Uganda: 70 injured in police arrest of opposition leader

By IndepthAfrica
In Uganda
Oct 4th, 2012
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Supporters of Ugandan Opposition leader Dr. Col. Kizza Besigye (unseen) flash victory signs as they listen to him speak during a political rally in the Rukungiri District of Uganda, about 400 Kilometers west of the capital Kampala, on July 15, 2012. Besigye came to attend a “4GC” (‘for God and my Country’) rally where they launched a “walk to work 3” campaign, which aims to overthrow the government of Uganda through acts of civil disobedience. Besigye told local residents to stand up for their rights and pressure Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, who has ruled the country since 1986, to leave power. AFP PHOTO/ ISAAC KASAMANI (Photo credit should read Kasamani Isaac/AFP/GettyImages)

At least 70 people sustained injuries as the police again arrested Forum for Democratic Change President Kizza Besigye in Kampala yesterday.

Most injuries were sustained during a two-hour mid-morning clash that saw police indiscriminately lobbing tear gas canisters, firing rounds of live ammunition and beating up unarmed civilians.

Business and traffic was paralysed throughout the central business district as the police enforced a controversial order banning the holding of political rallies until after the 50th Independence Day celebrations.

Red Cross spokesperson Cathy Ntabadde said 72 sustained injuries, mainly along Ben Kiwanuka Street, Buganda Road and Kampala Road.

“Four people sustained bullet wounds. We gave them first aid before police referred them to the hospital. Another 42 sustained minor injuries due to falling while running and 26 fainted due to effects of tear gas,” Ms Ntabadde said.

Chaos started after police tried to stop Dr Besigye, who was driving peacefully through downtown Kampala in a Toyota Prado towards Kisekka Market.
But his supporters insisted that he had the constitutional right to move freely. As crowds of chanting people gathered, the police opened fire and violently set upon the civilians.

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With gunfire rocking the air, some civilians responded by hurling stones at the police.
Police commanders called in reinforcements as more crowds converged at the scene near St. Balikuddembe Market, Mini Price and New Taxi Park.

Police forcefully ordered Dr Besigye to enter his car and ordered him to drive to the Central Police Station. The opposition leader’s car was accompanied by throngs of civilians up to CPS where another confrontation soon broke out.

Several people were arrested and they would be seen crying for help as officers punched and kicked them in the corridors of CPS.

Government spokesperson Karooro Okurut yesterday said the opposition leaders’ movements are being restricted because they allegedly want to disrupt the national golden jubilee celebrations.

“Uganda doesn’t belong to one individual. As we are celebrating self rule but they are trying to dance on the grave, which no country in the world can allow,” Ms Karooro said.

Mr Mathias Mpuuga, the coordinator of the For God and My Country pressure group, denounced the manner of Dr Besigye’s arrest as “very amateur and a symptom of a putrid government”.

“Dr Besigye is an activist and what he was trying to do was part of the commemorations that the pressure group plans to hold other than the nationwide celebrations which are not worthy,” Mr Mpuuga said.

By 7pm last night, Dr Besigye was still being held without charge at the Kiira Division Police on the outskirts of the city. He had been driven there at breakneck speed in a police van after hours of detention at CPS before being bundled into the police station.

Neither his lawyers Asuman Basalirwa and Laudislaus Rwakafuzi nor a relative were allowed access to him.

With Monday’s launching the ‘walk to freedom’ campaign by the political opposition, there has been a resumption of police brutality against civilians similar to what happened during the 2011 ‘walk to work’ protests against corruption and the high cost of living in which several people were shot and killed. Source: Monitor

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