U.S. Decries Uganda Opposition Chief's Arrest

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"We urge the Ugandan government to respect opposition viewpoints and citizens' basic rights to freedom of assembly and expression," she added.

[Global: Uganda]

The United States Department of State has expressed "concern" over the arrest of a top opposition leader and others in Uganda and called for the government of the East African country to respect the opposition's and public's right to protest.

Dr. Kizza Besigye, leader of the Forum For Democratic Change (FDC) and runner up in Uganda's Feb. 18 presidential election which was widely reported to have been rigged in favor of incumbent President Yoweri K. Museveni was arrested today in Uganda.

Besigye has been leading a daily "walk to work" campaign to highlight a sharp rise in fuel and food prices in Uganda. Last week he was shot and wounded in the hand when security forces broke up a similar march, which had gained nationwide support with similar walks around the country.

There were running battles between demonstrators and security forces when another opposition leader Nobert Mao, who heads the Democratic Party (DP), led a walk in the city of Gulu. At least three deaths and scores of wounded were reported. Mao was also arrested and imprisoned.

"We are concerned by Dr. Kizza Besigye's arrest and other similar arrests," Tanya Powell, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of State told The Black Star News.

"We urge the Ugandan government to respect opposition viewpoints and citizens' basic rights to freedom of assembly and expression," she added. "As we said in our April 11 statement, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are fundamental human rights and a critical component of functioning democracies."

Besigye had hoped to resume his march from his home to Kampala city center when he was arrested by security forces.

Separately, Reuters reported that police and soldiers fired tear gas to disperse a crowd of 3,000 that gathered around a police station where Dr. Besigye had been taken; he was freed on bail, according to reports.

The Ugandan president when speaking to local media recently vowed that there would be no demonstrations allowed in Kampala unless coordinated with the police who would also authorize the protest routes.


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