Supporters and bodyguards of Uganda’s opposition leader, Kizza Besigye, beat back what his party officials said was a mob hired to overrun his home to prevent him leading anti-government protests.
The authorities accuse Besigye of seeking to plunge Uganda into lawlessness and exploit the unrest to overthrow the government.
Besigye was briefly detained on Monday for the second time in a month and the police have vowed to keep him under house arrest until he promises to stop participating in the protests against surging prices, Reuters reports.
“Besigye’s guards fought off the goons at the gate and in the scuffle managed to grab one of them called Nyinomwe Moses,” Anne Mugisha, a senior official in Besigye’s Forum for Democratic Change party, told Reuters.
“He confessed to Besigye that he had been hired by someone else along with the others and paid 50,000 shillings each to come and attack Besigye as he walked from his home. We know the police is behind this,” she said.
Irate local residents loyal to the three-times failed presidential candidate then assaulted the group of youths, badly injuring at least three of them, Mugisha and a witness said.
A police spokeswoman, Judith Nabakooba, denied the force was behind the mob.
Opposition activists have sought in past weeks to revive street demonstrations against the surging rate of inflation in east Africa’s third biggest economy after a wave of deadly protests in April and May were crushed by President Yoweri Museveni.
The protest movement, led by the Activists 4 Change (A4C)group, has struggled to rally large numbers since then, mainly because Besigye, seen as the figurehead of the movement, has often stayed away from demonstrations or has been prevented from participating.
The Daily Monitor newspaper published a picture on its website it said was of a mob member bleeding from a head wound. The unrest has tarnished Uganda’s image in the eyes of investors, as it prepares to become a new African oil producer.
Although a Ugandan court ruled Besigye’s house arrest illegal, police have maintained a strong presence around his home and detained him twice in the last month to block him from galvanising support for the street action.
Nabakooba denied the police had failed to protect Besigye.
“We don’t know these people and we just can’t arrest any one moving in the road,” she said. “We didn’t know they were going to cause trouble because they were moving in pairs, or one by one, just like any normal people on the road,” she said.