Group: Democratic space shrinking in Uganda ahead of polls

Group: Democratic space shrinking in Uganda ahead of polls

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — The Ugandan government is reducing democratic space in this East African country ahead of February polls in which long-term President Yoweri Museveni will seek to extend his almost 30-year rule, an international rights organization said Monday.

Uganda's police have arbitrarily arrested opposition candidates & dispersed their campaign rallies ahead of the Feb. 18 presidential & parliamentary elections, Amnesty International said.

"Excessive force" used by police to disrupt the opposition gatherings is hindering the ability of Ugandans to receive information & engage with the opposition ahead of the elections, says the report, citing the arrests of the main opposition candidates, Amama Mbabazi & Kizza Besigye, & their supporters between July & October.

p>"Members of the political opposition, including their presidential candidates, have been repeatedly placed under "preventive arrest" & police have indiscriminately fired tear gas & rubber bullets at peaceful demonstrators," said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International's Regional Director for East Africa.

On July 9, Mbabazi was arrested in the eastern town of Jinja & Besigye was detained at his home as they prepared to meet supporters across Uganda. Police after said the two opposition leaders were going to address illegal rallies. The politicians have since been released.

At the time of their arrests, the two opposition leaders were in talks to form an umbrella group known as the Democratic Alliance under which they planned to field a single candidate to face President Yoweri Museveni at the polls, the report said.

Information Minister Maj. Gen. Jim Muhwezi described the Amesty report as "untrue & useless." ''This is absolutely not true. Explanations were given as to why police had to stop these rallies," he said.

The leader of opposition in Parliament, Wafula Oguttu, called the report "accurate" & said police should respond to pressure by the international community to stop these "arbitrary arrests."

Source: “Associated Press”