FDC leader Kizza Besigye returned home to a rousing welcome by thousands of supporters who thronged the 49- kilometre Entebbe-Kampala highway, forcing his convoy to inch its way to the city in 11 hours for a journey which usually lasts an hour.
He arrived in Kampala at 7:13pm amid heavy gunfire, blasts of a blue liquid spray from water canon and explosions of teargas canisters which intensified the closer the procession got to Kampala.
From the airport, the large contingent of heavily-armed police and army deployed along the route kept beating back the crowds. At least one person was confirmed dead by a government spokesperson. But other reports carried on WBS television last night said military police shot and killed at least five people, including a nine-year-old who died at Zzana Trading Centre.
Daily Monitor was not able to independently verify this report.
Uganda Red Cross secretary Michael Nataka told Daily Monitor they treated and referred two gunshot victims to Mulago Hospital while eight other injured of the 39 they treated were sent to the same hospital.
Among the reported dead was a woman identified as Hadijja Kayiwa who was a worker at Stella Beauty Salon in Kajansi. Another man was shot at Kibuye roundabout as he tried to flee into a nearby house to escape the shooting. WBS television reporter Timothy Sibasi said he filmed some of the shooting.
“I saw the Military Police shoot the five people, including the 9-year-old boy, and police quickly picked their bodies using pick-up trucks,” Mr Sibasi said.
Police spokesperson Judith Nabakoba did not answer our calls but Mr Fred Opolot, the Uganda Media Centre Executive Director, late last evening said, “I have not yet confirmed any figures. I have been trying to get to the security people to help get the right figures but unfortunately I have not succeeded.”
At 1:52pm, five hours after he had landed, Dr Besigye told Daily Monitor that he was very happy because he was with his people, “a people who are demanding their rights.”
When he arrived at the Nsambya Grounds in Kampala, with wife Winnie Byanyima by his side, the opposition leader asked gathered supporters to fight for economic revival by continuing walking to work, starting Monday next week.
“These NRM murderers wanted him dead but God saved him for us, we thank you for the prayers,” Ms Byanyima told the cheering crowds.
Sounding apologetic for having kept them waiting all day, Dr Besigye in his 10-minute speech, thanked the people for showing courage and being peaceful.
“I want you to thank the Kenyans who are our good friends. Their fight shows us that the whole world is behind us,” he said.
“God can’t be on the side of thieves, murderers, and we shall overcome. I want to thank you for the bravery that you have exhibited, showing the world that you have overcome fear. We shall continue walking and they shall go,” he said.
Earlier in the day, scores, including FDC party officials and Democratic Party president Norbert Mao had set out to meet him from the time he stepped off the Kenya Airways plane at 9am, and continued walking alongside his car, notwithstanding the heavy military machinery that was ranged along the highway.
In cases where police and military failed to contain the crowds, they attacked them with whips and intermittently let off volleys of automatic weapons fire to disperse the crowds.
A journalist, working with Sky Magazine, Yusuf Kavuma, was a victim of this brutality and came out bleeding profusely from a head wound sustained while photographing soldiers whipping civilians who had stood by the roadside in Kisubi.
WBS television reporter Mukasa Mulindwa confirmed that his camera was confiscated by a man in military uniform who was unhappy that he filmed him firing into the crowds at Bwebajja.
Dr Besigye also called for calm among his supporters, and asked police to return the abandoned boda bodas motorcycles to their owners because they had not committed any crimes.
“Power is not only in the gun, we shall use the power of the people to take our nation ahead. Be courageous; don’t think that we shall use the gun to overcome these people to get them away,” he said. “Be peaceful and calm, the situation will calm down.”
He also said the dignitaries who had just left the swearing-in ceremony knew they had sworn in the wrong President. Many of them saw the huge crowds that mobbed Dr Besigye as they drove back to Entebbe where they were to be hosted at State House.
And while the police and military hustled Dr Besigye supporters on Entebbe Road, along the Kasangati Road leading to the FDC leader’s home people had by 9am started sweeping the route, decorating it with balloons and Besigye campaign posters which some were passionately kissing.
The army was heavily deploying right from Wandegeya near Kampala to Kasangati town junction where Dr Besigye branches off to his home.
Reported by Al-Mahdi Ssenkabirwa, Philippa Croome, Martin Ssebuyira, Walter Wafula, Sheila Naturinda & Isaac Imaka.