Kampala, Uganda | AFP | Ugandan police on Wednesday banned what it termed illegal demonstrations over plans to remove presidential age limits, seen as paving the way for President Yoweri Museveni to serve a sixth term in office.
A bill removing the age limit for the president was introduced in parliament last month, and MPs are currently holding consultations with ordinary Ugandans to seek their views.
“Consultations must not include illegal demonstrations, illegal processions, inciting violence, use of hate campaigns, use of abusive language, acts of hooliganism of any sort, intimidation of any persons perceived to be supporting the removal of the age limit,” the assistant inspector general of police, Assuman Mugenyi, said in a statement.
In Uganda, opposition demonstrations are routinely denied permission, meaning any rally going ahead without police appoval is considered illegal.
Mugenyi ordered police to ensure MPs only hold consultations in their respective constituencies.
The leader of the opposition in parliament Winnie Kiiza told AFP on Wednesday morning that the police directive was “unconstitutional”.
“We are going to challenge it by all means,” said Kiiza.
Press Release: Guideline for MP’s consulting meeting. pic.twitter.com/I1D10d62tt
— Uganda Police Force (@PoliceUg) October 18, 2017
On Tuesday night police fired teargas and rubber bullets at a crowd of hundreds of opposition supporters protesting the age limit bill.
Hundreds of protesters, wearing red bands on their heads, swarmed a densely populated, poor neighbourhood of the capital to demonstrate against the bill, which prompted angry brawls in parliament when it was tabled late last month.
“This was a peaceful rally to consult citizens on the age limit amendment bill for the presidency, but police, seeing the huge numbers that turned up in support of our campaign, fired teargas and bullets”, leader of the opposition Kiiza said.
“This is a test of democracy. Museveni is out to brutalise us but we are not relenting. He has police. We have the people, but he has to go and retire peacefully,” she added.
Another MP, Moses Kasibante, said 18 people were injured by rubber bullets, however this could not be independently verified.
An AFP reporter at the scene saw several people with large cuts on their bodies after police began firing rubber bullets.
Police spokesman Asan Kasingye blamed opposition politicians for the chaos.
“Police deployed at the rally to keep law and order but the politicians begun inciting the audience until police intervened to restore peace and order,” he said.
Shoes, clothes, foodstuffs, broken chairs, teargas cannisters and other personal belongings littered the ground after the protest.
The current curbs would prevent Museveni, in charge for the last three decades, from running for a sixth consecutive term in 2021.
Museveni is aged 73, while the current law blocks candidates over 75.