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Africa
Ugandan opposition leader returns home
Kizza Besigye's supporters violently dispersed as president Museveni is sworn into his fourth term.
Last Modified: 12 May 2011 10:48
Uganda opposition leader Kizza Besigye passes through security on his way home from Kenya. [Reuters]

Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye has returned home a day after he was barred from boarding a flight from Kenya, and hours before president Yoweri Museveni was sworn into his fourth term.

Massive crowds welcomed Besigye, lining the road from the airport to Kampala, until police dispersed thousands.

Reporting from Kampala, Al Jazeera's Malcolm Webb said, "the crowd was dispersed by police and soldiers. they fired tear gas and water canons and chased people away with sticks".

Soon after, however, Besigye's supporters regrouped and continued a march toward the capital.

Already in Kampala, leaders of Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and South Sudan showed up for Museveni's inauguration.

This is Museveni fourth swearing in as Uganda's president, after promising in 2001 to retire from politics.

Barred from entry

Besigye was barred from boarding his flight from Kenya on Wednesday.

His party said Kenya Airways was told by Ugandan state security "that if Besigye was on board they would not be given landing rights".

Kenya Airways confirmed that version of events, and agencies reported that journalists at the Ugandan airport were forcibly ejected by airport security and police.

But Ugandan minister of information Kabakumba Matsiko told parliament later on Wednesday that the government did not block Besigye's return. He said former Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi was on the plane and did not want Besigye on it.

The former president was travelling to Uganda for Thursday's presidential inauguration of Yoweri Museveni.

Meanwhile, Kenyan parliament member Charles Kilonzo accused his own government of colluding with Museveni to frustrate Besigye, saying that Kenya was working with Museveni to fight the opposition in Uganda.

But Kenyan government spokesman Alfred Mutua denied the government's involvement, saying that Besigye had missed his flight and that he had been booked on a later flight.

"Besigye is free to travel within Kenya or travel from Kenya at any time or day of his choice,'' Mutua said. "He is free to take any flight of his choice. The government of Kenya is not involved in his travel plans.''

Elections challenged

Besigye pointed out the hypocrisy of his being barred from his own country, saying that it is unconstitutional.

"Every Ugandan has the right all the time to return to Uganda. So it's a contradiction that he [Museveni] wants to swear by that constitution tomorrow which he is violating today,'' Besigye said on Wednesday.

According to official results of last February's election, Besigye, 55, won 26 per cent of the vote, while Museveni, 62, took 68 per cent, but Besigye's Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) says the results were falsified, and that both candidates received just under 50 percent of the vote, an outcome that
would have required a run-off.

Museveni has accused the opposition of trying to spread chaos in response to its loss in the election, saying on Tuesday that he planned to introduce constitutional amendments that would see bail prohibited for
certain charges, including rioting and economic sabotage.

Besigye and other opposition politicians have been released on bail after recent protest-related arrests.

He had been in Kenya seeking treatment for injuries he suffered from a series of demonstrations against rising food and fuel prices, which left at least five people dead.

He was first taken to hospital in Kampala at the end of April after Ugandan police smashed the windows of his car and sprayed him with tear gas in an incident caught on camera. He was then transferred to a Nairobi hospital.

Besigye told Al Jazeera at the time that he remained committed to non-violent protest.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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