Police arrest, tear gas a top Ugandan opposition leader during 5th ‘walk to work’ protest

Posted April 28, 2011 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Economy ~ 2,968 views


By Godfrey Olukya, The Associated Press | The Canadian Press | KAMPALA, Uganda – Police cracked open the window of Uganda’s top opposition leader and fired tear gas into his vehicle on Thursday during a fifth protest march over rising costs.

Kizza Besigye’s arrest came one day after his release from prison for leading a similar “walk to work” protest march last week. Besigye says the demonstrations are to protest corruption in Uganda’s government and the rising cost of food and fuel.

A police spokeswoman, Judith Nabakooba, said Besigye was arrested for not following police orders and for leading a chaotic demonstration that snarled traffic and saw his supporters hurl stones at passing vehicles.

Besigye was arrested about 1 mile (1.5 kilometres) from Kampala’s city centre. In Besigye’s first protests he attempted to walk toKampala from his country home. But during his last two marches he drove closer to the city centre and then walked toward town, where he attracted hundreds and perhaps thousands of supporters in the street.

An Associated Press reporter who witnessed Thursday’s arrest said that Besigye briefly got out of his vehicle but locked himself in it when police moved in. The police used an axe and the butts of their guns to smash open a window, and then fired tear gas into the vehicle.

AP photos afterward showed Besigye using his shirt to wipe his eyes from the effects of the gas. On his right hand is a white cast, from when he says police broke one of his fingers last week by firing a rubber bullet during a demonstration.

Besigye came second in Uganda’s February presidential election to President Yoweri Museveni. It was his third straight loss to Museveni and threatened to end his political career. But Ugandahas seen huge price spikes in food and fuel in recent months, giving Besigye — and his “walk to work” protests — a political resurrection.

Museveni has vowed to crack down on the protests and has said repeatedly his government won’t be overthrown like those in Egyptand Tunisia. Museveni has led Uganda for 25 years. Official returns showed him winning 68 per cent of the February vote, though Besigye says those returns were falsified and that both he and Museveni got just under 50 per cent.

Besigye told AP in an interview at his home last week that many Ugandans face a “crisis of survival,” that the health care system has broken down and that young people cannot find jobs. He said that Museveni’s government is terrified of the protest marches, the reason he has been arrested for walking toward the capital.

Besigye was the president’s personal physician before being dismissed for saying in 1999 the government was becoming a one-man dictatorship.

Uganda is a young country, with half its nearly 35 million citizens under 15. An estimated 1.2 million have HIV/AIDS. The average yearly income is just $1,200, though many here have hopes — and fears — over newly discovered oil that will soon be pumped. An oil curse has befallen several African countries, providing more incentive for corrupt leaders to remain in power in order to steal from public coffers.

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Ugandan Diaspora News Team

Ugandan Diaspora News Online is an independent, non political news portal primarily aimed at serving Ugandans who work and reside outside Uganda. Our aim is to be a one stop shop for everything Ugandan and the celebration of our Ugandan heritage.


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