Ugandan police detain opposition leaders, lawmakers

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 11, 2011 7:57 AM
Ugandan police detain opposition leaders, lawmakers

By Elias Biryabarema and Justin Dralaze

KAMPALA (Reuters) - Ugandan police detained two opposition leaders on Monday as they prepared to march in protest over rising food and fuel prices in the east African country, Reuters witnesses and police said.

Police detained Kizza Besigye, President Yoweri Museveni's closest rival in February elections, near his home in the capital Kampala. A Reuters witness said Besigye was bundled into a police vehicle.

Prices have been rising after drought hurt food production in many parts of Uganda and higher fuel prices have increased transport costs, pushing up food prices further in urban areas.

"We condemn this blatant abuse of human rights and use of violence on innocent people," he told KFM radio as he was taken away.

Another opposition leader, Norbert Mao, was detained after a brief standoff with the police in a Kampala suburb. The security forces used teargas to disperse a crowd that had gathered.

"How do you order the teargassing of people who are not armed?" Mao said before he was led into a waiting police vehicle, with his supporters shouting encouragement.

"Besigye was arrested for disruption of traffic and disobeying lawful orders from police officers. Currently investigators are taking his statement," Judith Nabakooba, police spokeswoman, told Reuters.

She did not say what charges would be brought against him.


Sam Mugumya, Besigye's aide, said police arrested the politician after he had walked for about a mile from his house.

"About six police patrol vehicles blocked the road and police started accusing Besigye of trying to incite the masses and disrupting traffic," he told Reuters.

"A crowd started gathering and a scuffle ensued and then the police forcefully bundled Besigye and others onto a police pick-up truck and brought him to Kisangati police station."

Officials from Besigye's Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party said three legislators from their party and a senior FDC official were also detained.

No immediate reason was given for the other detentions.

Civil society and opposition parties were planning to hold a "Walk to Work" protest on Monday over rising food and fuel prices in the east African country.

Besigye was the presidential candidate for the Inter-Party Cooperation, a coalition of five parties that fielded a joint candidate against Museveni. Mao was candidate for the Democratic Party, which is not part of the opposition coalition.

Uganda's consumer price index jumped 4.1 percent in March from February, pushing the year-on-year inflation rate up for a fifth straight month to 11.1 percent from a revised 6.4 percent a month earlier.

Food prices, which carry a 27.2 percent weighting in the index, jumped 11.9 percent from a month earlier.

(Editing by George Obulutsa and Jon Boyle)

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