Uganda opposition figure detained after his driver is slain

August 14, 2018 - 5:25 am

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — A prominent opposition figure in Uganda has been detained following violent clashes Monday night that allegedly started when President Yoweri Museveni's motorcade was pelted with stones, a military official said Tuesday.

Lawmaker Kyagulanyi Ssentamu was held overnight in the northwestern town of Arua, where he and other politicians, including Museveni, had been campaigning for a lawmaker, said Capt. Jimmy Omara, a spokesman for the Special Forces Command.

Ssentamu, a popular pop singer in his 30s who was elected to the National Assembly last year, has emerged as a powerful voice with his calls for young people to "stand up" and take over this East African country from what he says is the current government's failed leadership. Many of his followers are urging him to run in the next presidential election in 2021.

Lawmaker Allan Ssewanyana, a close ally, said he was concerned for his colleague after being unable to reach him by phone. Some journalists, including two reporters for local broadcaster NTV, have also been detained.

Ssentamu said on Twitter on Monday night that his driver was shot dead by the police "thinking they've shot at me." He posted a photo of a bloodied man slumped in his car seat.

Police spokesman Emilian Kayima said an unidentified man had been killed as security forces tried to "calm down the situation" after Museveni's convoy came under attack from opposition supporters throwing stones.

Maria Burnett of Human Rights Watch urged authorities to investigate and "arrest those responsible, no matter who they are."

The election in Arua is being held because the area's member of parliament was shot dead near the capital, Kampala, earlier this year.

That killing, and many others of prominent people in recent times, remains unsolved. Uganda is experiencing a spike in gun attacks often blamed on unidentified assailants.

Museveni, a key U.S. security ally, took power by force in 1986 and has since won election four times. The last vote in 2016 was marred by allegations of fraud.

Although Museveni has campaigned on his record of establishing peace and stability, some worry that those gains are being eroded the longer he stays in power. Museveni, who is 73, is now able to seek re-election in 2021 because parliament passed legislation last year removing a clause in the constitution that had prevented anyone over 75 from holding the presidency.

Uganda has not witnessed a peaceful transfer of power since independence from Britain in 1962.

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