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Crackdown on opposition

Isaac MugabiJune 21, 2013

Police in Uganda are on high alert after opposition groups renewed their campaigns for political change through the staging of rallies in the capital Kampala.

Police face off rioters in Kampala Photo:AP/Marc Hofer
Image: dapd

In one of the heaviest crackdowns on the opposition that the country has seen, the Ugandan police moved to diffuse a rally that was to be addressed by opposition leader Kizza Besigye at a downtown market in Uganda.

On Thursday (20.06.2013), a day after his return from the United States of America, Kizza Besigye appeared all set to continue with his campaign to take Uganda from what he calls a military form of governance to democratic rule.

However, as Besigye drove to the city center towards a downtown market, where he was expected to attend a rally, heavily armed policemen blocked him and tear gassed his supporters.

Ugandan's burn tires to block the road as they demonstrate against the high cost of fuel and food in the capital Kampala Photo:Stephen Wandera/AP/dapd)
Opposition riots are a common phenomenon in KampalaImage: dapd

Kampala Metropolitan Police commander Andrew Kaweesi justified the police's actions saying they had advised Besigye not to travel to the venue but he insisted on going there.

” Dr. Kizza Besigye was intercepted as he was being driven to Kisekka market and it was deliberate because there are groups of youth who had been mobilized and already charged to cause disorder,” Kaweesi said.

In an interview with DW, Kizza Besigye said the crackdown on the opposition is due to what he termed as “desperation of the regime.”

"I think that desperation is coming because they are exposed both internally and externally, with the donors not cooperating with them like they used to,” he said. “They have less money to play around with, so they are trying to squeeze the poor people again to get money out of them. They know this is bound to cause more anguish amongst the population, so, there is a general crisis in the country, and the regime finds itself with very little response, so it is taking desperate measures."

Kampala mayor hospitalised

A day earlier Kampala's mayor Erias Lukwago was admitted to the Case Clinic in Kampala after a tear gas canister was hurled inside his car. He had been on his way to address his supporters.

“I had this scorching kind of effect within my respiratory system because of the tear gas which I inhaled when a canister was thrown into my vehicle,” he said. The mayor,an opposition colleague of Kizza Besigye, is currently facing a tribunal over charges that include abuse of office.

Opposition figure Kizza Besigye speaks to reporters Photo: AP/Khalil Senosi)
Uganda's top oppositon figure Kizza Besigye has been a key figure in rallies and riots in UgandaImage: AP

For years, opposition parties have contested but always failed to win presidential elections, with Kizza Besigye, the then leader of the main opposition group,the Forum for Democratic Change, losing three presidential elections to Yoweri Museveni.

'Muhoozi project'

There have been concerns that President Museveni is grooming his son, Brigadier General Muhoozi Kainerugaba to succeed him once his term ends in 2016.This is what has now come to be known as the Muhoozi “project”. But political analyst Andrew Mwenda thinks the succession debate is misplaced at the moment because the Museveni intends to hang on power.

“I think the reason for people to believe in that theory is just because the president's son has enjoyed rapid promotion within the army ranks, personally I don't think Museveni has the Muhoozi project but rather the Museveni project, Mwenda says.

Andrew Mwenda, journalist and founder of "The Independent" magazine in Uganda
Andrew Mwenda believes Museveni will rule beyond his current term that ends in 2016Image: DW/ Jeppesen

“Museveni intends to stay in power for as long as it is possible for him and perhaps he believes that the fact that his son is in command of the most strategic points of the army can help him protect his presidency,” Mwenda added.

The debate about Museveni's succession plans has gained momentum in recent days after a letter by the coordinator of Intelligence services in Uganda, General David Sejusa, was published in daily newspaper "The Monitor."

In the letter,General Sejusa urged the internal security service to investigate reports that people opposed to the political rise of President Museveni's son risk assassination.