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Besigye besieged in Uganda

KAMPALA, Uganda, Apr 14 – Gunshots rocked the Ugandan village of Kasangati Thursday morning, after police stopped opposition leader Kizza Besigye from walking to his office in Kampala.

Also in neighbouring Gayaza town teargas canisters were fired at protestors. The chaos is reportedly spreading to Uganda’s capital Kampala.

Kizza Besigye, leader of Uganda’s largest opposition party Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), has been involved in a ‘walk2work’ protest this week and was briefly detained on Monday.

“We do this to show solidarity,” Besigye told Radio Netherlands Worldwide (RNW) on Wednesday during an interview in Kampala.

“Solidarity with the suffering members of our society, who are already walking to work in their tens of thousands. They are forced to walk long distances everyday to go and work because people can no longer afford public transport.”

Uganda is experiencing an inflation of over ten percent, while food and fuel prices have jumped even more in recent months. In February, Mr Besigye lost a presidential vote to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni for the third time in a row.

The opposition leader already predicted chaos during his interview with RNW. “We have been having an explosive situation in this country,” Mr Besigye said. “Sooner or later it will explode. The basis of that is that we have a regime that lost its legitimacy to govern long time ago.”

Walk to Kampala
An upbeat Mr Besigye welcomed a handful of journalists at 06:30 at his home this morning, setting off his march towards Kampala. Within minutes, dozens of people followed the politician and just after stretching the legs for one kilometre, police stopped him.

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In the chaos, Mr Besigye ended up in a ditch next to the newly built road. There was a two-hour stand-off, during which both heavily armed police as well as Mr Besigyes’ supporters rose by the hundreds.

Soon after trucks with water cannons moved in and the crowd was dispersed by shooting in the air. Canisters of tear gas exploded all around. Pupils who walked by got sick from the gas, as did several protestors.

A choking man was rushed away by a Red Cross ambulance. While rubber bullets and tear gas from the police were answered with stones thrown by protestors, Mr Besigye remained in the ditch where the stand-off continued. The Besigye group used handkerchiefs to cover their mouth and eyes.

Government to blame

According to the opposition parties, the government\’s overspending is the reason for Uganda’s current high inflation. They blame the government of taking money from the national reserves during the recent election campaign.

Mr Besigye, once President Museveni’s ally and personal doctor during the war that brought the current regime to power, claims President Museveni can only stay in power by the means of force. “If you are governing according to the will of the people you don’t need all these troops and armored vehicles in your city,” Mr Besigye said.

“Especially if you claim that you won an election by almost 70 percent of the vote, why would you be panicking about a Kizza Besigye who might be walking from his village to the office?”

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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