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KAMPALA, Uganda — Uganda’s leading opposition figure was arrested on Monday, three days before the country’s presidential elections.
The opposition leader, Kizza Besigye, who was once a personal physician to President Yoweri Museveni but is now challenging him for the presidency, was arrested around noon as he was holding a rally in this capital city. Mr. Besigye was traveling along Jinja Road, Kampala’s main street, when his convoy was blocked by police vehicles.
|Uganda Police vehicle in Kampala Road, PHOTO BY Hussein Mohamed|
By early evening, Mr. Besigye had been released, but he was blocked again trying to organize another rally. The police said that they returned Mr. Besigye to his home a second time, but that the situation remained tense.
At least one person was killed in the disturbances, the police said, and there were reports of several people injured.
Conflicts over rally schedules and routes between opposition parties and the police have often led to arrests in Uganda. By early afternoon, supporters of the opposition party had surrounded the local police station where Mr. Besigye was detained, chanting his name. The riot police patrolled streets as residents watched from balconies.
|People Watching the Police Petroling in Kampala Road from the building Balconies PHOTO by Hussein Mohamed|
Mr. Besigye is running against Mr. Museveni in what will be the fifth presidential vote since Mr. Museveni took power in 1986, after a coup that overthrew his predecessor, Milton Obote.
A 2013 law effectively banned the freedom to assemble, ordering organizers of “public meetings” to notify the police three days beforehand with details about time, place, route and attendance. The law granted the inspector general discretion over approval, and it banned evening assemblies.
A local radio station was shut down last month after airing an interview with Amama Mbabazi, a former prime minister and senior spy, who is also running for president, and Uganda’s police have called for the recruiting and training of volunteers to help safeguard Election Day.
Mr. Besigye, 59, who challenged Mr. Museveni in elections in 2001, 2006 and 2011, staged street demonstrations after losing the 2011 election. He was shot by the military police and detained several times. In October, he was temporarily placed under house arrest to prevent him from holding opposition rallies.
Uganda’s police have called for the recruitment of civilian security guards for the election. If he is re-elected, Mr. Museveni, 71, would be poised to step down after his next term, as Ugandan law bars anyone over 75 from running for president.
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