Fri, May 13, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Thousands rally for returning Ugandan opposition leader

AFP, KAMPALA

A security officer swings his baton at members of a crowd who had gathered hoping to welcome Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye on Wednesday.

Photo: AFP

Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye yesterday flew back to a tumultuous welcome from thousands of supporters following treatment in Kenya after a police beating during an anti-government protest.

His return coincided with the swearing in of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who beat off his challenge to win a fifth term in February polls.

“We have arrived at Entebbe airport,” Besigye’s aide Carole Nyangsi said when she answered his personal mobile phone, referring to Uganda’s main airport outside the capital, Kampala.

Supporters of Besigye’s Forum for Democratic Change lined the main route from the airport into the city, dancing and waving tree branches in the air.

Party officials said Besigye would stop off to address supporters along the way into the capital, where his rival was to be sworn in later yesterday.

Besigye has vowed to continue anti-government protests despite a police crackdown which has seen at least nine people shot dead by security forces.

The veteran opposition leader last month embarked on a series of “walk to work” protests against soaring food and fuel prices, which the opposition blames on the government.

Besigye, 55, was attacked by police in one such demonstration on April 28. Police smashed the windows of his car, sprayed him with tear gas and arrested him for the fourth time in a month for participating in demonstrations.

He went to neighboring Kenya the following day for treatment.

Ugandan authorities had on Wednesday blocked a first attempt to return from Nairobi. Kenya Airways said Kampala’s state security services had warned its flight would not be given landing rights at Entebbe if Besigye was aboard.

Party official Anne Mugisha later said that Besigye had eventually been cleared to fly.

Besigye won 37 percent of the vote in February’s presidential election, the biggest challenge yet to Museveni, who has ruled the east African country for more than two decades. Besigye’s party challenged the official results, which gave 59 percent of the vote to Museveni, alleging widespread fraud.

Museveni, a former guerrilla leader, told reporters on Tuesday that he planned to introduce constitutional amendments that would see bail prohibited for certain charges, including rioting and economic sabotage.

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