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Uganda election opposition candidate arrested on polling day

Published 18/02/2016

Kizza Besigye cleans his hands after casting his vote at his polling station near his country home in Rukungiri (AP)
Kizza Besigye cleans his hands after casting his vote at his polling station near his country home in Rukungiri (AP)

Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye has been arrested in the capital Kampala on election day, his aide has claimed.

Shawn Muburi, who is in charge of communications for the Forum for Democratic Change party, said Mr Besigye was arrested late on Thursday in the suburb of Naguru, where he had gone to investigate alleged ballot stuffing in a house run by the intelligence agencies.

He said Mr Besigye was arrested and taken to an unknown location.

The police did not respond to requests for comment.

Mr Besigye is Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni's main challenger in the polls.

Vote counting has started in presidential and parliamentary polls marred by the late arrival of voting materials.

Mr Besigye's supporters said the delays were deliberate and were aimed at favouring Mr Museveni, whose rival is popular in Kampala.

A senior foreign election observer called the delays "absolutely inexcusable".

Several dozen polling stations never opened on Thursday and the election commission later said they would be open on Friday

The government also shut down access to social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.

"If the election is free and fair, we will be the first people to respect it, even if we are not the winner," Mr Besigye said Thursday at a polling station in his rural home of Rukungiri.

"But where it is not a free and fair election, then we must fight for free and fair elections because that is the essence of our citizenship."

A spokesman for the Forum for Democratic Change said the delays were a "deliberate attempt to frustrate" voters in urban areas where Mr Besigye is believed to be very popular, especially Kampala and the neighbouring district of Wakiso.

Mr Besigye was Mr Museveni's personal physician during a bush war and served as deputy interior minister in Mr Museveni's first Cabinet.

He broke with the president in 1999, saying Museveni was no longer a democrat.

The head of the Commonwealth Observer Group, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, called the long delays "absolutely inexcusable" and said they "will not inspire trust in the system and the process".

Mr Museveni said the shutdown of social media sites "must be steps taken by security" in anticipation of certain threats.

He added that security forces would deal with those who threaten violence during and after the election. Those who arrive at polling stations in time should be allowed to vote, he said.

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