The Ugandan opposition leader and presidential candidate, Kizza Besigye, has been released from police custody today after being arrested days before the East African nation heads to polls to vote for the country’s leadership.
Mr. Besigye’s arrest sparked outrage and protests across the country, as his supporters pushed back against the latest crackdown on political opposition.
Ugandans will head to the polls this Wednesday, February 18th, to vote in this year’s presidential election. Commentators have said that growing dissent against incumbent president Yoweri Museveni has made his regime weary. Mr. Museveni has been Uganda’s head of state since 1986, when he removed the previous government through a coup.
Following his release, Mr. Besigye called for his supporters to remain calm. Ugandan authorities have repeatedly accused Mr. Besigye of trying to promote violence and insecurity veiled in political opposition.
According to reports, Mr. Besigye said "I appeal to my supporters to be calm. Let us remain firm and law abiding. We shall assert our rights."
Mr. Besigye is the leader of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) and has ran unsuccessfully for president four times.
Speaking to Al Jazeera English, Coleen Nantongo, an FDC parliamentary candidate for Kampala Central, noted her displeasure with Mr. Besigye’s arrest.
"Uganda is doomed. We cannot have a fair election when this is what the police do.
“Whenever there are elections they tear-gas us and arrest us, so how can we be expected to have a fair competition?" Mrs. Natongo asked.
On Monday, Mr. Besigye’s supporters clashed with police officers in full riot gear throughout the day. In central Kampala, the police fired several canisters of tear gas into the crowd.
The protesters reportedly lit fires in the middle of various major causeways throughout the city, causing major gridlock and disturbances for the capital.
Tear gas was also fired at students protesting at Makerere University, in anticipation of the opposition leader’s visit to the campus. The heavily armed police were also seen firing rubber bullets at the students. Several students were seen tearing down President Yoweri Museveni’s campaign posters.
Several people took to Twitter in support of Mr. Besigye and the student protesters.
Makerere University reflects what the youth in Uganda want. CHANGE— Geoffrey D Obbo (@geoffobbo13) February 15, 2016