Uganda president: sorry for inauguration stoning

AP News
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Posted: May 17, 2011 2:04 PM
Uganda president: sorry for inauguration stoning

Uganda's president on Tuesday apologized to foreign leaders whose vehicles were targeted with stones while driving through Kampala during last week's presidential inauguration and said the actions brought shame to the East African country.

President Yoweri Museveni also criticized some local and international media outlets and said they "cheer on" the opposition. Museveni, who has led Uganda for 25 years, was sworn in for a fourth elected term last Thursday.

Large crowds that greeted the country's top opposition leader Kizza Besigye on the same day blocked the road to the airport. Besigye returned to Uganda last week after seeking medical treatment in Kenya following his brutal arrest last month.

His wife said Monday that their home was surrounded by security forces. However, police spokeswoman Judith Nabakooba said Besigye is not under house arrest.

Besigye finished second in this year's presidential election and has been leading protests that have been the most serious unrest in sub-Saharan Africa since protests swept out leaders in Egypt and Tunisia. The outpouring of support for Besigye underscored the challenges Museveni faces from a man he has beaten three times at the ballot box but who has become a rallying point for public discontent.

Museveni, in an article released to the press Tuesday, said that Besigye's "walk to work" protests were meant to harm the government.

" The intention of the organizers is always to destroy people's property. If you are not the ones leading Uganda, since the population rejected you in the elections, must you destroy the economy of Uganda and attack those who did not vote for you?" he said.

Museveni said that Besigye's followers want "to ignite riots."

Museveni said the vehicle of Nigeria's president was hit by a stone during his inauguration, and that the car carrying Congo's president was almost hit. He apologized to the leaders for what he called "hooliganism and irresponsibility."

He blamed the police for having failed to disperse Besigye and his supporters from the roads so that visiting presidents could drive on clear roads.

Museveni on Tuesday also attacked some media outlets.

"The media houses both local and international such as Al-Jazeera, BBC, NTV, The Daily Monitor...that cheer on these irresponsible people are enemies of Uganda's recovery and they will have to be treated as such," he said.

He said that those responsible for the violence and unrest will be held accountable for these crimes.

"This will not continue. We are seeking for everybody's understanding as we end this criminality using all the angles of the law."

Uganda has seen sharp spikes in food and fuel prices the last several months, making car or bus travel unaffordable for many. Anger over the increases has fueled Besigye's protests, and security forces have clashed with protesters around the country. Human Rights Watch says government forces have shot and killed nine people during crackdowns on protests.

Museveni, an ex-rebel commander, once criticized African rulers who clung to power. In 2001 he promised to retire from politics but lifted a two-term limit on the presidency and instead ran again in 2006. In justifying his prolonged presidency, Museveni says he is fostering peace, stability and growth.

Besigye used to be Museveni's former personal physician, but broke away from the president over what he viewed as problems within government.