Ugandan police fought running battles with supporters of opposition leader Kizza Besigye in the capital, Kampala, in the worst outbreak of violence yet during campaigning for Thursday’s presidential election.
At least one person was killed and several people were wounded yesterday as police fired bullets and tear gas while opposition supporters hurled rocks and erected barricades in Wandegeya suburb.
“Police can confirm one person died during the confusion today,” Kampala police spokesman Patrick Onyango said.
Opposition politicians said three people had been shot dead.
“Three of our supporters have been shot dead, and several other people have been seriously injured and are in hospital,” said Mubarak Munyagwa, the opposition Forum for Democratic Change candidate for Kampala mayor.
Hours earlier, police briefly detained Besigye.
“I have seen people shot although we’re yet to know how many,” said Ingrid Turinawe, a senior official of the party.
“Many people (were) on the road bleeding, the situation is still very tense,” she said.
Besigye is one of two main election challengers to veteran leader Yoweri Museveni, who will attempt to extend a 30-year hold on power that his opponents say has been increasingly underpinned by intimidation and rampant corruption.
Several opposition supporters were arrested yesterday, said an eyewitness who also saw one person lying in a large pool of blood – either dead or critically wounded.
Witnesses said the streets were calmer in the evening but the violence has fuelled tensions before the election, which Besigye and six other candidates will contest alongside Museveni.
Besigye and Amama Mbabazi, a former prime minister and secretary-general of the ruling party, have both attracted large crowds, but Museveni is expected to beat them in a poll analysts view as his toughest political challenge yet.
Earlier, Besigye was briefly detained by security forces after they had asked him and his supporters to use a different route for their march.
Government spokesman Shaban Bantariza said all campaigning had been prohibited in Kampala’s CBD, where FDC supporters were heading. “It’s unacceptable because it’s congested already, so Besigye had to be stopped,” Bantariza said. FDC spokesman Semujju Nganda said Besigye had been barred from staging rallies in a Kampala stadium.
“This has left us with no choice but to address voters on the streets,” Nganda told the Monitor newspaper after Besigye’s arrest.
All parties are expected to stage final rallies today.