Uganda police brutality warning ahead of polls: rights group

Thursday October 15 2015
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An FDC supporter runs away from a Uganda police officer. Human Rights Watch has warned on rise of police brutality against opposition supporters in Uganda ahead of elections due in 2016. PHOTO | FILE

Police brutality against opposition supporters in Uganda is on the rise ahead of elections due next year, Human Rights Watch (HRW) warned Thursday.

Opposition supporters and activists "risk beatings, arrest, or worse," said Maria Burnett of the New York-based advocacy group, as momentum grows in the run-up to the vote next February.

"Uganda's police brutality consistently favours the incumbent," Burnett added.

The police is notorious for its use of tear gas, rubber bullets, pepper spray and batons when confronting opponents of President Yoweri Museveni, who next year will mark three decades in power, HRW said.

His main opponent is three-time loser Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) who has himself been arrested, beaten and teargassed on numerous occasions in the past.

In a recent example cited by HRW, a female FDC supporter at a political protest in Rukungiri in western Uganda was snatched from the crowd by police, manhandled, partially stripped and flung into a truck.


The incident on Saturday sparked outrage on social media, but it has had little impact on police actions.

On Wednesday, women protesting her rough treatment in the capital Kampala were themselves pepper-sprayed and kettled by officers.

"(The) Ugandan police's handling of public order management has been a source of serious human rights violations over recent years," said Burnett.

Police have in the past also used live fire to disperse opposition rallies deemed illegal.