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Ugandan Police Arrest Hopefuls for 2016 Presidential Vote


FILE - Former Ugandan Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi.

FILE - Former Ugandan Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi.

In Uganda, presidential candidates Amama Mbabazi and Kizza Besigye have been arrested for attempting to hold public meetings. Both are being held at police stations amid rising tensions between police and supporters.

Both Mbabazi and opposition leader Kizza worked closely with President Yoweri Museveni before falling out politically. And both were arrested Thursday as they tried to kick off meetings with their supporters.

Mbabazi, whose meeting was scheduled in the eastern Ugandan town of Mbale, made it three hours out of Kampala before his car was stopped and he was put under what officials called “preventative arrest."

Officials said the meeting was deemed illegal because Mbabazi failed to harmonize with his political party.

Besigye was reportedly arrested not long after. Police said his notice of a meeting came too late and that holding it violated the Public Order Management Act.

Mbabazi was taken to a police station in Kampala where his supporters gathered outside. Not long after, his wife Jacqueline Mbabazi and outspoken General David Sejusa joined a crowd of supporters. Sejusa said this was expected and told supporters that the struggle was just beginning,

“He is dealing with a dictatorship. We are dealing with a dictatorship,” he said. “But this is a victory for the resistance because, you see, we've been struggling for a long time about whether Museveni presides over a democracy or a dictatorship ... In order to handle this dictatorship which is now a criminal outfit, we have to start thinking seriously about a new approach.”

The crowd was pushed further and further back and became agitated as the afternoon wore on. One man, who refused to be identified, said police harassment could lead to violence.

“It was just like, 'what are you doing here, what are you waiting for?’” he said. “We have told him we are waiting for our boss because he is in detention and we cannot leave this place when he is not yet out.”

The man said his group was on the opposite side of the street and was told to cross the road.

“And if they want to come again and remove us from here it will not work,” he said. ... It is not time to start this battle ... but if they push us we can do otherwise.”

Police soon began chasing supporters away, and physical altercations between supporters and police broke out, causing traffic interruptions.

Tear gas and protests were also reported outside of the police station where Besigye is being held. Although police refused to comment on the situation, many speculate Mbabazi and Besigye will be released within the next 24 hours.

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