KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Toronto isn't the only city whose mayor has problems. The mayor of Uganda's capital — who has locked horns with the country's powerful, long-serving president — has been found guilty of abuse of office.
A government tribunal on Thursday declared Erias Lukwago, whose title is lord mayor of Kampala, guilty of abuse of office, incompetence and misconduct. He faces being kicked out office. Anti-riot police deployed in anticipation of demonstrations against the mayor's conviction, though no protests immediately materialized. Lukwago is an ally of the opposition figure Kizza Besigye, who has led "Walk to Work" protests that sometimes turn into stone-throwing, tear gas-filled confrontations with riot police.
The government tribunal was set up in May after local leaders wrote a petition seeking Lukwago's removal from office. Lukwago stood accused of inciting the public against payment of taxes, failure to convene meetings and to sign committee reports, and disobeying administrative directives.
At a news conference Thursday, Besigye said the tribunal operated as a "hangman." Lukwago described it as a kangaroo court. Lukwago is a political opponent of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who has controlled Uganda since 1986, and the mayor linked the president to his conviction.
"I know President Museveni wants to break our spirit to fight for the rule of law, social justice, constitutionalism and good governance. I want to send a message to Mr. Museveni that no amount of intimidation or suppression will make me bow before you. I want to assure you that come what may, I am ready to pay even the ultimate price," Lukwago said.
Critics have branded the process as a manipulation to remove an elected mayor from office. Besigye said that Museveni is trying to "take over Kampala through the backdoor. This is the time to face up to the dictator. People have the power."
Patrick Wakida, a political commentator and chief executive at Research World International in Kampala, said the tribunal was a bad idea. "Government has created a political storm they cannot stop. It was conceived in bad faith and it spells doom for the city. We are back to political chaos," he said.
Public hearings conducted by the tribunal were often acrimonious. Lukwago initially challenged the legality of his trial, but a higher court ruled against him, permitting the tribunal to continue its work.
The city authorities have 14 days within which to act upon the tribunal's ruling.