Ugandan opposition leader detained during election

Ugandan police detain main opposition leader Kizza Besigye as incumbent president Yoweri Museveni leads presidential election

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Leader of Uganda's leading opposition party, Forum for Democratic Change, Kizza Besigye speaks to the media at his residence in the outskirt of Kampala, Uganda, on February 16, 2016.

Ugandan police arrested main opposition candidate Kizza Besigye on Friday as preliminary results from the presidential election showed incumbent President Yoweri Museveni set to extend his 30-year grip on power.

Besigye was detained for the third time this week along with several of his supporters. They were loaded onto the back of a police van.

Earlier in the afternoon police fired tear gas at Besigye’s supporters outside the headquarters of Besigye's Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), where the opposition candidate was due to hold a news conference in Kampala.

Uganda's incumbent President Yoweri Museveni displays his inked finger after casting his vote at a polling station during the presidential elections in Kirihura in western Uganda on February 18, 2016. (Reuters)

His arrest on Monday contributed to chaos in Kampala as police and Besigye supporters fought running battles. One person died and 19 were wounded as police fired bullets and tear gas, while Besigye supporters responded by hurling rocks.

Besigye was briefly arrested late on Thursday after visiting a house in Kampala where he suspected ballot-stuffing was taking place. Police said the house was a genuine security facility and accused Besigye of trespassing on government property.

Preliminary results from Uganda's Electoral Commission showed on Friday that Museveni took an early lead over his main rival in the country’s election.

Electoral officials count votes at a polling station in Uganda's capital Kampala on February 18, 2016 as voting closes. (Reuters)

The commission reported that Museveni secured 1.36 million votes out of a total 2.32 million votes counted from 6,448 polling stations out of a total 28,010 stations.

The tally gave Museveni 61.75 percent of the votes counted, followed by opposition leader Kizza Besigye with 33.47 percent.

Final results are expected to be announced on Saturday.

The elections were marred by delays in delivering voting materials, especially in areas seen as opposition strongholds, as well as a government shutdown of social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

Besigye's supporters said the delays were deliberate and were aimed at favouring Museveni, whose rival is popular in Kampala. The head of the Commonwealth Observer Group, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, called the long delays "absolutely inexcusable."

People from the Karamojong tribe wait in line to vote at a polling station during elections in town of Kaabong in Uganda's Karamoja region on February 18, 2016. (Reuters)

Voting is taking place on Friday at 36 polling stations in Kampala and the neighboring district of Wakiso where no voting took place on Thursday. More than 15 million people were registered to vote, with members of parliament also up for election as well as the president.

Museveni, 71, took power by force in 1986 and pulled Uganda out of years of chaos. He is a key US ally on security matters, especially in Somalia. But his critics worry he may want to rule for life and accuse him of using the security forces to intimidate and harass the opposition.

Besigye, 59, was Museveni's personal physician during a bush war and served as deputy interior minister in Museveni's first Cabinet. He broke with the president in 1999, saying Museveni was no longer a democrat.

Besigye said ahead of the elections that he did not believe they would be free or fair.

People from the Karamojong tribe wait in line to vote at a polling station during elections in a village near the town of Kaabong in Uganda's Karamoja region on February 18, 2016. (Reuters)


TRTWorld and agencies