Uganda Opposition Candidate Arrested as Museveni Leads Poll

  • Besigye seized by police at party's headquarters in capital
  • Early count shows incumbent ahead in bid for re-election

Uganda’s police arrested the main opposition presidential candidate for the second time in two days, as an early vote count showed President Yoweri Museveni ahead in his bid to extend his 30-year rule.

Kizza Besigye was seized after police surrounded the Forum for Democratic Change’s headquarters in the capital, Kampala, as it was trying to organize its own tally of Thursday’s election results, party spokesman Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda said by phone from Wakiso, northwest of the city. Police spokesman Patrick Onyango said Besigye has been charged for allegedly breaching electoral law with his plan to present an independent tally and is being held at a police station in Kampala.

Kizza Besigye arrives at a polling station to vote

Source: Stinger/AFP/Getty Images

Besigye’s arrest “does raise concerns over the credibility of the elections in terms of being free and fair,” said Ahmed Salim, a Dubai-based analyst with Teneo Intelligence. “It also does not minimize the risk of violence and unrest once the results are announced in the coming days.”

Besigye is one of seven candidates challenging Museveni, who’s ruled Africa’s biggest coffee exporter since 1986. Results from ballots counted from almost half of polling stations so far show the incumbent with 63 percent of the vote and Besigye with 33 percent, according to Uganda’s electoral commission, which said the final result will be announced by 4 p.m. on Saturday.

‘Disproportionate Action’

The U.S. Embassy in Uganda said on its Twitter account that it strongly condemned “the disproportionate police action” taken at the FDC’s offices. It advised U.S. citizens in Kampala to stay indoors for the rest of Friday because of “reports of police and military clearing the streets.” The U.S. has described Uganda as a key strategic partner, welcoming its contribution of troops to an African force battling al-Qaeda-linked militants in Somalia.

Besigye alleged on Tuesday that the vote may be rigged and accused authorities of having plans to “impede and interfere” with opposition tallying centers. The commission has said it would oversee credible elections, while Museveni’s campaign said he would win fairly, as he has before.

Besigye, who’s lost to Museveni in three previous elections, has already been briefly detained twice this week.

Announcing the vote-count in a televised briefing, Electoral Commission Chairman Badru Kiggundu said it would be illegal for anyone apart from his organization to declare results for the vote.

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