KAMPALA, UGANDA - Longtime Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye says police launched a deliberate attack on him Monday as he tried to attend an opposition party function. Police say the use of force was reasonable as Besigye was engaged in an unlawful assembly.
Besigye, a four-time challenger to President Yoweri Museveni, described his alleged attack Monday by police as uncalled for and premeditated.
Besigye said he was heading for the anniversary gathering of the opposition Forum for Democratic Change party when he was surrounded by police officers.
The FDC meeting was initially scheduled to be held at the Mandela National Stadium but was moved when the stadium was allegedly sealed off by police.
Besigye said while he was heading to the other venue, police started firing tear gas and blockaded the road with trucks.
‘I was facing in front. This water cannon truck was behind. And all of a sudden, you know it was like I was hit with some kind of block of something heavy. Poof. So, as soon as I was hit, I was thrown over the front of the car. I was only lucky that the people who were in the car, were very quick to react and grabbed my legs. Otherwise I would have gone all over to the ground,” he recalled.
Besigye said he only sustained soft tissue injuries and climbed back in his car to continue on to the event. But as he and his party made their way into town, he said, police again stopped them and started hitting the car.
Officers then allegedly used a gun muzzle to break into the car and fired pepper spray at Besigye and his colleagues.
Besigye and two other people who were in the car now face a charge of holding an illegal assembly.
Patrick Onyango, the Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesperson, told VOA that Besigye was also blocking traffic.
"We carefully opened the door, with reasonable force and we removed him from the car. Because he had blocked the road, he had inconvenienced other road users. That is a highway where there is a lot of traffic,” Onyango said.
Besigye said he will continue to fight for people's rights and against Museveni, who has ruled Uganda for 33 years.
“Our struggle is to break out of captivity. The attack that is made on leaders is not primarily actually intended for the leaders. The more serious intention on their part is to terrorize those who see us as their leaders,” Besigye said.
Police have harassed Besigye and blocked his movements around Kampala for years.
Besigye, who now leads the People's Government movement, has not said whether he will make another run against Museveni in the 2021 election.
His treatment Monday will likely raise concern among rights activists, who suspect the government will disrupt opposition gatherings as Museveni tries to win another term.