. Wearing a red or yellow beret is not a crime. Whoever did this should be arrested and prosecuted in the courts of law.”

Justine Kasule Lumumba, the Secretary General of NRM visited Kasumba on Aug.30 and pledged NRM’s support in form of paying his medical bills. He was immediately transferred from Mulago Hospital to a secret safe place because “he was still being trailed by his attackers.”

“We shall not accept this kind of political intimidation and whoever did it should desist from it,” a Kampala Metropolitan Police statement signed by spokesperson, Patrick Onyango said, “Uganda is a free country, where everyone is allowed to express his or her political affiliation.”

Some NRM party supporters were quick to blame the opposition for the attack. This was a quick reversal to an incident that happened in July when opposition politicians blamed the government for murdering one of their own—a young man known as Zigy Wyne. The police later showed CCTV footage to prove Zigy Wyne died from injuries he sustained in a motorcycle accident.

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