Uganda's main opposition said police violence against the opposition is part of a plan to subvert February's national election and help President Yoweri Museveni's remain in power.
Ugandan police Wednesday fired teargas and live bullets to disperse supporters of main opposition leader and presidential candidate Kizza Besigye in the Bukwo district of the country. Besigye said he had been invited by district elders to visit an internally displaced people’s camp in the area.
But police said Besigye could not visit the area because it was not part of his campaign schedule.
The incident came on the same day that independent candidate and former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi said security forces under orders from the National Electoral Commission prevented him from appearing on a radio talk show.
Besigye said candidates must be allowed to reach out to voters wherever they are as long as there’s understanding that no two campaigns can be in the same location at the same time.
“We are in a campaign and we must reach out to all our supporters whenever we can using the media, public meetings. The only precaution is to make sure that there are no conflicts between the campaigning teams and that they are not in the same location at the same time. Quite obviously the electoral commission is simply a mouthpiece of Mr. Museveni,” Besigye said.
Police spokesman Fred Enanga told VOA that Besigye and his supporters deviated from an agreed upon route and failed to heed police warnings concerning the insecurity his unplanned visit to the IDP camp would create.
“We dispersed a violent crowd at one of the IDP camps. We used means within our powers that included the use of plastic bullets,” said Enanga.
Uganda’s Minister of State for Internal Affairs James Baba told VOA the police treatment of opposition members was in line with the role of the police under the constitution.
Baba said the police had not been heavy-handed in their dealing with the opposition, rather they have been responding to defiance by some members of the opposition.
“What is happening is very, very easy to understand," Besigye said. "We have a 30-year regime that is extremely unpopular and the violence is basically intended to subvert the electoral process.”
Uganda will hold presidential and parliamentary elections next month in which President Museveni, now 30 years in power, is seeking another term.