On the morning of November 3, opposition presidential candidate Patrick Oboi Amuriat left his home to go to his party’s headquarters in the south of Kampala, Uganda’s capital. ¨
From there, he planned to join his supporters and party officials in a procession to a venue where the electoral commission was conducting nominations for presidential contenders.
But before he could, the police pounced and violently arrested him. They then whisked him off to the nomination venue in the east of Kampala.
When he emerged from the police car, a visibly traumatized Amuriat was without his shoes.
‘Rich in symbolism’
Since November 3, the candidate for the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) has never been seen in public with shoes. At campaign events, he shows up barefooted.
Critics have called it a stunt to invite sympathy. Yet Amuriat says campaigning without shoes is a protest and that those who do not get its symbolism are missing a point.
Uganda is due to hold a general election on January 14. Amuriat and another opposition candidate, Bobi Wine have had their rallies violently dispersed by security forces or been arrested.
In mid-November, scores of people were killed as security forces attempted to quell protests against the arrest and detention of Bobi Wine.
Police has accused the candidates of addressing huge gatherings in contravention of regulations on COVID-19 prevention.
In an interview with one of the dailies in Uganda, Amuriat said his feet hurt a lot and has to pour cold water on them in between campaign stops for some relief.
Doctors have cautioned him on the potential danger of contracting tetanus from cuts to his feet.
Yet Amuriat remains adamant. He says by refusing to wear shoes, he’s standing in solidarity with people whose wealth and opportunities have been stolen by the country’s longtime ruler Yoweri Museveni.
JUST IN: FDC presidential candidate Patrick Amuriat has been arrested at the border of Rubirizi and Bushenyi districts. The reason for his arrest is yet to be known— Daily Monitor (@DailyMonitor) December 4, 2020
? @MukhayeD#MonitorUpdates#UGDecides2021 pic.twitter.com/xopK4FMoD0
Museveni, in power since 1986 is seeking a new term. In 2017, he changed the constitution to remove age limits that would have stopped him from seeking re-election.
FDC is Uganda’s largest opposition party. In 3 previous elections, the party fronted veteran activist and retired army colonel Kizza Besigye for president.