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More arrests in Uganda ahead of protest

KAMPALA, Apr 18 – Ugandan police on Monday detained 17 opposition leaders, including three who ran against President Yoweri Museveni in polls, ahead of a new protest against spiralling food and fuel prices.

The opposition had called for another "walk to work" protest, following other attempts last week, but police detained the leaders minutes after they left their homes.

Kizza Besigye, arrested in similar circumstances a week earlier, had barely left his house when he was taken in.

"Besigye was arrested as he left his house this morning and is being held in Kasangati police station on the outskirts of Kampala," Alice Alaso, secretary general of Besigye\’s Forum for Democratic Change, told AFP.

Police spokeswoman Judith Nabakooba confirmed the arrest.

Nabakooba\’s deputy Vincent Ssekate said Besigye – Museveni\’s main challenger in the February 18 polls – was brought in because he was being investigated over a number of cases unrelated to the protests.

"Several cases are being investigated. We brought him in so that he could help us with our investigations," Ssekate said, without elaborating.

Democratic Party leader Norbert Mao and Uganda Peoples Congress head Olara Otunnu were also arrested as they tried to join the movement, protest coordinator Mathias Mpuuga told AFP, as were the others.

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"Mao was arrested metres from his gate while Otunnu managed to walk about half a kilometre before he was detained," he said.

Besigye, 54, walked to church unobstructed on Sunday but Museveni mocked his "walk to work" campaign during a weekend news conference and warned that any unauthorised demonstration would be dealt with firmly.

"We made it clear to Besigye that you are not going to demonstrate or to walk. If you want to walk, go somewhere and take a walk," Museveni said.

Ugandan police on Thursday clashed with protestors in Kampala and several other towns as Besigye appeared bent on opposing the regime, two months after losing to Museveni in elections he claimed were rigged.

Protestors say steep prices are due to bad governance but Museveni, who has ruled the east African country for a quarter of a century, insisted drought and foreign factors were to blame.

"Food prices have gone up because of unreliable rain and the bigger market in the region. Will the world prices go down because Besigye has demonstrated?" he said.

The consumer price index grew by four percent in March from the previous month and the country\’s year-on-year inflation rate stands at 11.1 percent.

Museveni argued that Besigye\’s opposition drive risked destabilising the economy further and urged Ugandans to act responsibly and use fuel sparingly.

Besigye had warned before the polls that Uganda was ripe for an Egypt-style revolt but stopped short of calling for mass street protests to challenge the results, which saw Museveni re-elected with a landslide.

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The so-called Arab Spring contagion failed to take hold in Uganda after the elections.

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