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Kizza Besigye arrested two days to poll

AFRICA
By AP and BBC | February 16th 2016

A Ugandan opposition leader running for president was arrested yesterday while campaigning in the capital.

The move has raised tensions ahead of elections widely seen as close.

Kizza Besigye was arrested yesterday afternoon in Kampala, where he is holding his last rallies ahead of elections on Thursday.

Associated Press journalists saw police whisk away Besigye on a truck as he tried to address a crowd.

The BBC’s Catherine Byaruhanga in the capital Kampala reported that Mr Besigye was released by police, who told her he was being taken to his next rally.

Thousands of supporters then followed his convoy into Kampala and many more lined the streets, she said. Ms Byaruhanga said shortly before he was detained, his car was driving along one of the main highways in the capital, escorted by hundreds of supporters.

Teargas was fired to disperse the crowd. The police told the BBC correspondent that Besigye was not under arrest but had been held because he had disobeyed orders not to disrupt city traffic.

Besigye is a four-time presidential candidate who used to be Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s personal physician. Besigye broke ranks with Museveni 15 years ago, saying Museveni was no longer a democrat. Recent opinion polls show Museveni in a tight race with Besigye, who is promising to run a more efficient government.

Ahead of elections, there has been a substantial rise in the number of police deployed around Kampala, which is seen as an opposition stronghold.

Protecting Peace

Museveni said he would deploy the military to protect the peace during the elections and has threatened to “smash” those who threaten national security.

“The bottom line is no one can play around with the security of Uganda when I am president,” the 71-year-old leader said during a televised debate with his challengers on Saturday.

Critics and opposition activists are concerned the military will be used to intimidate opposition supporters during and after the elections. Uganda has not had a peaceful transfer of power since the country’s independence from Britain in 1962. Museveni himself took power by force in 1986.

The United States is urging the government and electoral authorities “to ensure a level playing field and transparent process, including through fair application of the law, so that all candidates have an equal opportunity to express their views and voters have the opportunity to hear them.”

There are just over 15 million registered electors, out of an estimated population of 37 million.

Besigye has stood against Museveni in the last three presidential elections on behalf of the main opposition Forum for Democratic Change.

Amama Mbabazi is another veteran of the governing National Resistance Movement to fall out with President Museveni.

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