UGANDA’S top presidential challenger Kizza Besigye was arrested Friday for a third time in a week, as a chaotic election stretched into a second day.
“Kizza Besigye has been arrested from our HQ and taken to (an) unknown location,” his Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party said.
Police on Friday surrounded the FDC headquarters in the capital’s Najjanankumbi district, firing tear gas at crowds of opposition supporters. They also used water cannons to fire blue-coloured water to break up the demonstrations.
“Some reasonable measures have been applied to rein in FDC supporters who wanted to disturb the peace and the ongoing exercise,” senior police officer Felix Andrew Kaweesi told AFP, adding that the arrests came amid fears Besigye was to publish FDC tallies of polling.
“Besigye knows very well that the mandate to declare electoral results lie with the electoral commission,” Kaweesi added.
Besigye was seized after police surrounded the Forum for Democratic Change’s (FDC) headquarters in the capital, Kampala, as it was trying to organise its own tally of Thursday’s election results, party spokesman Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda confirmed by phone from Wakiso, northwest of the city.
The home of the second main challenger, Amama Mbabazi, in the leafy Kololo suburbs was also surrounded by police, he said on his Twitter account.
Later in the day soldiers were being deployed in central Kampala in large numbers, as streets emptied.
The U.S. Embassy in Uganda said on its Twitter account that it strongly condemned “the disproportionate police action” taken at the FDC’s offices.
It advised U.S. citizens in Kampala to stay indoors for the rest of Friday because of “reports of police and military clearing the streets.” The U.S. has described Uganda as a key strategic partner, welcoming its contribution of troops to an African force battling al-Qaeda-linked militants in Somalia.
Besigye alleged on Tuesday that the vote may be rigged and accused authorities of having plans to “impede and interfere” with opposition tallying centres. Announcing the latest vote-count in a televised briefing, Electoral Commission Chairman Badru Kiggundu said it would be illegal for anyone apart from his organisation to declare results for the vote.
Preliminary results released by the Electoral Commission from just over a third of polling centres nationwide have given the 71-year-old incumbent President Yoweri Museveni a clear 63% of the vote.
Opposition tally site
However, FDC activists announced that an external site would continue releasing its provisional results - which showed Besigye leading Museveni - but a short while later the site was down. It’s not clear what caused it.
Besigye, 59, Museveni’s former personal doctor, is making his fourth run at the presidency and ended his campaign by saying the election would be neither free nor fair.
In the capital Kampala, Thursday’s elections were disrupted by the late arrival of polling materials, angry demonstrations by frustrated voters, police use of tear gas and the brief arrest of an opposition candidate.
As a result dozens of polling stations in Uganda were forced to open for a second day on Friday A total of 36 polling stations in the city and the surrounding Wakiso district reopened on Friday morning.