KAMPALA. Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister, Gen Kahinda Otafiire has been forced out of a meeting convened by local government leaders at Namboole stadium.
The 864 local government leaders under their umbrella body Uganda Local Government Association (ULGA) protested Mr Otafiire’s arrival as President Museveni’s representative saying they had been invited to meet the President and not any other person.
As a sign of their dissatisfaction, the local government leaders hurled insults at Mr Otafiire accusing him of disrespecting them and having an agenda to divert their meeting from airing out their grievances which included insufficient funding and meager payments to discussing age limit removal.
Efforts of Lwengo District chairperson, Godfrey Mutabazi, also ULGA president, to calm down the leaders hit a snag when they insisted that they could not be addressed by a person who doesn’t respect them. The leaders threatened to beat up Mr Mutabazi if he insisted on giving a microphone to Mr Otafiire to speak to them.
After sensing danger, Mr Otafiire yielded and decided to walkway from the venue but in the process, the angry leaders surrounded him, pelted empty bottles at him before ‘baptising’ him with water.
The now charged Otafiire stood for a minute as if trying to identify the people who had poured water on him but instead received more insults prompting the police and army officers to take him away.
The police arrested two leaders Mr Solomon Okecho, Lobongo Sub-county chairperson, in Tororo District and Mr Michael Onsinya, also LC3 chairperson, in Namayingo District suspecting them to have poured water on Mr Otafiire.
The police’s action attracted more ugly scenes as the leaders surrounded the officers inside the stadium. They demanded for the immediate release of their colleagues, failure of which would attract a beating. As a result, police released them.
Mr Okecho and Mr Onsinya’s suits were torn in the fracas. Speaking to journalists soon after his release, Mr Okecho accused Mr Otafiire of wanting to hijack the day’s agenda to rally support for abrogation of article 102 (b) that limits President Museveni from running for presidency in 2021 since he will have clocked 75 years.
“We are youths who love our country and we are fed up with these people who want to grab everything. We came here to present problems affecting us as leaders and the people we represent, not to discuss stupid issues of age limit,” Mr Okecho said.
Mr Mutabazi who spoke after the departure of Mr Otafiire said the president was expected but they could not understand why he decided to send the minister.
“We communicated to the president and he promised to be with us today. But he could have changed his programme because of the many issues he is handling,” Mr Mutabazi said.
Mr Mutabazi also dispelled claims that Mr Otafiire was to discuss removal of age limit saying ULGA is not a platform for partisan politics and he could not been allowed to divert the day’s agenda.
Ms Rose Gertrude, ULGA secretary general, said they have engaged the entire possible minister to take their issues of low pay, insufficient finding but seems their voices are not being heard. She said the only way to make their issues be known to the nation’s principal is by meeting him. The meeting ended prematurely with a promise that another meeting shall be communicated after the confirmation of President Museveni’s attendance in person.