Uganda’s main opposition leader on Friday condemned a police crackdown on opponents of a plan to scrap presidential age limits to allow 73-year-old President Yoweri Museveni to run again.
A proposal by ruling party lawmakers to table the constitutional amendment has sparked outrage from opposition politicians, civil society groups and students who protested at a prestigious Kampala university for a second day Friday.
Kizza Besigye, who leads the opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party, said Museveni’s regime was a “military junta” that had seized control of the state.
“What we are seeing happening in the country today has been in the making since Museveni took the oath as president in 1986 and began embarking on a programme to construct a presidential monarchy,” Besigye said.
A ruling party MP had been set to table the motion Thursday but it was delayed without explanation.
The amendment would scrap the presidential age limit, currently set at 75, to pave the way for Museveni to run for a sixth consecutive term in 2021.
Besigye said the age limit was the last constitutional check on presidential power left after term limits were removed by parliament in 2005.
“This age limit provision is the only way Museveni can be forced to give up power peacefully,” he said.
On Thursday, Besigye had been prevented from leaving his home while another senior opposition figure, Kampala mayor Erias Lukwago, was arrested.
Police said the mayor was planning an illegal demonstration and that they had “pre-empted the planned activities” by arresting him. Lukwago said Ugandans were living under a “reign of terror”.
Students at the country’s main Makerere University in the capital played cat-and-mouse with armed police firing tear gas on Friday as they protested the arrest of some of their leaders during the previous day’s demonstration.
After his release student leader Ronald Ainebyoona claimed to have been “tortured” by police. “They used gun butts to hit us to extract confessions”, he said.