Uganda security forces, protesters in another clash

Kampala- Uganda (PANA) -- A combine military and police force clashed with a mammoth crowd here Tuesday protesting the arrest of two opposition leaders and 27 others accused of inciting anti-Indian violence last week.
The security forces fired at random across the capital Kampala, and used water cannons, teargas and batons to disperse hundreds of protesters gathered at the court where the accused were due to appear, degenerating into riots that spread across various streets and paralyzed business for the entire day.
On Monday two opposition members of parliament - Beatrice Atim and Hussein Kyanjo - were detained after eight-hours of interrogation by the Criminal Investigations Department.
Both had been involved in organizing last Thursday's demonstration with several environment advocacy groups against government's intention to allot a part of a rainforest reserve to an Indian-owned sugar company.
Three people, including an Indian, were killed in the peaceful protest that turned violent when police moved in to brutally disperse to demonstrators.
According to some protesters interviewed by PANA, hundreds of police and military troops on battle cars mixed scores of plain clothed security officers, attacked them as they peacefully gathered at the Buganda Road court to show support for the two opposition parliamentarians and 27 others slated to appear in court.
"We were attacked by police using both live bullets and teargas as we waited to attend a court session in which our leaders were to be brought and know what charges they face," Habib Kyeyune, aged 39, told PANA.
"They chased us away and then started beating us.
I have suffered several injuries and I am still in pain all over my body, but I will resist till we win this state-inspired brutality against lawful opposition," added Kyeyune, with swollen left-eye and visible bruises from batons and whips.
At the same time, plain clothed militias backed by anti-riot police were seen beating anybody they found walking along streets surrounding the Buganda Road court where the detained opposition was expected to be arraigned and charged later in the afternoon.
"The people who caused mayhem last Thursday will not be allowed to assemble here.
We shall stop them," Kampala police commander Edward Ochom said at Central Police Station, where the two opposition leaders were detained over-night.
He added: "They led the demonstrations which turned violent and their supporters targeted Indian businesses, carried out looting and stoned an Indian man to death.
They have to face the law".
Indians remain resented since the late dictator Idi Amin expelled them in 1972, accusing them of exploiting the economy and mistreating their native Ugandan workers.
Several thousand mainly of Indian or Pakistani descent have however returned to Uganda after President Yoweri Museveni took power in 1986.
Late last year when Museveni ordered a study into whether to allot at least 7,000 of 30,000 hectare of Mabira Forest, a nature reserve since 1932, to expand the sugarcane estate of the private, Indian- owned Mehta Group.
Critics say destroying Mabira Forest would gravely affect the local ecosystems, prompting the massive protests.

17 april 2007 15:31:00




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