Ugandan police today arrested opposition leader Kizza Besigye, who was later charged with inciting violence, after he tried to stage a protest against rising prices amid a ban on demonstrations.
“He was arrested after blocking a road leading into Kampala,” police spokeswoman Judith Nabakooba said. “Police tried to move him on but he resisted.”
“Teargas was used to disperse a rowdy crowd that was throwing stones,” she added.
Besigye, who was President Yoweri Museveni’s main challenger in February 18 presidential elections he claims were rigged, had called for a “walk-to-work” demonstration against rising fuel and other prices.
Blocked by police
Besigye’s assistant Sam Mugumya said his boss had left his home in Kasangati suburb early in the morning with a small group of people and was shortly afterwards blocked by police and told he could not proceed.
“There were 10 times more police than opposition,” Mugumya said, adding that after a two-hour standoff teargas was fired and Besigye was “bundled” onto the back of a police pick-up truck.
Several hours after his arrest, Besigye was officially charged with inciting violence and taken to nearby Kasangati court where he entered a not guilty plea.
“It is ridiculous,” Besigye told AFP as he was being escorted from the police station. “I was just walking with a few people...and they are calling that inciting violence.”
Besigye’s lawyer David Mpanga said they would be lodging an immediate request for bail.
Police in the east African country have banned demonstrations and warned last week that any attempt to stage street protests would be “dealt with firmly”.
“I would like to caution any persons organising these illegal activities that as custodians of the public interest, the police shall not allow them to take place,” police chief Kale Kayihura said in a statement on Friday.
Besigye had been taking part in a multi-party opposition demonstration against the rising cost of living, said Alice Alaso, the secretary-general of his Forum for Democratic Change party.
She condemned the force used by the police to arrest Besigye as “excessive”.
“You cannot stop ordinary Ugandans from just walking along the road,” she said.
Alaso said her party also had information of some other 15 people arrested around Kampala, including Democratic Party leader Norbert Mao, another of the losing candidates in the last presidential elections.
Besigye, 54, had warned before the February polls that Uganda was ripe for an Egypt-style revolt but stopped short of calling for mass street protests to challenge the results, which saw Museveni re-elected with a landslide.
“We are not going to be intimidated. People have a cause to hold a peaceful demonstration. We are not going to be deterred,” Besigye told AFP on Friday.
Besigye, Museveni’s former physician and comrade-in-arms, has lost to him in three consecutive polls.(AFP)