Uganda Election: Govt. Decision To Buy Anti-Riot Gear Ahead Of Vote Raises Concern

Uganda Election: Govt. Decision To Buy Anti-Riot Gear Ahead Of Vote Raises Concern

Ugandan government has bought anti-riot gear for the police, barely two weeks to the Presidential elections in a move that has drawn condemnation from the opposition and civil society.

Pictures of armored trucks and water cannon trucks labelled ‘Ugandan Police’ parked at Kenya’s Mombasa Port, the main port for goods destined for the landlocked country, surfaced on social media last week.

Civil society organizations described the timing as suspicious and a clear move by the  government to intimidate the opposition and its supporters ahead of the Feb 18 presidential poll.

“They [anti-riot gear] will have an intimidating effect… It’s going to be difficult to convince us that these things have been bought for legitimate security concerns,” Cissy Kagaba, executive director of Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda told Voice of America.

Opposition leader Kizza Besigye and former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, are leading in the bid to unseat Museveni from power.

Besigye-Mbabazi-led opposition has a huge following and attracts big crowds at campaign rallies in what has widely been seen to be unsettling the ruling party and the incumbent’s bid to extend his 30-year-old grip on power.

The run-up to the election has been marred by cases of open intimidation to the opposition. Police have on several occasions used teargas to violently disperse opposition supporters and disrupt rallies led by Mbabazi and Besigye.

Police have also blocked the opposition from holding several rallies.

Tension remains high in the capital Kampala where security forces have used brutal force to disrupt opposition rallies and intimidate opposition leaders.

Uganda experienced political violence during the last vote in 2011, but police dispersed rioters using teargas and brutally man-handled Besigye, leaving him with serious injuries as the protests raged on for days, the BBC reported.