NAIROBI (Reuters) – Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni vowed Saturday to ‘defeat’ a wave of deadly protests triggered by rising food and fuel prices.
Museveni was fielding questions from members of aKenyan business club after giving a speech that was briefly interrupted by a man in the audience objecting to this week’s violent crackdown on protestors in Uganda.
Two people were killed and at least 90 injured in the Ugandan capital Kampala Friday after police fired bullets and teargas at crowds protesting against the arrest of an opposition leader.
“It won’t escalate. We are going to defeat it,” Museveni said, accusing organizers of the protests of plotting to destabilize his government through looting.
“Their plans were to loot. To cause people to loot people’s shops so that they undermine our program of recovery and development,” he said.
The government will investigate the deaths that occurred during the protests and will arrest police officers found to have acted unlawfully, he added.
Friday’s events followed weeks of protests, which have the potential to unnerve investors in east Africa’s third largest economy, aimed at forcing the government to rein in soaring prices of food and fuel.
At least seven people have been killed during the weeks of protests which have been led by Kizza Besigye, who was defeated by Museveni in a February presidential election.
Television footage showed Besigye being beaten and drenched repeatedly with pepper spray before he was thrown into a police pickup truck Thursday. He was later released on bail and flew to Kenya for treatment of injuries sustained in the arrest.
“Apparently it was actually that opposition leader who first sprayed pepper spray against police officers,” Museveni said.
Asked why Besigye was being arrested for walking to work, Museveni, in power since 1986, said the opposition leader must get permission from police first.
“There is no problem for Besigye to walk. Either to walk to work or to walk as an exercise, whatever he wants there is no problem… but we are asking him ‘please inform the police so that you agree with them where you want to walk’,” he said.
The president had to stop briefly at the beginning of his speech when a man stood up and started to shout.
“Mr. President, how can we as Kenyans sit here and listen to you while you have been brutalizing Ugandans?” shouted the man, before he was taken away by Museveni’s security detail.
Museveni, who was on a one-day private visit to the Kenyan capital, continued his address at a hotel just a five-minute drive from the Nairobi hospital where Besigye is being treated.
He said the leaders of the five-nation East African Community bloc may hold a meeting to discuss food security.
“We could have a dedicated summit. Uganda produces food easily and we are going to quadruple food production by doing a number of things including micro-irrigation,” he said.
Uganda may use some of its earnings from impending commercial oil production to construct dams for electricity generation, Museveni said. He attacked donors for refusing to fund massive development projects for Africa in the past.
“They are just interested in small things like teaching you how to organize elections,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Barry Malone in Kampala; Editing by Robert Woodward)