President Yoweri Museveni’s security forces used strong-arm tactics in
the middle of an election Friday, arresting the main opposition
candidate, beating protesters and firing tear gas and stun grenades at
The United States, which gives financial support to Uganda and helps
train its military, was among those condemning the brutal actions. It
occurred as voting from Thursday’s election proceeded in two main
districts on Friday because ballots and other election materials had not
arrived as scheduled on election day.
Early returns put Museveni ahead of opposition leader
Kizza Besigye, but votes remained to be cast, and counted, in Besigye
With results from about 23 percent of polling stations across the
country counted, Museveni had 62 percent of the vote and Besigye had 33
percent, the election commission said.
Police surrounded the headquarters of Besigye’s Forum for Democratic
Change party as he was meeting with other leaders of his party, and a
helicopter fired tear gas at a crowd outside. Then police moved in and
took Besigye, a 59-year-old doctor, to an unknown location, according to
Semujju Nganda, a spokesman for the FDC.
The U.S. Embassy said on Twitter that “We strongly condemn the disproportionate police action taken today at FDC HQ in Kampala.”
After Besigye’s arrest, supporters who had been inside the party
headquarters joined Besigye supporters in the streets. Riot police
lobbed tear gas and stun grenades at them and fired warning shots from
automatic rifles, then chased them through narrow alleyways, arresting
some. Armored personnel carriers rumbled up and down the main street. A
woman and her children fled on a motorbike.
In nearby poor neighborhoods, people set up burning barricades which
riot police and military police quickly took down. Angry protesters also
erected barricades of stones on the highway leading to Uganda’s
international airport. Police fired tear gas and whacked protesters with
Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s regional director, noted that
the raid represented a “restriction on the rights to freedom as
association and peaceful assembly. The security forces must act with
Police parked their trucks near the home of presidential candidate Amama
Mbabazi, a former prime minister. Josephine Mayanja-Nkangi, a
spokeswoman for Mbabazi, said he interpreted the deployment to mean he
cannot leave his house.
The voting Thursday suffered delays in delivery of voting materials,
especially in areas seen as opposition strongholds, and was seen by the
opposition as deliberate. Voting was taking place Friday at 36 polling
stations in Kampala and the neighboring district of Wakiso.
The government had shut down social media sites such as Twitter and
Facebook but many Ugandans were circumventing that by using virtual
private networks, or VPNs.
Besigye was also briefly arrested late Thursday after visiting a house
in Kampala where he suspected ballot-stuffing was taking place. Police
said the house was a security facility and accused Besigye of
trespassing on government property.
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