Uganda lawyers protest over political violence

Some 300 lawyers gathered in Uganda's capital on Wednesday to protest the arrest of the country's top opposition leader and a crackdown on demonstrations, chanting: "We want a change in the regime."

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power for a quarter-century, has vowed repeatedly that his government will not be taken down by protests. U.N. officials have said demonstrations over the last three weeks in Uganda have left eight people dead and wounded more than 250 others.

The protests have been the first serious unrest in sub-Saharan Africa since a wave of anti-government protests swept longtime leaders in Tunisia and Egypt out of power.

On Wednesday, lawyers gathered outside the high court in Uganda's capital and demanded the resignation of security officials involved in opposition leader Kizza Besigye's arrest last week.

"In the past three weeks there have been events showing that as a country we are not still under rule of law," said group member Bruce Kyerere. "We are appalled by recent police high-handedness while arresting protesters, which has caused injury in civilians and loss of lives."

Kyerere also said Ugandan journalists were being directed not to air protests live on air "so as to cover up atrocities made by police while arresting them."

The inspector general of police, Kale Kayihura, said the lawyers were protesting in a civilized manner.

"They agreed with police on how to protest," he said. "That is how a civilized society should live."

Besigye challenged Museveni in February elections and came in second place. He said the poll was falsified, and that both he and Museveni got just under 50 percent of the vote.

During a demonstration last week, security forces sprayed multiple rounds of tear gas or pepper spray at the Besigye at close range while he sat in a vehicle. Besigye was temporarily blinded by the attack and flown to neighboring Kenya for specialized eye treatment.

Anne Mugisha, a top official in Besigye's Forum For Democratic Change party, said Wednesday that Besigye's eyesight is improving but that he is still affected by light. She said doctors and Besigye's wife will examine whether he needs to be moved to the United Kingdom for further care.

"I think the issue that is bothering everyone is the toxicology part of it," she said. "The doctors ... said they were not able to determine what kind of toxin was in the chemicals that were used." Besigye also has burns on his neck, ears and back, she said.

The protests, which began last month, originally were meant to protest the rising cost of fuel and food in Uganda, but quickly turned into larger, anti-government demonstrations. Mugisha said the opposition leader was eager to return home.

"He will continue to press on with the protests," Mugisha said.


Associated Press writer Jason Straziuso in Nairobi, Kenya contributed to this report.