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Protests in Uganda leave several dead and many injured

By Edith Mutethya in Nairobi, Kenya | | Updated: 2020-11-20 17:04
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Ugandan presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi also known as Bobi Wine sits inside a police vehicle in Luuka district, eastern Uganda Nov 18, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

The ongoing protests in Uganda over the arrest of Robert Kyagulanyi popularly known as Bobi Wine, a pop star and a presidential candidate, have left several dead and many injured.

In a statement broadcast on Thursday, Patrick Onyango, deputy spokesperson of Kampala Metropolitan police, said 16 people were killed in the protests and over 300 people arrested.

"We are still analyzing and receiving reports of casualties. To control the violent demonstrators who had planned to cause havoc in the city, we had to deploy the joint security forces," Onyango said.

Videos of protestors burning tires and barricading roads as police fired tear gas and live bullets to disperse demonstrators in the capital Kampala were posted on social media.

Kyagulanyi was arrested on Wednesday on a campaign trail for the hotly contested January 2021 presidential elections, over accusations that his rallies had violated coronavirus health guidelines as most of the attendees didn't wear face masks and didn't observe social distancing.

Patrick Amuriat, another presidential candidate, was also arrested while campaigning on Wednesday.

In a statement published in its website on Wednesday, and signed by Okoth Ochola, the inspector general of police, the Uganda Police Force said Kyagulanyi had been arrested following continued violations of the electoral commission and the Ministry of Health guidelines during his political campaigns.

"Together with Pastor Muwanguzi, they were actively involved in the massive mobilization of unauthorized assemblies and processions amid the threat of coronavirus in Uganda. The majority of the participants had no safeguards of facemasks, physical distancing and proper hygiene," Ochola said.

He strongly condemned the tactics used by Kyagulanyi's National Unity Platform party and the groups that continue to breach the electoral commission guidelines during the campaigns.

"Such acts only promote further violence and lawlessness amidst the threats of coronavirus. We believe it is one of the steps to prepare their adherents into inciting violence and further accelerate their goal of a civil uprising like they have always threatened," Ochola said.

Ochola urged public members to stay calm, as police force counters the violent demonstrators.

"We urge all voters to know that it is their democratic right to support candidates of their choice. They should therefore, avoid such violent confrontations to achieve that goal. We want to remind all candidates to ensure they observe the guidelines that were issued by the electoral commission," Ochola said.

"We are confident we shall counter all these threats aimed at disrupting the electoral process and deliver a peaceful campaign to all Ugandans."

In his Twitter account on Thursday, Kyagulanyi said he had been denied access to his lawyers and medical team and that only army and police officers have access to him.

The 38-year-old musician is among 11 presidential candidates who are challenging President Yoweli Museveni, 76, who has been in power since 1986.

Kyagulanyi, who won a parliamentary seat in Uganda's Kyadondo East in 2017, is Museveni's biggest challenger.

Josep Fontelles, the European Union representative for foreign affairs and security policy, said the loss of life in violent incidents in Uganda was sad.

"The government must ensure the safety of all election candidates and their supporters, whatever political affiliation. Respect for democratic rights and rejection of violence are essential in wake of elections," Fontelles said in a tweet on Thursday.

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