Teargas used to break up Uganda meeting


Police in Uganda used teargas and live rounds to disperse opposition supporters, an opposition aide said.

The clash occurred in Rukungiri, home to the country’s main opposition figure, Kizza Besigye, a veteran rival of President Yoweri Museveni.

A police spokesman said “necessary” force was used in the incident in which 15 people were arrested.

Pictures and footage posted on social media by Ronald Muhinda, an aide to Besigye, showed plumes of smoke from exploding teargas canisters, fires in the middle of the roads and anti-riot police vehicles on the town’s streets.

Muhinda said police also used live rounds. Other posts by social media users also showed teargas and heavy police deployment in the town.

Opposition supporters in the East African nation regularly clash with police and military personnel, both accused by critics of being used to crack down on opponents of long-ruling Museveni (74).

Police spokesman Patrick Onyango said they arrested 15 people from the Forum For Democratic Change (FDC), Uganda’s largest opposition party, who he accused to attempting to stage an illegal meeting.

Asked whether police had used teargas and live rounds, Onyango said: “We used force necessary to match the level of resistance from offenders,” adding the detained included Ingrid Turinawe, a senior FDC official.

He declined to clarify what specific force was used but accused the party of organising the meeting without obtaining police permission.

Under Uganda’s public order management laws, police have sweeping powers to ban public gatherings for a range of reasons.

In footage posted on Facebook Muhinda said FDC planned a thanksgiving and fundraising meeting in the town but police blocked supporters from gathering at the venue and blockaded Besigye in his home.

Besigye could not be immediately reached for comment.

In power since 1986, Museveni is one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders and is widely expected to seek re-election in 2021 when the next poll is due in the prospective oil producer.

Last year, the ruling party-controlled parliament voted to remove the age cap from the constitution, a move critics say cleared the way for a Museveni life presidency.