Eight Arsenal fans were arrested in the Ugandan city of Jinja after celebrating the club’s win against Manchester United in the English Premier League. The fans had been travelling in a convoy of five vehicles, wearing the Arsenal red jerseys and carrying a symbolic trophy.
According to Police, the fans did not have permission to hold the procession, which is a public order offence. The match, which saw a dramatic last-minute goal giving the Gunners a 3-2 win, had given hope to Arsenal fans across the world that the club could win the English Premier League after a 19-year wait.
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When interviewed by the local Daily Monitor news site, Arsenal fan Baker Kasule said, “I don’t know what we have done but we were simply celebrating our victory over rivals Manchester United.” James Mubi, the regional police boss and an Arsenal fan himself, commented that he hadn’t reviewed the charges against the fans yet, but was surprised they were celebrating when only half of the matches in the season had been played. He further stated, “What would happen if an altercation with rival fans broke out? They did not inform police to provide security for their procession.”
Rights groups have pointed out that the Public Order Management Act has given police discretionary powers that have been used to restrict citizens’ rights. Agather Atuhaire, a lawyer and rights activist, commented to the BBC that Ugandan police continue “to be high-handed even after the Constitutional Court nullified all the draconian provisions that gave them unfettered powers to restrict the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of association and assembly”.
Arsenal and Manchester United have huge followings in Uganda, and across Africa. Video halls in Uganda are always packed to the rafters when the teams play.