Uganda: February 2016

Import of Armoured Vehicles and Water Cannon: Ugandan Elections February 2016

The Ugandan elections are scheduled for Thursday 18 February and demonstrations have been taking place in the capital, Kampala. These have been led largely by the main opposition leader, Kizza Besigye (Forum for Democratic Change) and his supporters, who suspect that incumbent President, Yoweri Museveni (National Resistance Movement)  will use his position of authority to extend his 30 year rule and obstruct the possibility of a free and fair election.  

In the lead up to election day, the Ugandan police received 35 CS/VP3 personnel carriers   from the Chinese company, Poly Technologies. The vehicles were spotted at the Kenyan port of Mobasa on 4 February, preparing for transit to Uganda.

The CS/VP3 is an armoured personal carrier with the capacity to be fitted with 7.62 or 12.7 mm machine guns. The acquisition of these vehicles so close to the election raises concerns that they could be used to suppress demonstrations. Polly Namaye, a spokesperson for the Ugandan police advised that the vehicles were purchased as a security measure for the maintenance of "crowd control" and "public order management." The CS/VP3 is not a riot control vehicle and it is unclear with what weapons the police intend to equip it. Machine guns should not be used as a method of crowd control and should not be fitted to vehicles being used for that purpose.

The water cannon imported has yet to be conclusively identified from the images available, though appears visually similar to those manufactured by the Chinese company,  Shaanxi Automobile Corporation Ltd. The chassis resembles those produced by the Austrian company, Steyr. Ugandan police have been known to use water cannon excessively in previous pre-election demonstrations. During the pre-election demonstrations of 2011, the water was combined with a pink marker dye to enable police to identify demonstrators. Water cannon should only be used in proportion to the threat posed and when the violence has escalated to an extent that it is no longer possible to contain it by targeting the individuals responsible. It is inherently indiscriminate and can affect bystanders. If marker dye is used, this could lead to unwarranted harassment or arrest.

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