Uganda detains opposition figure urging protests over prices
KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — A Ugandan opposition figure who is calling for street protests against rising commodity prices is being detained inside his home by police.
Kizza Besigye, a four-time presidential candidate, has been unable to leave his home outside the capital, Kampala, since May 12, with police pitching camp nearby to enforce his apparent house arrest. Ugandan police routinely detain opposition figures inside their homes, insisting they can impose preventive arrest to maintain public order.
Besigye’s detention followed his call for Ugandans to “wake up” and protest against rising commodity prices that the government blames mostly on the war in Ukraine, a major supplier of grain and edible oils.
Besigye is a serial campaigner against the government of longtime President Yoweri Museveni. His “Walk to Work” protest movement following the 2011 presidential election — also sparked by inflationary commodity prices — was violently stopped within months.
Besigye’s current home confinement has drawn anger from his followers, and there are growing calls by activists and others for the government to intervene, possibly by removing taxes on everything from cooking oil to gas.
But authorities are ruling this out and urging the people to tighten their belts.
Museveni, an authoritarian who has been in power since 1986, told Ugandans in a recent speech to substitute cassava for bread, saying the widely cultivated root tuber is a healthy alternative. That drew scorn from many.
“Produce more, if you can. We should also frugally use these imported items or get alternatives,” Museveni said in a speech Sunday.
Museveni, once praised as part of a new generation of African leaders and a longtime U.S. security ally, still has support among many Ugandans for bringing relative stability to this East African country.
But Museveni’s critics say he is increasingly dependent on the security forces to remain in power. The U.S. and others have recently raised alarm over torture allegedly perpetrated by security agents who also are accused of disappearing opposition supporters.