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Ugandan Opposition Leader Arrested Again

  • Michael Onyiego

Uganda's Forum for Democratic Change leader Kizza Besigye waves to his supporters as he is blocked from driving to work in Kampala, prior to his arrest at gunpoint, April 28, 2011

Uganda's Forum for Democratic Change leader Kizza Besigye waves to his supporters as he is blocked from driving to work in Kampala, prior to his arrest at gunpoint, April 28, 2011

Less than 24 hours after being released, Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye has been arrested again in the capital, Kampala.

A spokesman from his political party said Besigye has been arrested for the fourth time since the beginning of the "Walk to Work" protests just three weeks ago.

The arrest comes the morning after Besigye was released on bail after seven days in prison on charges of unlawful assembly. Fellow opposition figure Norbert Mao is still being held at Nakasongola Prison some 64 kilometers outside of Kampala.

After Besigye’s arrest last week, video emerged showing a confrontation between the opposition leader and police, with Besigye being forced into the back of a truck. Reports of Thursday's arrest indicate a similarly hostile confrontation with police using teargas to extract Besigye from his car. According to Wafula Ogutu, a spokesman from Besigye’s Forum for Democratic Change [FDC], the opposition figure was injured while being apprehended.

"Dr. [Besigye] was driven from town to a police station near his home and he is being held incommunicado," said Ogutu. "When they were arresting him he was in his car. They smashed the window and I think the glass cut him in the face. So they have allowed us to send a doctor to treat him and that is the only person who is allowed to go and see him."

According to Ogutu, Besigye’s driver and personal assistant both were injured during the arrest. The opposition figure reportedly was travelling to his office in Kampala when he was stopped by Ugandan police.

The judge who released the opposition leader Wednesday warned him against engaging in "conduct that could lead to the commission of crime and the destruction of property." While Besigye promised to continue the walks shortly after his release, Ogutu maintains he was not walking or protesting Thursday morning. The FDC spokesman said the police have yet to indicate on what charges Besigye is being held.

"The police station is surrounded by military soldiers and police men, about 100 of them and they don’t allow any of us to move near," said Ogutu.

Besigye is a three-time presidential candidate and runner-up in Uganda’s February elections.

The "Walk to Work" demonstrations were first organized by Besigye and his allies on April 12 to protest the rising cost of fuel and food in the east African nation. President Yoweri Museveni immediately declared the walks illegal, and each of the demonstrations has been met by the full force of Uganda’s police.

Hundreds of Ugandans have been arrested and at least five have been killed, including a two-year-old girl who was shot by security forces in the town of Masaka last Thursday.

Spokespersons for the Ugandan police did not answer calls for comment on Thursday.

FDC spokesman Ogutu said another demonstration is planned for Monday.


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