KAMPALA – Uganda’s Opposition leader and presidential candidate Kizza Besigye was arrested and released in three separate instances in an electioneering week sparking riots amid a general election overshadowed by government sponsored vote-rigging allegations.
The latest arrest was on Friday 19, February 20, 2016 when Besigye was arrested after he was arrested following a police raid on the offices of his party’s headquarters in the capital, Kampala on accusations of trying to announce false results. By night fall, the opposition leader was still in police custody.
The tension began after police stormed the FDC offices to prevent the presidential candidate and Muntu from delivering a press conference following his brief detention for alleging that the presidential and parliamentary elections were rigged.
Police fired rubber bullets and teargas canisters at protesters who retaliated by hurling stones at officers outside the headquarters of the opposition party Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) in the Ugandan capital. Apart from Besigye, 59, several other party members, including Mugisha Muntu, the FDC leader have been arrested and detained.
A police spokesperson said the cordoning off of the FDC headquarters was necessary.
“We are in charge of this country and we have to enforce its laws. The FDC must fall in line with the laws and wait for the Electoral Commission to announce results.” said Andrew Kaweso, head of police human resources.
Clashes reported in Kampala
Following this latest arrest, clashes once again erupted between main opposition supporters and Ugandan security forces in Kampala.
Shooting was heard in some neighbourhoods and the streets in the opposition strongholds such as Kampala.
The US urged President Yoweri Museveni to “rein in his police”
Vote rigging claims and earlier arrests
Election day on Thursday was dominated by claims of vote-rigging and a previous Besigye arrest when he and his supporters tried to expose what they thought was a vote-rigging operation in a suburban house.
Besigye was also arrested on Thursday when police stopped him from campaigning in the centre of the capital Kampala, prompting his supporters to stage an angry spur-of-the-moment protest.
Poll marred by delays
The poll was also marred by delays in delivering voting materials, especially in areas seen as opposition strongholds.
The Electoral Commission has since dismissed this allegation. Jonathan Taremwa, a spokesman for the electoral commission, said the vote was “transparent” and “fair”.
“Some people didn’t get to vote. It was unfortunate, it was regrettable, and the commission offered an apology. We finally had stations [affected by delays] opened for votes and later extended the voting from 4pm to 7pm,” Taremwa said.
Museveni, 71, a former rebel who seized power in 1986, is widely expected to win a fifth term, which would extend his power into a fourth decade.
Besigye was Museveni’s field doctor during the war which brought him to power, and served as deputy interior minister in his first cabinet.
He broke ranks with the president in 1999, saying Museveni was no longer a democrat.
– Wanekeya Richard, Correspondent (Africa)