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Africa
Uganda opposition leader under 'house arrest'
Police spokesperson says allowing Kizza Besigye to leave his house "would depend on the circumstances".
Last Modified: 16 May 2011 10:19
Kizza Besigye sought treatment in neighbouring Kenya for injuries inflicted on him by security forces [Reuters]

The house of Uganda's main opposition leader has been surrounded by police, effectively placing him under house arrest for leading protests against soaring food and fuel prices, his party said.

Kizza Besigye has been at the forefront of walk-to-work protests in Kampala, the capital, where demonstrators have opted to forgo motorised transport and walk to work in protest over rising fuel prices.

"We consider Besigye under house arrest," Anne Mugisha, deputy foreign secretary of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), told the Reuters news agency on Monday.

The protests, staged every Monday and Thursday since April 11, have led to clashes between opposition politicians and security forces and resulted in the deaths of at least 10 people, according to local media, and left hundreds injured.
   
A heavy contingent of police blocked the road to Besigye's house on Monday, anticipating another protest, according to witnesses.

But the opposition leader, who returned home last Thursday from neighbouring Kenya after receiving treatment for injuries inflicted on him by security forces, had decided not to walk due to a heavy flu, party officials said.

Besigye came a distant second to Museveni in the February election, winning 26 per cent of the vote, while Museveni, in power since 1986, took 68 per cent. The opposition dismissed the election as a sham.
   
Mugisha said Besigye's wife Winnie Byanyima, a United Nations employee, was blocked by police as she tried to drive to the airport on Monday to fly back to her office in New York.
   
"When Winnie tried to leave the house this morning the car was immediately blocked by police with water cannon trucks. They towed the car to the police station, opened it and were shocked to find he wasn't inside," Mugisha said.

Museveni sworn in

Police spokeswoman Judith Nabakooba confirmed Byanyima's car had been taken to a police station. She said it was checked along with several other cars for security reasons and was only towed away when the occupants refused to lower the windows.

"Police wanted to check on the vehicle, but they stayed inside and left the windows up when asked to lower them," Nabakooba said.
   
"So they towed it and opened it to find Byanyima and some other gentlemen. They should have introduced themselves."

Nabakoba said Besigye had not been placed officially under house arrest but, when asked if he was free to leave his house, said: "It would depend on the circumstances. We are trying to prevent lawlessness."

Museveni, accused by the opposition of presiding over a corrupt and nepotistic regime, has been criticised over the government's brutal, and at times fatal, response to the protests.

The president, whose swearing-in for a fourth five-year term was attended by several African heads of state against a backdrop of protesters welcoming Besigye home, has blamed soaring fuel and food prices on turmoil in oil-producing countries and drought.

The protests started slowly but were boosted three weeks ago by the brutality of Besigye's fourth arrest since they began.

His car was attacked by plain clothes men who smashed the windows with a gun and a hammer, doused him with pepper spray and hauled him onto a pick-up truck.

Riots erupted in Kampala and two other towns the following day as Besigye flew to Nairobi for treatment.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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