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Uganda: Museveni’s Swearing in Overshadowed by Rival's Return

This post is part of our special coverage Uganda: Walk to Work Protests.

Uganda’s President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni was sworn in Thursday for the fifth time after winning the February 18 elections with 68 percent.

The ceremony was graced by a few African presidents, from Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Nigeria. Museveni’s swearing in was overshadowed by the arrival of his arch rival and three time challenger Dr. Kizza Besigye who had been flown to Nairobi for medical treatment from injuries sustained during a violent arrest last month.

Arch rival's arrival

Dr. Besigye was almost stopped from coming back to the country the day before the ceremony. Blocked from boarding a Kenya Airways flight after reports that the Uganda government would not allow the airline to land if he was on board, Besigye was later offered a seat on another evening flight which he declined. Together with his wife and former confidante Museveni Winnie Byanyima, they chose to come back on the very day of the swearing in ceremony.

The army used used tear gas and canes to try to disperse crowds gathered along Entebbe Road as they waited for Besigye. The military had to make way for foreign dignitaries to be able to access the road to the airport as a journey that usually takes about a hour, took Besigye and his crowd of supporters over six hours to make it to the city.

Ugandan riot police ready for action. Photo by @oletan.

Ugandan riot police ready for action. Photo by @oletan.

Reactions from the people

Earlier on Tuesday, police had sprayed pink paint on protesters who were trying to access the Constitution Square in Kampala, a place government has alleged Besigye wanted to turn into a Tahrir of sorts.

Popular hashtags for the day were #uginauguration, #Besigye, #Walk2work and #Uganda. Ugandans thronged to Twitter and Facebook to air their views and report events of the day.

@27sunshineave wondered what’s special about the fifth time of swearing in:

#ugandainauguration ah ah, I'm bored..how is a man swearing in for the 5th time new to me… Where's #besigye at?? Now that's interesting

Even as the ceremony went on, many Ugandans like @irrynne still wondered why billions of shillings were being spent for President Museveni's fifth swearing in ceremony:

So billions of taxpayer money just to see him do it a fifth time? #ugandainauguration #BS

@Elirri pointed out a little stammering by the president as he sworn in:

Museveni stammers while swearing in. Isnt he sure he's the right candidate to have been sworn in??? #uganda #ugandainauguration

And @cobbo3 indicated that winning a fraudulent election and beating up opponents can mess the speech of even the most eloquent of men:

@Elirri Winning disputed polls and beating down rivals will mess with the speech of even the most eloquent man. #uganda #ugandainauguration

@gatimo1 said that President Museveni shouldn’t have read the oath:

M7 ws reading the oath!! By now, he shd know it by heart.. #ugandainauguration #uginauguration

@gaetanokagwa thinks that Museveni doesn’t just have five years but ten more years to rule Uganda:

The next 10 years of rule under #Museveni are going to be very interesting in #uganda. #ugandainauguration

On Facebook the talk of Museveni’s inauguration was a top topic in the early morning hours. But Nobert Mao, the leader of Democratic Party leader who has been jailed for taking part in the Walk to Work protest had to dispel rumours that opposition had planned a parallel swearing in ceremony.

Javie Ssozi says [Login required] the fifth swearing in ceremony was not as newsworthy as Besigye’s homecoming.

Samuel Makokha used his Facebook page to give updates of where Besigye’s convoy was and how the military and police were trying to break into crowds that gathered to welcome Besigye.

Dennis Muhumuza says he hopes Museveni uses the next five years to address the issues affecting the masses in Uganda.

Benon Herbert Oluka feared that if Museveni’s convoy went back to the State House using the same route Besigye and his supporters were at, there was likely to be a confrontation. Others like Tony Ofungi captured videos of planes in the skies as the President was sworn in.

Charles Odongtho wondered what to make of the absence of President Paul Kagame of Rwanda.

