Uganda House burnt in Kenya tax protests: Ugandans react

Uganda House burnt in Kenya tax protests: Ugandans react
Uganda House burnt in Kenyan protests: Ugandans react

Kampala, Uganda | By Michael Wandati | Uganda House, located on Kenyatta Avenue in Nairobi’s Central Business District, was subjected to vandalism and arson during recent protests in Kenya. The incident resulted in significant property damage, although fortunately, there were no reported fatalities or serious injuries.

Speculation arose among some Kenyans linking the presence of a police riot truck in Kenya to alleged Ugandan involvement in quelling the protests. This speculation implied that Uganda House may have been targeted by protesters for this reason.

However, Uganda Police spokesperson Fred Enanga refuted these claims on Monday 24, June 2024. He clarified that the police truck captured in video footage amidst protesters in Nakuru was actually transporting a Uganda police fire truck back to Uganda for repairs. The Uganda Police categorically denied any involvement in the suppression of protests in Kenya.

“The allegations are false and malicious propaganda,” said Enanga.

The fire truck, which belongs to the Masaka CPS Fire and Rescue Department, encountered mechanical issues in April 2024 and was transported to Nairobi for repairs, as explained by Fred Enanga.

According to a government source speaking to the Kampala Dispatch, there have been speculations surrounding the targeting of the Uganda House building. However, investigations into the incident are still ongoing.

Vincent Bagiire Waiswa, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, condemned the incident in a recent statement. He mentioned that the six-floor Uganda House, currently undergoing renovations, was scheduled to reopen on June 28. The ground floor housed commercial tenants, while other floors, including the Consular Office, were vacant due to ongoing renovation work.

“We commend the Nairobi Fire Department for putting out the fire,” said Waiswa.

He also confirmed that no diplomatic or consular staff were present in the building at the time of the fire.

Waiswa reaffirmed Uganda’s strong diplomatic relations with Kenya and condemned the violence.

“We support peaceful demonstrations as a democratic right, but we condemn in the strongest terms violence that leads to the destruction of property and loss of lives,” he stated.

Meanwhile, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs in charge of Regional Affairs, John Mulimba, has advised Ugandans against attempting to replicate the protests in Kenya that pressured President William Ruto’s government to abandon new tax measures.

“Don’t try this at home. Kindly tell Ugandans not to replicate what they saw in Nairobi,” the minister said.

Mulimba mentioned that the government is in discussions with Kenya on several matters, including the damage to Uganda House, economic concerns, and the movement of people between the two countries.

He assured that the incident would not affect operations at the Ugandan Embassy in Kenya.

“Our embassy continues its work as usual because the burnt building is not where the embassy is located. I have spoken to our officials there, and they have confirmed everything is moving on well,” he said.

Yusuf Nsibambi, MP Mawokota South, noted that although his business was one of those affected by the fire at Uganda House in Kenya, his loss is incomparable to the exploitation and oppression that the Kenyan youths are protesting against, and he expressed support for their pursuit of freedom.

Nsibambi, who is the Whip for the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) in Parliament, said that what has happened in Kenya could easily happen in Uganda if MPs continue to dismiss the wishes of Ugandans, by focusing on enriching themselves instead of working to improve the quality of life for Ugandans.

“Whatever is happening in Kenya is quite unfortunate. The youth have taken over the mantle of liberating themselves from exploitation and oppression, and the alleged connivance by Parliament to mismanage the economy,” he said while addressing the media at Parliament.

Also Read: Ruto declines to sign controversial Finance Bill after deadly protests

He said they are protesting the Finance Bill, which is the equivalent of what they have gone through in Parliament.

“On a personal note, I have a forex bureau in Uganda House called Link Forex Bureau, which was looted and completely run down. So I am affected, but I am very happy that the youths have come out to tell the world that enough is enough. What isn’t happening here is specifically because we have been brought up to believe and accept oppression and exploitation,” said Nsibambi.

The Kayadondo East MP, Nkunyingi Muwada, has asked Kenyans to ignore the statement issued by Uganda’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, implicating protesters in the burning of Uganda House in Kenya, saying Uganda has no jurisdiction to investigate and reach such conclusions before Kenyan investigative authorities do so.

Muwada, who doubles as Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, made the remarks while addressing journalists at Parliament.

He accused the Ugandan government of issuing a premature and reckless statement, saying such a move could endanger the lives of Ugandans who have lived, worked, and traded in Kenya for a long time.

Authorities have appealed for calm and cautioned against drawing premature conclusions amidst ongoing protests in Kenya. The country is currently experiencing nationwide demonstrations sparked by proposed tax hikes, culminating in a significant disruption on Tuesday termed as a “total shutdown.”

Protests escalated into violence as law enforcement deployed tear gas and live ammunition against demonstrators. In response to public outcry, the Kenyan government recently reversed some tax increases, including plans for a 16% value-added tax on bread and taxes on motor vehicles, vegetable oil, and mobile money transfers.

Despite these concessions, unrest continues unabated amid rising living costs. The fiscal measures, initiated by President William Ruto, also included heightened taxes on healthcare and affordable housing, further fueling public dissatisfaction.

Numerous leaders have criticized the government’s use of force against peaceful protestors, which has tragically resulted in multiple fatalities.