By Paul Ndiho
April 11, 2011
Ugandan police fired teargas canisters to disperse opposition supporters after their leaders are arrested in a protest against rising food and fuel prices.
Ugandan police detained two main opposition leaders on Monday as they prepared to march in protest over rising food and fuel prices in the east African country.
Civil society and opposition parties were planning to hold a “Walk to Work” protest when the police detained Kizza Besigye, who was General Museveni who closest rival in February elections. Uganda’s strongman General Museveni won with 68 percent of the vote and has been in power for 25 years.
Dr. Besigye was walking to work near his home in Kampala in support of civil society who had called on leaders to join them in their protest.
“If am not committing an offence, do not violate rights, let me go about my business. Go to do what I want to do the way I want to do it, that is my right, you have very clear choices and you can use them, you have the power, I do not have power, I am an ordinary person,” .
Another opposition leader, Norbert Mao, was detained after a brief standoff with the police in a Kampala suburb. Security forces used teargas to disperse a crowd that had gathered.
Before Besigye was bundled into a police vehicle, he said authorities should not be worried by a small minority that may not be happy with them.
“We have just gone through an election in which the regime claims to have got 70% of the votes, so why would they be worried about this small minority of people that may not be happy with them and many of them wishing to go to work the way that I am doing, why would they be fearing? I think the fear to me is a demonstration that they have lost the legitimacy to govern and therefore they must govern by might, by violation of other people’s rights,” Besigye said.
Besigye was the presidential candidate for the Inter-Party Cooperation, a coalition of five parties that fielded a joint candidate against Museveni. Mao was candidate for the Democratic Party, which is not part of the opposition coalition.
Police had warned that “Walk to Work” peaceful protests against the rising fuel prices and cost of living in the country were illegal, saying the opposition intended to cause “violence and destruction”.
Besigye and other opposition leaders have repeatedly warned Uganda is ripe for an Egypt-style uprising, though analysts question public appetite for unrest.
Besigye unsuccessfully appealed to the Supreme Court after losing the 2001 and 2006 elections. While judges agreed there had been vote rigging and violence against the opposition, they said it had not changed the overall result.