Uganda Blocks Opposition Rally

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(Democracy---Uganda style).

With supporters of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) chanting in Luganda, ‘Twagala Besigye nga sente’ (We love Besigye like money), riot Police disrupted the party’s plans to hold a public membership drive and fund-raising rally.

FDC supporters had running confrontations with police for more than two hours, regrouping every time they were dispersed. Party leader Dr. Kizza Besigye’s car later was attacked by police with tear gas.

Police and the city authorities deployed heavily and fired teargas to dislodge the FDC from holding the public rally. A freeze on party politics was lifted last year after constitutional amendments—it didn’t matter.

Besigye had wanted to use the rally at the Constitutional Square in Kampala to launch membership cards, to among other things raise income for the party and register members countrywide. Police and the Kampala City Council (KCC) refused to grant Besigye permission claiming that the rally would disrupt business in the city center.

Besigye appeared at the scene, which was heavily manned by security operatives after noon in his Mitsubishi Pajero vehicle and refused to leave. Police later used one of their cannon vehicles to spray tear gas at Dr. Besigye’s car--he remained holed in the car. A tear gas canister was also tossed near the vehicle creating a huge cloud of tear gas that engulfed the vehicle.

Five minutes later, Besigye, who had been joined by some of his deputies including former central Bank governor Dr. Sulaiman Kiggundu and former Army commander, Gen. Mugisha Muntu, succumbed to pressure and drove off. He later returned past the central police before disappearing towards downtown Kampala, waving his trademark V-sign. He was cheered by hundreds of jubilant supporters.

Besigye, whose party had earlier claimed it had been granted permission by KCC, later said it was wrong for Police to disrupt their rally, which was not political but an avenue to raise money. He also said managers of alternative venues suggested by police declined to grant them permission for fear of government retaliation.

Businesses along Kampala road and its adjacent roads remained closed as the skirmishes ensured. A heavy traffic jam built up in most parts of the city since Kampala road remained closed.

Ssebaggala reports for The Black Star News from Uganda.

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