- Ugandan political candidates raised fears on Saturday of violence ahead of
presidential polls next month, with accusations of police brutality and claims
opposition groups are organising militia forces.
Seven opposition candidates are vying to end President Yoweri
Museveni's 30-year rule in the February 18 poll.
Museveni, in power since 1986, will face his stiffest opposition
from Kizza Besigye, a three-time loser for the Forum for Democratic Change
(FDC), and Amama Mbabazi, a former prime minister and ruling party stalwart now
leading the Go-Forward party.
All sides are accusing each other of arming militias to press
their claim to political power.
"We are following up reports that a small group of the
radical opposition are talking and planning violent actions during and after
the election," Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda warned this week.
"Government has established that some of these groups, under
the guise of training agents to protect their votes, are raising semi-militia
groups," he said.
"These groups, we have learnt, are being prepared to incite
provocation and violent confrontations, starting on polling day until the
swearing ceremony in case they lose the elections."
But opposition leaders have dismissed the claims, and in turn
accused security forces of backing the ruling National Resistance Movement
(NRM) to harass Museveni's rivals.
"The trend of violence has left us worried," Kizza
Besigye told AFP, calling on Museveni to "stop using police and other
state apparatus to intimidate, harass, arrest our supporters."
"We have seen acts of violence wherever we have been. Police
has used teargas and live bullets to stop our rallies," ex-prime minister
Mbabazi told AFP.
"We ask President Museveni to stop these acts. If he does not
act, then people will be forced to rise up and who knows what comes out. We
have seen such situations elsewhere turning violent and Uganda is no
Police have recruited around a million civilians as "crime
preventers", police chief Kale Kayihura said, describing them as
"part of the police effort to enforce community policing."
Opposition politicians however say the teams are partisan and back
the ruling NRM.
All eight candidates are due to hold a live televised debate on