Rioters setting fire to tyres in Kampala clashed Friday with police firing tear gas and live rounds, leaving one dead and scores injured, a day after Uganda’s opposition leader was arrested for the fourth time this month.
Rioters using scrap and burning tyres had set up road blocks around a market area in the centre of the capital, drawing tear gas fire from a deployment of police and military police.
The rioting quickly spread to several suburbs, three towns outside the capital and Mbale, a town in the east.
Uganda Red Cross said the riots left one person dead and 78 hospitalised around Kampala.
In the casualty ward of Kampala’s main hospital staff scrambled to cope with the influx of patients, with around 60 people in the surgical medical ward, some of them on mattresses on the floor.
Lying in a corridor with a bullet wound to his ankle, 15-year-old school pupil Julius Lubega said he had been shot by police.
“I was just coming from my home and that was when they got me,” Lubega said.
Some patients told how they had received injuries at the hands of plain clothes security operatives.
“There were ten of them, one policeman and around ten men in plain clothes,” Martin Trust, 21, an electrical appliance salesman said.
“I was innocent so I didn’t run, then they got me and started beating me with batons and fists,” Trust said, showing severe bruising on his face, head and torso.
“One person passed away from bullet wounds in the suburb of Bwaise,” Red Cross spokeswoman Catherine Ntabadde told AFP.
Another Red Cross official said around a dozen among the wounded had sustained bullet wounds.
An AFP photographer reported debris and heavy security deployment in several suburbs. The photographer said he saw live rounds fired at houses.
“It started in the morning when groups of youths started burning tyres and setting up road blocks in Kiseka market,” police spokeswoman Judith Nabakooba said.
Nabakooba said that security personnel had been deployed and were putting out burning tyres.
“Our personnel are moving to put out fires. We are containing it,” she said.
Nabakooba said the police had “not yet established” the causes for the disturbances.
On Thursday, opposition leader Kizza Besigye was arrested by police who smashed his car windows with guns and hammers before bundling him into the back of pick-up truck.
Besigye, who lost to President Yoweri Museveni for the third time in February elections he charged were rigged, had only just been released from a week in custody.
Besigye and other opposition leaders earlier in April started walking to work twice a week as a symbolic protest against rising fuel costs but the demonstrations have met with a tough response from the police.
According to the Ugandan Red Cross, five people have died nationwide this month in violence.
Food and fuel prices have soared in the eastern African country recently, with Museveni blaming inflation on meteorological and global economic factors, but protestors see it as a result of bad governance.