Ugandan opposition candidate released while rioting rocks capital

Ugandan police on Friday briefly detained the country’s main opposition leader and 18 people were injured in riots, while incoming election results showed President Yoweri Museveni leading in the presidential poll.

Kizza Besigye, Museveni's main challenger in Thursday's election, was first held up by soldiers inside his offices as he was preparing to give a press conference, his campaign chairman Wilberforce Kyambadde told dpa by telephone.

"They have locked us inside. The police is tear-gassing the whole area," he added.

A spokesman for Besigye's Forum for Democratic Change party said police and the army then stormed the offices, arresting Besigye and others.

Police spokesman Fred Enanga said Besigye, for whom the arrest was the second within 24 hours, was soon released.

“He was announcing election results, contrary to election regulations, and he was taken to police and charged. Besigye and all the other people he was arrested with have been accompanied home," Enanga said.

The arrest sparked widespread rioting in the capital. Gunfire was heard, tear gas floated in the air and 18 people were reported to have been injured, 10 of them seriously.

“Some were suffocated by tear gas and others had open wounds. Others fell down while running,” Red Cross representative Lenin Anyanzo said.

The electoral commission meanwhile continued announcing preliminary results, saying Museveni had 62 per cent of the vote after ballots had been counted from 13,000 polling stations out of a total of 28,000.

Besigye had 32 per cent of the vote.

“Museveni is stretching his lead over his rival, who is going down. It is unlikely that Besigye can recover the gap,” ruling party spokesman Ofwono Opondo said.

The 71-year-old president took power in 1986 following a guerrilla campaign and has won four elections since 1996.

Critics say the government has resorted to a media clampdown, temporary arrests of the main opposition candidates and the backing of a militia-like group to allow Museveni to extend his three-decade rule.

Thursday's presidential and parliamentary elections were marred by delays and isolated bouts of violence, such as police tear-gassing voters in a Kampala suburb.

Besigye was first arrested on Thursday when inspecting a polling station, but released soon afterwards.

The government also shut down Twitter, Facebook and mobile money transactions on election day.

There was concern that accusations of rigging could exacerbate the violence.

Last update: Fri, 19/02/2016 - 19:38
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