KAMPALA, Uganda — Uganda’s most prominent opposition leader was criminally charged Wednesday over violent clashes between his party’s supporters and police last week, as the opposition mobilizes protests against efforts by lawmakers to extend the president’s rule.
Kizza Besigye was charged with inciting violence, disobeying statutory duty and damaging government property, national police spokesman Asan Kasingye said.
Besigye was charged in the remote southwestern town of Rukungiri, where police shot and killed at least one person while trying to break up an opposition rally on Oct. 18 that Besigye was scheduled to address. An opposition lawmaker and an official with Besigye’s party also were charged but later got bail.
Dennis Namuwoza, a police commander in the region, said Besigye was re-arrested after getting bail and escorted to his home to prevent him from holding a “procession” into busy areas of the town.
“Under such circumstances we deter,” Namuwoza said, adding that Besigye is now a free man inside his house.
It was not possible to reach Besigye.
Although he has been arrested many times over the years, Besigye has never been convicted of a crime. Police have repeatedly detained him inside his house outside the capital, Kampala, calling it pre-emptive.
Besigye, who trained as a physician and once was President Yoweri Museveni’s personal doctor, broke ranks with the government in 1999 after accusing Museveni of betraying his party’s democratic ideals. He has been a candidate in presidential elections since 2001, including polls in 2016 that were marred by allegations of fraud and voter intimidation.
Uganda’s constitution bars anyone who is 75 or older from contesting the presidency. At 73, Museveni, who took power by force in 1986, is barred from running again in 2021 if the age barrier remains.
A proposed bill to remove the age barrier is expected to pass, as Uganda’s ruling party enjoys an overwhelming majority in the national assembly.
There are no term limits in the constitution, and critics see the age limit as a measure against any attempts at a life presidency.