Rwandans stranded in Kampala amidst riots

KAMPALA/KIGALI - Hundreds of Rwandan travellers were by yesterday evening still stuck in Kampala, amidst riots that have gripped the Ugandan capital for the last two days. The situation in Kampala city and other parts of Buganda which has continued to be tense following riots that broke out spontaneously on Thursday afternoon, has confined travelling Rwandans to their hotel rooms as buses plying the Kampala-Kigali route remain parked. One of the Jaguar buses was pelted with stones and its occupants harassed by the rioters on Thursday evening, but officials at the Rwandan Embassy in Kampala deny any ransacking of the bus as earlier reports had suggested.
Jaguar bus that was attacked by rioters in Kyengera during the ongoing chaos in Kampala. Inset are Jaguar Buses parked in Kampala. (Photos Brian A Ssenyonga)
Jaguar bus that was attacked by rioters in Kyengera during the ongoing chaos in Kampala. Inset are Jaguar Buses parked in Kampala. (Photos Brian A Ssenyonga)

KAMPALA/KIGALI - Hundreds of Rwandan travellers were by yesterday evening still stuck in Kampala, amidst riots that have gripped the Ugandan capital for the last two days.

The situation in Kampala city and other parts of Buganda which has continued to be tense following riots that broke out spontaneously on Thursday afternoon, has confined travelling Rwandans to their hotel rooms as buses plying the Kampala-Kigali route remain parked.

One of the Jaguar buses was pelted with stones and its occupants harassed by the rioters on Thursday evening, but officials at the Rwandan Embassy in Kampala deny any ransacking of the bus as earlier reports had suggested.

“It is true the bus was attacked and pelted with stones, but it was not ransacked. Nobody lost property and the bus wasn’t singled out, as all passing vehicles were being attacked, police managed to bring the attack to a halt immediately,” said John Ngarambe, the First Secretary at the Rwandan Embassy in Uganda.

He said that the Embassy is in talks with the Police to evacuate stranded Rwandans from the chaotic city today by providing escorts beyond Masaka district.

However the police say it will all depend on the situation today, as it is expected that the chaos might escalate.

“Police cannot estimate the level of chaos, but we hope if all goes well, tomorrow (Saturday), they will help us ferry Rwandans who are stranded in their hotels, at least up to Masaka, if there is calm in the morning,” Ngarambe said.

The riots were ignited by ethnic Baganda protesting against the Ugandan government’s decision to deny their (Baganda) King, Ronald Muwenda Mutebi, access to one of the districts within his kingdom.

Unconfirmed reports say that so far, over 20 people have been killed in Kampala.

On Thursday, more than seven people died, most of them struck by stray bullets. Several people were injured including police officers.

By press time, four radio stations that were considered to be airing provocative messages had been taken off air.

Unconfirmed reports indicate that another bus belonging to Gaso Bus Company, was also attacked and later set on fire, but could not indicate whether it is the Kampala-Kigali-Bujumbura bus or local ones.

“Up to now we haven’t registered any damages on our buses, but they are parked. People who had booked tickets are now stranded in their hotels.

Today we had a meeting with embassy officials and they promised to talk to the police to give us an escort to evacuate stranded passengers,” said Elias Kainamura, the ONATRACOM country manager of in Kampala.

Embassy officials also confirmed that some Rwandans who were destined for Kampala got stranded along the way as the chaos gripped the country.

However Ngarambe insisted that there was no cause for alarm as calm is likely to be restored.

“We hope when calm is restored, we will go ahead and transport the people who had already paid for their tickets, but for the moment, we are still waiting to see how the situation evolves,” said one of the managers of Jaguar Bus company who preferred to remain anonymous.

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