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Uganda criminally charges leader of protests over prices

KAMPALA, UGANDA (AP) – Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye was criminally charged on Wednesday by authorities who accused him of inciting violence with his efforts to stage street protests against rising commodity prices that the government largely blames on the war in Ukraine.

Besigye, a four-time presidential candidate, spent the night in a police cell after being arrested on Tuesday while addressing people in downtown Kampala, the capital. To get there, he had eluded constant surveillance at his home by police trying to foil his attempts to go out.

Besigye indicated to the public that it is “desirable to demonstrate, an act which was calculated to lead to destruction or damage to property”, the prosecutors’ charge sheet said.

Besigye, a serial campaigner against the government of longtime President Yoweri Museveni, has been arrested hundreds of times over the years. He has rarely faced charges in court.

The retired army officer has been calling on Ugandans to “wake up” and protest against rising commodity prices that the government blames mostly on the war in Ukraine, a major supplier of grain and edible oils.

But authorities, declining to make price interventions of any sort, are encouraging Ugandans to tighten their belts.

Museveni, an authoritarian and United States ally on regional security who has been in power since 1986, told Ugandans in a recent speech to substitute cassava for bread, saying the widely cultivated root tuber is a healthy alternative. That drew scorn from many in this East African country.

Ugandan opposition leader and four-time presidential candidate Kizza Besigye appears at the Buganda Road Chief Magistrate’s court in Kampala, Uganda. PHOTO: AP