Ugandan police clash with opposition protesters
Officers fire tear gas, live rounds at anti-government demonstrators seeking release of detained politicians.
Ugandan police fired live rounds and tear gas in the capital to disperse a crowd of protesters angered over the arrests and alleged torture of several opposition politicians, including local pop star and government critic Bobi Wine.
Demonstrations continued for a second day in Kampala and other parts the country on Monday, with protesters burning tyres and blocking roads, a day after one man was shot dead and five others were wounded in anti-government protests in the town of Mityana.
Unrest in the East African country began last week when five opposition legislators were arrested in northern Uganda during campaigning for a by-election and two were allegedly tortured, part of what demonstrators call a pattern of repression by President Yoweri Museveni’s government.
“The police and the military moved in, broke up the protests using live gunfire and tear gas,” said Al Jazeera’s Malcolm Webb, reporting from Kampala. “Some people have gunshot wounds and we can still hear shots of tear gas being fired at a short distance.”
Footage on local television on Monday showed demonstrators setting up bonfires and barricades on streets in Kampala and police and military personnel trying to remove the roadblocks.
Demonstrators are seeking the release of those detained, including Robert Kyagulanyi, a popular musician-turned-opposition-MP, who goes by the stage name Bobi Wine.
Political tensions rose last week after Kyagulanyi’s driver was shot dead following largely peaceful election campaigning. At the time, the pop star tweeted that the government was trying to kill him.
According to the president’s office, opposition supporters stoned Museveni’s convoy and security forces were reacting to protect the president when the shot was fired in the northwestern town of Arua.
Five members of parliament and dozens of other people were detained shortly afterwards on suspicion of taking part in the alleged assault. Two of the MPs were beaten during their arrest, according to politicians and relatives who visited them.
On Thursday, Kyagulanyi and three other parliamentarians were charged with treason and unlawful possession of weapons.
“We are not going to rest until the government releases Bobi Wine and others,” a youth protesting in Kampala told dpa news agency on Monday, before fleeing advancing security forces.
Kyagulanyi, who joined parliament last year and has appealed to young voters, will make another military court appearance on Thursday.
“He’s very popular here in the capital and in other parts of the country, even in neighbouring Kenya,” noted Webb. “He can get young people on the streets quite effectively.”
Kyagulanyi has accused Museveni of being a “dictator” seeking to “satisfy his ego”.
“We seem to be stuck with a president who doesn’t believe anyone else can lead Uganda. Unfortunately, that has left us lagging behind for a very long time,” he told Al Jazeera in an interview earlier this year.
In power since 1986, Museveni, 73, is accused of stifling dissent through intimidation, beatings, detentions and prosecutions on trumped-up charges.
Critics say he is set to rule for life after parliament last year removed an age limit from the constitution that would have barred him from seeking re-election in 2021.