Before the swearing in ceremony ended, attention shifted to Besigye and his convoy and so did the Twitter and Facebook users. @StoneAtwine wondered if the army top officials who were all glued to their phones throughout the swearing in were giving orders to halt Besigye’s movement:

They must be giving orders for Besigye movements from EBB. “@Billynkid: Hahah top brass all on there phones. #uginauguration”

 Besigye convoy meets Mugabe convoy. Photo courtesy of @UgInsomniac.

Besigye convoy meets Mugabe convoy. Photo courtesy of @UgInsomniac.

Then came tweets about police use of teargas on Besigye’s supporters. @malonebarry said Besigye and his supporters got teargassed as Museveni and his group danced:

Reports #Besigye supporters being teargassed as Museveni's dance on other side of town #walk2work #uginauguration #Uganda

@beewol pointed out that events of the day in Uganda are in three seasons: Inauguration, walk2work and the clash on Entebbe road with Besigye supporters:

Season 1 #uginauguration is over. Season 2 #walk2work is just getting started. Season 3 #TheClashOnEbbsRoad is coming to cinemas near U

@MusanaMusana reported sounds of gunshots in various Kampala suburbs as security forces moved to restrict crowds gathering waiting for Besigye:

“@jssozi: gunshots in Nateete, mengo area as police disperse Besigye's supporters. True hero's welcome.. #walk2work”

There was also a buzz about why the police were turning to blue water and pink paint to deal with crowds after shooting several demonstrators last month. XKMato explained the reasons for using water and pink paint:

I hear the point of blue water and #pinkstuff was because tear gas can't spoil cameras and phones… #walk2work #uginauguration #Besigye

Officials from Besigye’s party Forum for Democratic Change like Anne Mugisha were updating their followers as Besigye’s convoy took time to make it through crowds. Mugisha reported that the military had beaten some of their supporters around Kisubi a few kilometers from the airport [the message is currently unavailable].

The events in Kampala put the media under intense pressure. Most television stations showed Museveni’s swearing in ceremony live and when the ceremony closed, WBS TV stole the show with live coverage of Besigye arrival. Other stations registered complaints from Ugandans.

@rhyzcharles equates the lack of live coverage for Besigye's arrival on some television stations to betrayal:

NTV has betrayed us this time on #Besigye arrival to #Uganda

@sieitai reported many incidents where security operatives were blocking journalists from doing their work:

… more stories of journalists’ cameras grabbed by plain clothed security hoodlums again! what a life! #walk2work!

It took more than 8 hours for Besigye to cover 25 miles from Entebbe Airport to Kampala as thousands of supporters lined along the road to see him.

@Oletan described the security situation as a Mamba party showing a picture of APCs (Armoured Personnel Carriers) which are locally know as Mamba.

@UgInsomniac waited for Besigye’s convoy to pass for many hours She wondered if it was worth the wait:

#Besigye in Lweza. He turned up. Finally. Not sure it was worth the wait. #uganda #ugandainauguration http://twitpic.com/4wnkgf

Finally, the Urban Legend describes the ceremony with a light touch:

I sweya:

He stuttered at “ob…observe law…” He thought it was a typo and fired whoever included ‘law’ in his speech.

Crowd:

The crowd was mostly comprised of old people. Those who only vote for one issue: The man saved us from those of Amin.

Invitation list:

Tired, hungry and pissed off presidents only. It’s as if a cook had run up to Museveni and whispered: “Sir, their lunch is not yet ready. We are out of tomatoes and they are expensive in the market.”

Left-right:

The gunmen who marched in honour looked like they were threatened with a salary reduction if they didn’t march.

Facebook:

The lazy and cowardly middleclass who share Besigye’s sentiments towards the Museveni government were so angry that they furiously entered their usernames and passwords and status-updated their anger while threatening to continue their Walk To PC campaign if the government didn’t stop the violence they were reading about on other people’s walls.

Angela Katatumba:

She shouted the national anthem. Next time, Mister President, allow us to sing it for ourselves.

This post is part of our special coverage Uganda: Walk to Work Protests.

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