By Elias Biryabarema
KAMPALA (Reuters) – Ugandan legislator Francis Zaake, detained after the president’s convoy was stoned, has been “brutalised” by security personnel, an opposition figure said on Wednesday as images of the bruised lawmaker emerged on social media.
Supporters of an independent candidate running in a parliamentary by-election threw stones at President Yoweri Museveni’s motorcade on Monday in the West Nile region near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, police and Museveni said.
Police used tear gas and shots to halt the stoning and detained at least five members of parliament along with several other people.
Those arrested included Robert Kyagulanyi, an independent lawmaker and musician who has gained popularity since he joined parliament last year through scathing criticism of Museveni’s government, sometimes expressed through music.
During Monday’s incident, Kyagulanyi’s driver was shot dead, according to police who have said they are not yet able to identify who shot him.
Mugisha Muntu, a former head of Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), Uganda’s biggest opposition party, said on Twitter: “Hon. Zaake was badly brutalized by security forces … journalists too weren’t spared. We must reject this lawlessness.”
Images circulated on WhatsApp and Facebook showing Zaake apparently lying on a bed, eyes closed, with a swollen face and a cut ear. One of his hands was swollen while the other had a wounded palm.
Muntu also said on Twitter that Kyagulanyi was being held incommunicado and was “in urgent need of medical attention.”
Police did not answer repeated calls for comment and Museveni’s spokesman Don Wanyama also did not answer a Reuters’ call for comment.
Deputy Prime Minister Moses Ali told parliament Kyagulanyi “was found with a gun” and would appear before a court martial in Gulu, northern Uganda, on Thursday. Ali said 33 people had been arrested in connection with the incident.
Rights activists have long accused Museveni’s government of using tactics including beatings by security forces and detentions to stifle opposition to his rule.
Officials reject those accusations and say Museveni’s rule is based on mass support.
Critics say Museveni, who has been in power since 1986, is set to rule for life after parliament last year scrapped an age limit for presidential candidates.
Kizza Besigye, who has run against and lost to Museveni four times, has been jailed dozens of times for alleged offences including illegal assemblies, rape and treason. Besigye says the prosecutions are politically motivated. He has won some cases in court while others are pending.
Museveni blamed the stoning on “weak management by the police and the criminal behaviour of some of the opposition leaders.”
“Some leaders have been acting with impunity … these acts are strongly rejected and will be punished,” he said in a statement, adding he was unharmed in the incident.
Police have said they are investigating the MPs for blocking Museveni’s convoy among other offences.
(Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by George Obulutsa and Janet Lawrence)