Uganda police deny opposition leader entry to EC

By Nangayi Guyson –Kampala – AFP- The opposition leader Dr Kiiza Besigye, the flag bearer of the Inter-Party Cooperation alliance who arrived in a convoy of seven vehicles at the EC at around 7am was on Thursday denied entry by guards manning the entrance.

Besigye and a group of supporters approached the commission’s office in central Kampala early Thursday, aiming to meet election officials about preparations for the country’s upcoming vote.

“The reason we came here was to remind the individuals running the electoral commission that they have a non-negotiable constitutional duty to organise free and fair elections,” Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda, spokesman for Besigye’s Inter-party Cooperation said.

Uganda police used teargas to prevent a group of opposition leaders, including presidential candidate Kizza Besigye, from entering the grounds of the country’s election panel offices.

Rush-hour traffic on the busy Jinja Road gateway into the city soon piled up prompting the guards to call in a truck to tow away the cars.

A car in which the IPC leader arrived was towed into the EC compound with driver Lawrence Kato and another aide Sam Mugumya locking themselves inside it.

Tempers flared, the police presence grew, city centre-bound traffic was diverted through the Kololo suburb and soon teargas canisters were fired.
Unmoved, Dr Besigye stayed at the EC offices until his vehicle was released, insisting that there was nothing wrong with him visiting EC chairman Kiggundu.

“These people who came in and wanted to enter the electoral commission, they were causing a stampede,” Grace Turyagumanawe, police deputy of director of operations, told journalists shortly after the confrontation.

“The teargas which was there… was minimal,” he said.

“Instead police threw me to the ground and kicked me.”

Turyagumanawe said “nobody was roughed up” during the incident.

Chief government spokesperson Kabakumba Masiko explained the huge security deployment outside the compound by saying “government had prior information of the (opposition’s) plans.”

Turyagumanawe said the scuffles had broken out because Besigye and his aides had refused to be checked by police before entering the compound, but Nganda and other Besigye loyalists dismissed that explanation.

Besigye plans to contest elections scheduled for late February on behalf of the four-party IPC grouping, despite his often-repeated assertions that the election panel is incapable of organising a fair vote.

President Yoweri Museveni, who has ruled the east African nation since 1986, is widely expected to secure re-election.

Final presidential nominations are scheduled to take place in Kampala on Monday and Tuesday at the country’s national football stadium.