25 detained in Jinja for protesting food and fuel price hikes

The number of people arrested following Monday’s protests in Jinja district over the country’s soaring food and fuel prices is now at 25 after 17 more suspected protesters were singled out on Tuesday, police said .
Police fired tear gas and arrested at least eight suspected protesters on Monday after protests over steep food and fuel price hikes in the East African country turned violent.
With a population of 45 million, Uganda is reeling from a pandemic-induced economic crisis, a situation exacerbated by Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Food price inflation more than doubled to 13.1% in May, according to the latest government figures.
On Monday, protesters burned waste tires and blocked the busy Kamuli-Jinja highway, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) east of the capital Kampala, demanding that the government subsidize staple foods.
“The number of suspects in custody is now 25 after the arrest of 17 others. They blocked the road and started demanding money from travellers. Passenger service vehicles, private cars and a truck of police patrol were vandalized by the protesters,” Kiira area police spokesman Mr James Mubi said.

Protesters had forced motorists to join them in calling for change, witnesses said.
“We support such protests. The government must act. People are sleeping hungry,” said Solomon Wandibwa, a 28-year-old parts dealer.
However, Mr Mubi reiterated on Tuesday: “We are still looking for more suspects. We have information that the protests were planned by politicians. We will summon them (the politicians) for questioning.”
According to him, the suspects will be prosecuted for incitement to violence, malicious damage.
Prices for fuel, food and other basic commodities have soared around the world due to the war in Ukraine, hitting vulnerable countries in Africa and elsewhere.

In most remote parts of the country, petrol is selling for Shs 7,000 ($1.85) a litre, a doubling since February.
As discontent continues to grow over rising prices, President Museveni has repeatedly ignored calls for tax cuts and subsidies, urging citizens to live frugally instead.
In his annual State of the Nation address in June, Museveni said: “Cutting taxes and subsidies, especially on imports, is suicidal because our people can shop recklessly and we end up running out of our reserves of forex (foreign currencies).”

Former presidential candidate Dr Kizza Besigye and fellow political activist Samuel Lubega Mukaaku were charged last month with incitement to violence for leading protests against inflation that has hit the country hard.

Edward N. Arrington