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.
Police spokesman Emilian Kayima said police had deployed to stop a riot that had broken out in a market in downtown Kampala. “Some groups of youths have participated in a riot and they are being handled ... we’re stopping the riot.”
Kayima did not give details on the scale of the police action.
Unrest began last week when five opposition lawmakers were arrested and two allegedly were tortured, part of what the protesters call a pattern of repression by President Yoweri Museveni’s government.
Government spokesman Ofwono Opondo denied security personnel had deliberately beaten up the lawmakers and others. “Some of these injuries could have been sustained in the course of the (convoy) confrontation,” he said.
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 last year removed an age limit from the constitution 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.
Footage on local television on Monday showed demonstrators setting up bonfires and barricades on streets in Kampala and police and military personnel trying to remove the roadblocks.
On Sunday, one person died and five others were injured when police fired into a minivan as it moved through a town west of the capital while a protest was underway.
The violence began when supporters of the independent candidate stoned a motorcade carrying Museveni as it left Arua town in northwestern Uganda, according to police.
The five members of parliament and dozens of other people were detained shortly afterwards on suspicion of taking part in the assault. Two of the MPs were beaten during their arrest, according to politicians and relatives who have visited them.
On Thursday, four of the detained MPs and dozens of others were charged with treason and unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition for their alleged role in stoning the convoy.
One of those detained and charged with treason is Robert Kyagulanyi, a popular musician-turned-politician who goes by the stage name Bobi Wine.
Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; editing by Maggie Fick, Larry King