Thursday, March 22, 2012

Uganda police restrict opposition leader movements

Ugandan police on Thursday restricted the movements of opposition leader Kizza Besigye after a police officer died in a violent clash between his supporters and the police.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said Thursday that those who defy police authority would "pay dearly" as he visited the family of the slain policeman. He called the demonstrators terrorists without guns and promised to look after the policeman's children.

Wednesday's death of a policeman — killed when a protester's rock hit him on the head — was condemned by both the police and the opposition politicians who have been organizing the marches.

"This was not a revenge killing," said Mathias Mpuuga, an opposition parliamentarian who heads Activists for Change, the pressure group responsible for most of the street walks. "The loss of a policeman was unfortunate, but so have been the lives of other Ugandans who are not policemen." He said the demonstrations would continue.

Besigye, who since 2011 has led popular "Walk to Work" street protests, is allowed access only to his home and office, an associate said.

"When he woke up this morning his house was surrounded," said Anne Mugisha. "He's being followed around by a truck of policemen."

Besigye's lawyer, Ernest Kalibala, said his client was charged with unlawful assembly and released on police bond after Wednesday's march.

Besigye has lost three elections against Museveni. The marches he has led over the last year often turn violent when his supporters clash with police.

Besigye says he is leading a campaign of peaceful demonstrations against a government he accuses of corruption and of mismanaging the economy. The disagreement between the two camps has often focused on where and how to manage the demonstrations, with the police often using tear gas to disperse crowds within Kampala's central business district.

Fred Opolot, a government spokesman, accused the opposition of courting violence to stay relevant.

"Without violence they would not get the attention they are craving for," he said.

Asuman Mugenyi, the police spokesman, said the policeman's killing was "a lesson to us, and so we are going to devise relevant strategies" to contain marches.

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