Uganda detains opposition leader again, no charges

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 31, 2011 5:23 PM
Uganda detains opposition leader again, no charges

By Elias Biryabarema

KAMPALA (Reuters) - Ugandan police detained opposition leader Kizza Besigye Monday for the second time in a month to prevent him taking part in a protest against surging food and fuel prices, but said he would not be charged.

Opposition activists have sought in past weeks to revive street demonstrations against the surging rate of inflation in east Africa's third biggest economy after a wave of deadly protests in April and May were crushed by President Yoweri Museveni.

The protest movement, led by the Activists 4 Change (A4C)group, has struggled to rally large numbers since then, mainly because Besigye has largely stayed away from demonstrations or been prevented from participating.

"Besigye is not going to be charged because he has not committed any crime. He is being detained under preventive arrest which is provided for under our constitution," Andrew Kaweesi, police commander of Kampala metropolitan area, told Reuters.

Kaweesi said the police could hold the one-time close ally of Museveni for up to 48 hours without laying charges.

Another senior police officer outside the Kasangati station, on the outskirts of the capital, where Besigye was being detained said he might be released later in the afternoon.

Political analysts say the latest bout of civil action is unlikely to grow into a serious threat to the government given the international community's muted response to the previous crackdown.

Uganda's police force said last week it would keep Besigye under house arrest until he promised to stop participating in the anti-government protests that have marred the country's image. A Ugandan court said that would be illegal.

"Definitely, we will arrest him if he attempts to walk again," said Kaweesi Monday after Besigye had been seized.

Anne Mugisha, a senior official at Besieger's Forum for Democratic Change, said the security forces had beaten a group of students marching to Kasangati.

The senior police officer who declined to be named acknowledged the students had been blocked but denied the police had been heavy-handed.

The government has accused Besigye of seeking to plunge Uganda into lawlessness and exploiting the chaos to topple the government.

Dozens of opposition members have recently been rounded up by police for joining the protests, in which motorists and commuters abandon vehicles and instead walk to their workplaces.

Seven of those arrested have been charged with treason and three with concealment of treason.

In power for 25 years, Museveni was initially credited with restoring the rule of law and fixing a broken economy but analysts and opposition politicians have since accused him of becoming increasingly autocratic and seeking to be president for life.

Museveni blames the high consumer prices on outside pressures.

(Editing by Richard Lough)