UN concerned about tense post-election situation in Uganda and arrests of Opposition leaders

Army soldiers stand guard against supporters of opposition leader Kizza Besigye in Kampala, Uganda.
Army soldiers stand guard against supporters of opposition leader Kizza Besigye in Kampala, Uganda. PHOTO: EPA

GENEVA - The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)has expressed concern about the tense post-electoral situation in Uganda with reports of at least two people killed and an unknown number of people injured following last Thursday's (Feb 18) polls which saw President Yoweri Museveni winning a fifth term in office.

OHCHR spokesperson Cécile Pouilly said in a statement issued on Tuesday (Feb 23) that the UN rights body noted the large presence of military and police forces deployed on the streets of the capital, Kampala, and the arrests of four opposition leaders since Thursday's elections.

Mr Kizza Besigye, leader of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) who was arrested and released on three different occasions last week, was placed under house arrest on Saturday without charge or judicial order, OHCHR stated. Yesterday morning, the Opposition leader was taken to a police station in Nagalaama, a town located some 30 kilometres from the capital Kampala, after he tried to leave his home.

Two other presidential candidates have also been reportedly arrested over the last few days. Amama Mbabazi, from the Go Forward party, has been under house arrest since Saturday, while Abed Bwanika, President of the PDP (People's Development Party), was reportedly intercepted by police last Friday at Mutukula, close to the border with Tanzania, as he was attempting to leave the country with his family. Kampala's Lord Mayor, Erias Lukwago, was also arrested last Saturday, as he was talking to the press about Mr Besigye's arrest.

The OHCHR said it is also concerned about "the intimidating display of force used on Friday by Ugandan police and military forces to evacuate the FDC headquarters in Kampala, with tear gas and life ammunition reportedly used, and by worrying information of journalists being harassed and intimidated by security forces."

"We remind the Government of Uganda of its obligations under international human rights law not to unduly restrict freedom of expression and peaceful assembly," Ms Pouilly stated.

"Law enforcement officials shall avoid the use of force or, when that is not possible, restrict it to the minimum extent necessary. Anyone who is arrested shall be informed of the reasons for the arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him or her," the OHCHR spokesperson concluded.