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Riots sweep across Uganda killing two as police fire tear gas at opposition leader

Protesters have called for an Egyptian-style uprising against the president who has been in power for a quarter of a century.

Ugandan rioters are made to lay down on the road after their arrest by Ugandan police on Friday
Ugandan rioters are made to lay down on the road after their arrest by Ugandan police on Friday
Image: Stephen Wandera/AP/Press Association Images

AT LEAST TWO were people were killed and 120 wounded army troops police fired live bullets at rioting demonstrators on Friday in the largest anti-government protest in sub-Saharan Africa this year.

Rioters burned tires in downtown streets as security forces fired tear gas and guns, and a Red Cross spokeswoman said 15 of the wounded and been hit by live bullets. Battles between protesters and police were also reported elsewhere around the country.

The protests are the first serious demonstrations in sub-Saharan Africa since a wave of anti-government protests swept leaders in Tunisia and Egypt out of power.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power for a quarter of a century, has vowed repeatedly that his government will not be taken down by protests.

The breakout of violence came one day after a brutal takedown of the country’s top opposition politician, Kizza Besigye.

Police smashed through the window of Besigye’s vehicle with the butt of a gun and doused him with tear gas at close range before bundling him into the back of a pickup truck and speeding off.

Red Cross spokeswoman Catherine Ntabadde said at least two people were killed and 120 people wounded.

Besigye was freed on bail on Thursday but did not make any public appearances or statements on Friday. Radio reports quoted an aide as saying Besigye was in poor health and that he was to fly him out of the country for treatment.

Besigye has held five “walk to work” demonstrations to protest rising prices and what he calls a corrupt government.

On Friday, demonstrators carried posters praising Besigye, and questioned why police needed to use violence to arrest him. Opposition members of parliament have demanded an explanation from the government over his treatment.

Besigye came second in Uganda’s February presidential election to Museveni, threatening to end the opposition leader’s political career after three straight losses to the longtime leader.

Official returns showed Museveni winning 68 percent of the February vote, though Besigye says those returns were falsified and that both he and Museveni got just under 50 percent.

Besigye, though, has had a political resurrection in recent months as the country has seen huge price spikes in food and fuel.

Uganda is a young country, with half its nearly 35 million citizens under 15. An estimated 1.2 million have HIV/AIDS.

The average yearly income is just $1,200, though many here have hopes — and fears — over newly discovered oil that will soon be pumped.

An oil curse has befallen other African countries, providing more incentive for corrupt leaders to remain in power in order to steal from public coffers.

- AP

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