Uganda Probes Opposition Over Militias Before February Vote

  • President seeking to extend 30-year rule in Feb. 18 vote
  • Police brutality may undermine elections, rights group says

Uganda is probing reports that opposition groups are forming militias to cause violence during next month’s election in which President Yoweri Museveni will seek to extend his 30-year rule, Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda said.

Opposition groups “under the guise of training agents to protect their votes, are raising semi-militia groups under different code names,” Rugunda said Tuesday in an e-mailed statement from the capital, Kampala. “These groups, we have learnt, are being prepared to incite provocation and violent confrontations, starting on polling day until the swearing ceremony in case they lose the elections.”

Opposition leader Kizza Besigye, previously Museveni’s personal physician, and Amama Mbabazi, whom the president fired as premier in September, are among seven candidates competing against the 71-year-old leader in the Feb. 18 election. Mbabazi has accused the police of kidnapping the head of security of his campaign, a charge the authorities deny.

Museveni took power in Africa’s biggest coffee-exporting nation in 1986, after a five-year guerrilla war. He’s one of the continent’s longest serving presidents, alongside Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

Police brutality against government opponents risks undermining the credibility of the vote, Human Rights Watch, the New York-based advocacy group, said in October.

The militias include groups named Power 10, or P10, Pentagon, Youth Brigade and Ki-face, Rugunda said.

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