US condemns crackdown on Uganda protesters

US also expressed concern about reported blocking of social networking sites.

Last Updated: Apr 27, 2011, 11:32 AM IST

Washington: The United States condemned Uganda`s crackdown on opposition "walk-to-work" protests and expressed concern on Tuesday about media restrictions and the reported blocking of social networking sites.

Ugandan opposition politicians have pledged to press on with protests against soaring food and fuel prices despite clashes with security forces in Kampala and several other towns in which at least five people have died.

Opposition leader Kizza Besigye, the runner-up to President Yoweri Museveni in February`s Presidential Election, was arrested on Thursday as he walked to work as part of the protests.

"We are troubled by the tragic loss of life and injuries at the hands of Uganda`s security forces during the recent `walk-to-work` protests, as well as the continued detention of opposition leaders," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement.

"We also are concerned by reports that the Ugandan government has attempted to restrict media coverage of these protests and, on at least one occasion, block certain social networking websites."

Besigye was arrested on Thursday for the third time in two weeks after police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse hundreds of supporters who were accompanying him as he walked towards the centre of Kampala.

He was charged with unlawful assembly and sent to Nakasongola prison, about 80 miles (130 kilometres) north of the capital, after the judge said the courts were too busy to hear his bail application before Wednesday.

Besigye is the second opposition leader who ran against Museveni in February`s elections to be sent to Nakasongola over the protests, joining Democratic Party leader Norbert Mao in the facility.

"We renew our call for the Ugandan government to respect the opposition`s right to express its viewpoints and citizens` rights to demonstrate peacefully and without fear of intimidation," Toner added in his statement.

Bureau Report