Uganda police fire tear gas, arrest opposition leader

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has warned he would not allow any protest.

Last Updated: Apr 21, 2011, 16:41 PM IST

Kampala: Ugandan police arrested opposition leader Kizza Besigye for the third time this month on Thursday, and again broke up a "walk to work" protest with tear gas.

Besigye, who was briefly detained on Monday and last week in similar circumstances, has been staging twice-weekly protests in which he walks to work to denounce rising fuel prices.

The protests have left four people dead, three in the northern town of Gulu and one in Kampala.

On Thursday, Besigye drove half way and left his car on the edge of Kampala, with hundreds of people soon gathering in his wake, cheering, dancing and lying down on the road in front of him.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has warned he would not allow any protest and police stepped in when the march neared Mulago hospital.

Police fired tear gas and stones were hurled back at them in a brief clash during which Besigye, who stood against Museveni in February elections, was bundled into a police van, a reporter said.

"He was thrown in a van and taken away," said Sam Mugumya, one of Besigye`s aides. "They got him when we were in disarray."

Besigye, who turns 55 on Friday, was initially held at Wandegeya police station, near Makerere University, Kampala`s main campus.

In late morning he was transferred under heavy police guard to Nabweru courthouse, just around the corner from the police station, to be charged, a reporter said.

A court official confirmed that although the police file had not yet been delivered, they had been told Besigye would be coming.

"The directress of public prosecutions confirmed that he is on his way," a court official said, asking not to be named.

Anti-riot police arrested at least one other protester for throwing stones, beating him with batons as they loaded him on the back of a pick-up truck.

On Monday, police briefly arrested Besigye and several other opposition leaders, including the two other main candidates Museveni beat in the February polls, as another protest attempt was foiled.

Museveni comfortably defeated Besigye, his one-time personal doctor turned perennial rival, in the elections but he has since faced mounting pressure over the spiralling cost of living.

Protesters say steep prices are due to bad governance but Museveni, who has ruled the east African country for a quarter of a century, insists drought and foreign factors are to blame.

The consumer price index grew by four percent in March from the previous month and the country`s year-on-year inflation rate stands at 11.1 percent.

Besigye warned before the polls that Uganda was ripe for an Egypt-style revolt but since the results, he has stopped short of calling for mass street protests to demand regime change.

Earlier this week, the Ugandan authorities instructed Internet providers to block Twitter and Facebook in a bid to cripple mobilisation around the opposition protests.

Thousands of students protesting a proposal to double tuition fees also clashed with police last week.

Bureau Report