KAMPALA (Reuters) - Ugandan police arrested at least 18 protesters on Thursday, with the opposition accusing them of using live rounds and detaining close to 100 people demonstrating against newly re-elected President Yoweri Museveni.
Witnesses said teargas was used to disperse protesters in Kampala, where the police said they detained 18 for “disobeying lawful orders” by holding unauthorized demonstrations.
Tensions have festered since Museveni won the February election with 60 percent of the vote, extending his 30-year rule by another five-year term. He will be sworn in on May 12.
Opposition leader Kizza Besigye, who got 35 percent, called the vote rigged. EU monitors said it was held in an intimidating atmosphere and the electoral body lacked independence and transparency. Ugandan officials said it was free and fair.
Ingrid Turinawe, of Besigye’s Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) which called the protests, said the number detained was much higher than the police said.
“We’re still compiling data but it’s in dozens, close to a hundred people,” she said.
“The response from the state was very brutal, all the people who tried to match across the country were arrested,” she said, adding police fired live ammunition in some areas.
Police spokesman Patrick Onyango denied that, saying officers had used “minimum force”.
The FDC says Besigye, who has lost four elections to Museveni, has been under virtual house arrest since the vote.
On Thursday, the government said it was banning any live television or radio coverage of protests.
Human Rights Watch said the Ugandan government was showing “contempt for free expression rights”.
“Media should report fairly and accurately but it cannot be required to agree with the government at all times,” said Maria Burnet, a researcher for the New York-based rights group.
Although credited for bringing stability to Uganda after years of chaotic rule by dictators such as Idi Amin, Museveni’s critics accuse him of corruption and stifling dissent and say he acts increasingly like the men he overthrew.
Museveni has acknowledged corruption is a problem in Uganda but says his government is working hard to tackle it.
Additional reporting and writing by Elias Biryabarema in Nairobi; Editing by Edmund Blair and Robin Pomeroy