August 20, 2018 / 11:51 AM / 2 years ago

Ugandan police disperse protesters demanding lawmakers' release

KAMPALA (Reuters) - Ugandan police fired tear gas to disperse a demonstration in the capital on Monday as protests against the beating of detained lawmakers continued for a second day.

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni arrives for a group picture at the BRICS summit meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, July 27, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

Police spokesman Emilian Kayima said police had deployed to stop a riot in a downtown Kampala market, adding that violence had erupted in at least three separate parts of the city.

“Some groups of youths have participated in a riot and they are being handled ... we’re stopping the riot,” he said.

“Police intervened quickly together with the military to return calm and stabilise the situation,” he added. “We condemn the perpetrators of this violence.”

Footage on local television showed demonstrators setting up bonfires and barricades on Kampala streets and police and military personnel trying to remove the roadblocks. Kayima said 45 people had been arrested over the unrest.

Political tensions have been running high in Uganda since police arrested scores of people, including five opposition lawmakers, on suspicion of taking part in the stoning of a presidential convoy on Aug. 13.

The incident happened during a campaign stop by President Yoweri Museveni for the ruling party candidate in a parliamentary by-election in the northern town of Gulu.

Two of the lawmakers were badly beaten by security forces while being detained, according to a lawyer for one of them. The government denies security personnel deliberately beat anyone.

Protesters and opposition supporters see the alleged mistreatment as part of a pattern of repression by Museveni’s government, an allegation it denies.

In power since 1986, Museveni is accused of stifling dissent through intimidation, beatings, detentions and prosecutions on trumped-up charges.

Critics say he is set to rule for life after parliament removed a constitutional age limit that would have barred him from seeking re-election in 2021.

Museveni and his backers say he remains in office because of genuine mass support. He also has enjoyed Western support for contributing to the fight against militant Islam, particularly through the Ugandan role in an African peacekeeping force in Somalia that is fighting al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab.

Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; editing by Maggie Fick and Jon Boyle

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