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Ugandan opposition leader detained

Kizza Besigye spoke yesterday outside his home, where he is “under preventive detention house arrest.’’ Kizza Besigye spoke yesterday outside his home, where he is “under preventive detention house arrest.’’ (Ronald Kabuubi/Associated Press)
Associated Press / May 20, 2011

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KAMPALA, Uganda — Police arrested Uganda’s top opposition leader yesterday to prevent what authorities said could be a destructive protest march.

Kizza Besigye said he was stopped by police shortly after leaving home and given a choice between “preventive arrest’’ and jail or returning home. He returned home and said he would consult his lawyers.

“They have stopped me from moving out of my home,’’ he said. “Police told me that I am under preventive detention house arrest.’’

Besigye has been leading “walk to work’’ marches to protest government corruption and rising food and fuel costs. The marches have sparked violence between police and protesters. Human Rights Watch says police have killed nine people during the marches.

Police said in a statement that authorities may arrest a person if it is known that he will commit an offense. It was believed Besigye was going to take part in a “walk to work’’ protest. The marches typically happen on Mondays and Thursdays.

Police also said in a statement that Besigye is not under house arrest. Yet they maintained a heavy presence near Besigye’s home, patrolling the roads and manning roadblocks.

Besigye denied allegations by President Yoweri Museveni this week that Besigye leads hooligans who want to “ignite riots.’’

“All protests have been covered by media,’’ Besigye said. “I am not aware of throwing of stones at vehicles and police which is not provoked by the police itself.’’

Uganda has seen sharp spikes in food and fuel prices the last several months, making car or bus travel unaffordable for many. Anger over the increases has fueled Besigye’s protests, and security forces have clashed with protesters around the country.

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