The arrest of a top presidential candidate has caused outrage in Uganda just days before the country heads to the polls to elect a new president. Police fired tear gas to disperse crowds of opposition supporters who gathered to demand the release of Kizza Besigye who was briefly detained on Monday. “The arrest followed chaotic scenes as Besigye campaigned in parts of Kampala” ahead of Thursday’s election, the state-run New Vision newspaper reported. The three-time presidential candidate who heads the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party has been repeatedly arrested in past campaigns, and has been described as current president Yoweri Museveni’s “perennial nemesis”. This year seven opposition candidates are vying to contest Museveni’s attempts to win a fifth term in office, but Besigye’s FDC party officials accused the government of blocking their efforts to address supporters in the city centre.
“Museveni has declared all public places in Kampala central a ‘no-go area’ for [the] opposition,” FDC spokesman Semujju Nganda told the Daily Monitor newspaper, adding they had hoped to hold a rally in a central football stadium. “Police blocked us. This has left us with no choice but to address voters on the streets and roads,” he added.
Television footage showed Besigye being put into the front seat of a police car, surrounded by riot police and journalists.
Within a few hours Besigye had been released and was reported to be on his way to the next campaign rally, but the incident is adding fuel to fears that voting may be marred by violence.