Protests, teargas in Uganda as Museveni seeks to extend rule

Students of Makerere University clash with police officers during a protest against the debate plans to scrap a presidential age limit from the constitution in Kampala on Thursday. (AFP)
Updated 21 September 2017
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Protests, teargas in Uganda as Museveni seeks to extend rule

KAMPALA: Ugandan police fired teargas on Thursday to disperse demonstrators who had gathered to march toward Parliament to protest against draft legislation that could extend longtime leader Yoweri Museveni’s rule.
The move to amend the constitution has met widespread resistance from activists, civil society organizations, religious leaders and even some members of Museveni’s own ruling party.
The bill is set to go before Parliament later on Thursday.
Groups of students at Makerere, a public university in the capital Kampala, had rallied to start marching toward Parliament before police dispersed them with teargas.
“We are not going to allow anybody to hold protest marches. The teargas was to deter that,” police spokesman Asan Kasingye said.
A Western ally who sent the Ugandan military to fight militants in Somalia, Museveni won plaudits in the early years of his rule for restoring stability after years of turmoil and for drawing foreign investment.
But rampant rights violations, entrenched graft and dysfunctional public services have since eroded his standing and fueled opposition to his rule.
At 73, Museveni — who has already been in power for more than three decades — is ineligible to stand for re-election at polls in 2021 as Uganda’s constitution sets a ceiling for presidential candidates’ age at 75 years.
The move to amend legislation mirrors similar tactics used in Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic Congo to extend limits, a trend that has alarmed democracy watchdogs.
Police have also raided the premises of at least two pro-democracy organizations in Kampala, including that of the local unit of Johannesburg-based ActionAid International.
Security personnel blockaded staff inside their offices late on Wednesday and conducted searches, staff members of the organizations told Reuters.
“There was intelligence that we got that they received funding for people who are planning to cause chaos and violence,” Kasingye said.
Local media have also reported that Kampala’s mayor Erias Lukwago — an opposition party member — had been detained early on Thursday, though Kasingye said he was unaware of the claims.
Museveni’s bid has also met increasing denunciation from some members of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) Party, exposing cracks.
The NRM counts anout three-thirds of all Parliament members.
“Ultimately... Museveni has ample patronage at his disposal and, when push comes to shove, few lawmakers will be prepared to risk political exile by not backing the president,” said Charlotte King, a Uganda analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit.
The US Embassy in Kampala condemned the raids on pro-democracy groups.
“The United States is deeply concerned that recent arrests and raids stifle the Ugandan people’s right to free expression and tarnish Uganda’s global image,” it said in a statement.


Rao Anwar found ‘responsible’ of Naqeeb Mehsud’s murder

Updated 22 April 2018
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Rao Anwar found ‘responsible’ of Naqeeb Mehsud’s murder

  • Suspended police superintendent responsible for death of Naqeeb Mehsud, an aspiring Pashtun model, in fake police encounter in Karachi
  • The suspended officer has challenged the constitution of JIT sans representatives of intelligence agencies, armed forces

KARACHI: Rao Anwar, who was remanded in custody on Saturday, has been found responsible for the murder of Naqeebullah Mehsud, an aspiring Pashtun model from the country’s tribal region.

Mehsud was killed in a fake police encounter on Jan. 12 this year.

“Rao Anwar has been found guilty,” a senior official who is part of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing Anwar, told Arab News.

The apex court on March 24 had formed a JIT headed by Aftab Ahmed Pathan, Additional IG Sindh, to probe the incident. The JIT comprised  Waliullah Dal, Additional IG Special Branch; Azad Ahmed Khan, DIG South; Zulfiqar Larik, DIG East; and Dr. Rizwan Ahmed, SSP Central Karachi.

The official, who requested anonymity, told Arab News that the JIT report will be produced in the court once signed by all of its members.
Anwar was presented today before the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) in Karachi on Saturday which sent him on judicial remand to prison till May 2, prosecutor Zafar Solangi told Arab News.

When asked for a comment upon his appearance at the ATC, Anwar said: “I have challenged the JIT and I don’t accept its findings.”
He further claimed: “I have not recorded any statement before this JIT.”

On April 5, Anwar filed a petition praying for the inclusion of representatives of “the intelligence agencies, armed forces and civil armed forces.”

Anwar claimed that the inclusion of the members from intelligence agencies and armed forces was required by law.

The police officer was brought to the court amid tight security arrangements, where he was produced along with 11 other accused.

Investigation officer, SSP Dr. Rizwan Ahmed, who is also part of the JIT probing the incident, told the court that investigations are underway and the JIT’s report will be presented before the court once it was finalized. He sought a week for the submission of the report.
Anwar was given into 30-day police custody upon the last court hearing.

Anwar, who is accused of killing Mehsud in a fake police encounter, claims that the slain Pashtun model was an active member of banned terrorist outfits Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Al Qaeda, and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). However, the evident subsequently began to pile up against the police team involved in his killing.

Following the incident, a formal inquiry was launched against Anwar. As pressure mounted on him, he decided to go underground and even made a botched attempt to fly out of Pakistan.

He also wrote a few letters to the Supreme Court after the top court began a suo motu hearing of Naqeebullah’s murder, telling the judges that the system was heavily stacked against him and he was not hopeful of getting any justice in the case.

In response, the country’s top court decided to grant him some relief, asking him to surrender himself and let the law take its course.
The court was also willing to reconstitute a joint investigation team to look into Naqeebullah’s killing since the absconding police officer had voiced concern over its composition.

Authorities froze Anwar’s accounts after his repeated non-appearance before the court.

In a surprise move last month, the absconding police officer came to the court in a white car. He was clad in a black dress and wore a medical mask to cover his face.

Anwar’s lawyer told the chief justice that his client had “surrendered” and wanted protective bail. However, the Supreme Court turned down the request and ordered the law enforcement authorities to lock up the former SSP.