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Ugandan Police Detain, Then Release Opposition Leader Besigye

  • Jill Craig

Ugandan opposition leader and presidential candidate Kizza Besigye, center, is detained by riot police after attempting to walk with his supporters along a street in downtown Kampala, Feb. 15, 2016.

Ugandan opposition leader and presidential candidate Kizza Besigye, center, is detained by riot police after attempting to walk with his supporters along a street in downtown Kampala, Feb. 15, 2016.

Ugandan police detained opposition candidate Kizza Besigye in the capital Kampala Monday as he campaigned for the country's presidential election this week.

Witnesses said police fired tear gas after Besigye was stopped at a junction and told to get out of his car. Then they took him into custody, before moving him to another location outside of Kampala. He was later released.

Police claim Besigye was holding campaign events in the central business district, which they say is off limits for campaigning.

Besigye has lost three disputed elections to President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power since 1986.

Uganda’s assistant inspector general of police accused Besigye of violating campaign rules.

Protesters line up in front of Kira Road Police Station where opposition candidate Kizza Besigye was detained while campaigning for president, Kampala, Feb. 15, 2016. (E. Paula/VOA)

Protesters line up in front of Kira Road Police Station where opposition candidate Kizza Besigye was detained while campaigning for president, Kampala, Feb. 15, 2016. (E. Paula/VOA)

“If you choose because it is political period, to campaign, to go to a place where you are not supposed to be at that time, and then lead a procession through the central business district, the nerve center of economic activity, at such a time, I think we must protect other people,” he said.

One of Besigye’s lawyers, Lukwago Shifrah, said she was in a car with the opposition candidate when they were stopped by police and tear-gassed.

“We were together and actually we finished the first rally which was carried out there, and then we left to go to the convoy and then we had another rally but we were blocked, and they had to tear-gas us, which wasn’t called for because he’s a candidate like any other people," Shifrah said.

Voter Charles Opakrwoth said he had been a long-time supporter of NRM, President Museveni’s party, until recently, when he switched to Besigye’s FDC party. He says he was at the junction when the police took Besigye.

Makerere University students burn campaign posters of incumbent President Yoweri Museveni after police detention of opposition candidate Kizza Besigye, Kampala, Feb. 15, 2016. (E. Paula/VOA)

Makerere University students burn campaign posters of incumbent President Yoweri Museveni after police detention of opposition candidate Kizza Besigye, Kampala, Feb. 15, 2016. (E. Paula/VOA)

“Me, as a Ugandan, and I know human rights law, what they have done today, is not fair. Even if they do to other person, even if to do to another person, it’s still not good,” he said.

After Besigye was released, his supporters and police faced off in Kampala, as supporters waited for him to make an appearance at Makerere University. Some supporters threw stones and police fired tear gas canisters to disperse the crowds.

Ugandans go to the polls Thursday to vote for president, parliamentary seats and local government seats.

Museveni has been in power since a 1986 coup and won landslide victories in 2006 and 2011 in elections that observers said were marred by irregularities and intimidation of opposition parties.

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