At least one person was killed Monday as Ugandan police fought running battles with opposition supporters, firing tear gas and briefly detaining Kizza Besigye, a top presidential challenger days ahead of polls to elect the head of state.
Ambulances carried the injured after the police used force to break up supporters of presidential the candidate near Uganda’s Makerere University in the capital.
“Police can confirm one person died during the confusion today,” Kampala police spokesman Patrick Onyango told AFP, without giving further details.
Opposition politicians said three people had been shot dead, but the claims could not be independently verified.
Besigye defied orders to follow a less crowded route to the university, where he had planned to hold a rally so police fired tear gas and shotguns to quell a crowd of his supporters, said police spokesperson Fred Enanga.
“He is defiant. We are not going to arrest him. We are not going to detain him. We know this is what he wants. We will just tow his vehicle and drive him home,” Enanga said of Besigye.
Besigye was driven to a police station, before then being taken home by police, with police spokesman Onyango stressing he was “not under any form of arrest.”
FDC spokesman Semujju Nganda claimed “several” supporters were injured during scuffles with police.
“We protest in the strongest terms police brutality towards our supporters and targeting our candidate,” he said.
Minister for the Presidency Frank Tumwebaze however said it was “madness” that Besigye had tried to hold a rally in the centre of the capital, saying the police had a duty to ensure calm.
He accused Besigye of “seeking publicity… after sensing defeat ahead.”
Besigye has been repeatedly arrested in the past, and is commonly freed without charge shortly after. He called for restraint after his release.
“I appeal to my supporters to be calm. Let us remain firm and law-abiding. We shall assert our rights,” Besigye said, according to the New Vision.