Deadly riots lead to over 550 arrests

The recent political riots in Uganda's capital Kampala have left 14 people dead and resulted in more than 550 arrests, police have reported. The security services are making their presence felt in an attempt to calm the situation.


AFP - The first of more than 550 people arrested in connection with two days of riots that shook Uganda's capital Kampala and left 14 people dead will begin appearing in court on Monday, police said Sunday.

Security forces have kept a high profile on the streets of Kampala as the traditional Buganda kingdom at the centre of the unrest on Thursday and Friday sought to calm the situation.

"The information we have is that 14 people died during the demonstrations and over 80 people were injured, including a dozen police officers," police spokeswoman Judith Nabakoba told AFP.

The acting director at Kampala's main National Referral Hospital on Saturday put the death toll at 11, with some of the fatalities having been cut down by bullets.

More than 550 people have been arrested, mainly "those who were directly involved in the riots or the ringleaders," Nabakoba said, adding that they were being "screened" at various police stations.

"Most of the suspects are detained at the Central Police Station, Jinja Road, Wandegeya and Old Kampala police stations," she said, with relatives being given access to see them.

Court appearances will begin on Monday on charges of engaging in violent acts and involvement in illegal assemblies, among other offences, the police spokeswoman added.

The violence erupted Thursday and continued into Friday when police clashed with supporters of Ronald Muwenda Mutebi, the kabaka or traditional ruler of the Baganda people, as subjects of his Buganda kingdom are known.

Stoking the unrest was an attempt by President Yoweri Museveni's government to prevent the politically influentual kabaka from attending a youth festival for fear it might provoke violence.

The Baganda are in the majority in central Uganda and in Kampala itself, but the festival -- which the Kingdom of Bunganda later cancelled -- was in an area where a minority group, the Banyala, reject the kabaka's rule.

In a statement on Saturday, the kingdom urged the Baganda "to remain calm and law abiding".

Current-day Uganda takes its name from the ancient kingdom of Buganda which once covered the southernmost part of the country, including Kampala.

The events of the past few days have brought already strained relations between Museveni and the Baganda people to breaking point, the Ugandan press observed Saturday.

In power since 1986, Museveni is finding himself increasingly isolated politically ahead of the next presidential elections in 2011.

Human Rights Watch has accused the police of using "unnecessary lethal force" but at a weekend press conference, police chief Kale Kayihura said he had ordered that live bullets or excessive force not be used.

He said he had ordered his men to "just arrest those causing chaos but do not use excessive force because there is no need now."

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