Political News

2 Ugandan opposition lawmakers' homes hit by grenade attacks

Posted October 3

— Attackers lobbed explosive devices at the residences of two opposition lawmakers in assaults that the legislators said are related to their resistance to attempts to extend the long-time president's time in office.

No one was hurt in the blasts Monday night, but the lawmakers, Allan Ssewanyana and Robert Kyagulanyi, said Tuesday they believe their lives are in danger.

Tensions are rising in Uganda as opposition leaders try to mobilize support against legislation to remove a constitutional age limit that bars anyone over 75 from becoming president. Later Tuesday a lawmaker introduced the bill, which was sent to a committee that is expected to hold public hearings before the legislation is voted upon.

Posting on Facebook, Kyagulanyi, a pop star with a large following in the capital Kampala, said he has been getting "death threats on an almost daily basis" after he opposed the bill.

"These are cowardly acts which must be condemned by all people of good conscience," he said. "We are not involved in war. We are just citizens who are interested in a good country for ourselves and the generations to come."

President Yoweri Museveni, 73 and in power since 1986, is ineligible to seek re-election in 2021 if the age barrier stays.

Ssewanyana told The Associated Press that he believes his home was attacked by members of Uganda's security forces who "intended to injure me."

"The only people entitled to have explosives in Uganda are the police and UPDF," he said, referring to the Ugandan military.

Government spokesman Ofwono Opondo said Tuesday it was possible opposition members acquired stun grenades to launch attacks and then "frame" the government. He gave no details in a series of Twitter posts Tuesday.

Kyagulanyi and Ssewanyana are among a group of lawmakers who were violently ejected by plainclothes security officials from the legislative chamber last week before legislation was introduced to remove the last barrier to a possible life presidency for Museveni. The evicted lawmakers had been accused of disobeying the parliamentary speaker's orders when they tried to filibuster proceedings by repeatedly singing the national anthem.

At least two lawmakers were injured in the confrontations, including one who remains hospitalized.

Uganda's ruling party enjoys an overwhelming majority in the national assembly and the bill is expected to pass. Presidential term limits were removed from Uganda's constitution in 2005.

The move to extend Museveni's rule follows a trend in which some African leaders have sought to remove legal obstacles to their time in power. In Burundi, one of the world's poorest countries, the president's move in 2015 to seek a disputed third term sparked deadly protests and prompted more than 200,000 to flee the country.

The United States urged Uganda's government to protect basic freedoms "without fear of intimidation," and Amnesty International said authorities "must end their absurd attempts to silence people opposed to scrapping the presidential age limit."

Museveni, a U.S. ally on regional security, was re-elected last year in a poll marred by allegations of fraud and voter intimidation. His longtime opponent, Kizza Besigye, urged Ugandans Tuesday to "take action" in a campaign of civil disobedience.

"Don't touch our will. Our will is that there must be a peaceful transition," he told reporters.

Uganda has not had a peaceful transfer of power since independence from Britain in 1962.

Although Museveni warned in the past that Africa's problem was leaders "who want to overstay in power," he has since said he was speaking about leaders who were not elected.

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