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Ugandan police arrest opposition leader Besigye, fire teargas

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KAMPALA, Feb 15 (Reuters) – Ugandan police fought running battles with supporters of opposition leader Kizza Besigye in Kampala, in the worst outbreak of violence yet during campaigning for Thursday’s presidential election.

“They were firing tear gas, a lot of tear gas”, said FDC supporter Swaibu Mugalu, 32, describing how police blocked Besigye from holding a rally in central Kampala.

Besigye’s party, the FDC, has accused the government of initiating a number of unfair strategies against opposition candidates, such as prohibiting political rallies in most public spaces in the capital, thereby crippling the campaign efforts of opposition candidates.

Heavily armed police also surrounded Kampala’s Makerere University, firing rounds of teargas as students demonstrated in anticipation of a visit by Besigye after his arrest.

Coleen Nantongo, an FDC parliamentary candidate for Kampala Central, said the detention cast a dark cloud over the upcoming polls.

Hours earlier, police briefly detained Besigye.

“We do not know the nature of the charges against him”, he added.

Uganda’s long-time president is attending a televised debate Saturday Feb. 13, 2016 night, in which he faces seven challengers, including his former prime minister.

Dr. Kizza Besigye was arrested in Kampala along Jinja road while on his way to down town Kampala.

Besigye has lost three disputed elections to President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power since 1986.

“We are yet to get an explanation from the police as to why he has been arrested because, according to the Electoral Commission schedule, he was supposed to hold several rallies within the city”.

Opposition supporter James Magara, 40, said that the arrests raised doubts that the election would be free and fair. “This has left us with no choice but to address voters on the streets and roads”, said Nganda. But critics say unemployment, especially among youths, has surged under his rule and accuse him of failing to tame rampant corruption.

Interreligious groups in Uganda pray ahead of elections

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