Ugandan police has arrested main opposition candidate Kizza Besigye on Friday, February 19, and fired tear gas at his supporters, as early results from the presidential election showed Yoweri Museveni set to extend his 30-year grip on power.
Police in capital Kampala set off stun grenades and fired tear gas volleys outside the headquarters of Besigye’s Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party as tensions rose after a largely peaceful ballot held a day earlier.
Besigye was later detained for the third time this week, bundled into the back of police van along with several of his supporters.
His arrest on Monday, February 15, 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.
Early results showed Museveni with a sizeable lead of 62 percent based on a count of ballots in 37 percent of polling stations. Besigye trailed with 33.5 percent of the vote.
Besigye, who challenged the 71-year-old Museveni unsuccessfully in three previous elections, has repeatedly insisted the election would not be free and fair and on Thursday accused the government of manipulating the vote.
“We decided to put our private tally centre here, and in the process of putting our tally centre we had provincial results which we wanted to release by today and tell the world this is what is coming out and what is being read on the other side is false. At the end of it all, police got that information that we wanted to release preliminary results so they had to come and seal off the place before we could release the results. And that is how the scuffles came about so they have taken our party flag bearer, that is Kizza Besigye,” said an official from Besigye’s Forum for Democracy Change (FDC).
Late on Thursday, February 18, afternoon, Besigye was briefly detained in Kampala for alleged criminal trespass and assault.
Election Day was otherwise largely peaceful, although voting was delayed in some areas, especially in the capital, and access to social media sites like Twitter and Facebook was blocked for much of the day, frustrating voters.
On Friday morning, voting resumed in a handful of areas where delays in delivering polling materials had prevented some people from casting their ballot.
While Museveni has presided over notable economic growth, critics – especially the young – accused him of not tackling corruption or creating jobs and of acting increasingly like an autocrat, and forecast the vote would be rigged.