Uganda holds final rallies before general election

Final push for candidates seeking to unseat long-time president comes a day after one killed in street violence.

Uganda''s President and ruling party National Resistance Movement presidential candidate Museveni gestures during campaign rally in capital Kampala
President Museveni, who came to power through coup, has been in power for 30 years [Reuters]

Uganda’s presidential contenders have held their final rallies, a day after opposition supporters clashed with police in violence that left at least one dead.

The main opposition candidate, Kizza Besigye, who was briefly detained twice by police on Monday, said he was confident of ending President Yoweri Museveni’s three-decade rule of the East African nation.

“The election cannot be free or fair, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be won,” Besigye told the AFP news agency, saying he was still aiming for an “outright win”, not a second round run-off in which the opposition might unify.

PHOTOS: Pre-election violence rocks Uganda

At least one person was killed on Monday as police fought running battles with Besigye supporters from the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party.

“We believe we can win the unfree and an unfair election, that’s what we are trying to do,” Besigye said, before zooming off towards the city centre accompanied by some 300 supporters to hold rallies.

‘Final push’

Stand-off in Kampala

Many were riding motorbikes, waving tree branches, blowing whistles and horns, and wearing shirts with Besigye’s face emblazoned on the front.

“If [the election is] rigged, as we expect, we will continue the struggle for democracy,” Besigye said. “The struggle will simply continue.”

Museveni is widely predicted to win a fifth term in power in Thursday’s polls.

Both Museveni and the other main candidate, Amama Mbabazi, a former prime minister and ruling party stalwart now running as an independent, are also holding rallies on Tuesday. 

Al Jazeera’s Malcolm Webb, reporting from the capital Kampala, said candidates had held several rallies in the hope of persuading undecided unvoters.

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“Campaigning has to end today. The opposition leaders are appealing to the many unemployed and the under-employed in urban areas in their final messages,” Webb said. “This is the final push. Today’s rallies passed without the kind of violence we saw yesterday.” 

Seven opposition candidates are vying to deny veteran leader Museveni a fourth decade in power and there are fears that violence could mar Thursday’s vote, with all sides accusing each other of arming people to press their claims.

Uganda has never experienced a peaceful transfer of power since independence in 1962 [EPA]
Uganda has never experienced a peaceful transfer of power since independence in 1962 [EPA]

Police spokesman Fred Enanga said Besigye had been “in total disregard of his authorised programme” on Monday and that protesters were “throwing bricks and projectiles” at officers.

“The police have a duty to protect the safety of the public, together with the right to protect themselves, and had to act accordingly, given the intensity of the attacks they faced from an emerging crowd of rowdy protesters,” Enanga said.

Police said 19 people were wounded, including a policewoman, and 22 people arrested.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies