KAMPALA — A Ugandan opposition leader has accused President Yoweri Museveni of using the army to strengthen his grip of power in the run-up to elections in 2011.
More than a week after being deployed to quell riots in Kampala, soldiers are still patrolling the streets in vehicles and have been setting up bases in police stations across the capital in recent days.
Ogenga Latigo, the leader of the opposition in parliament, said he believes the military are being deployed long term.
''President Museveni has no intention of leaving power in 2011 ... and his preferred option is the military," Latigo told AFP.
"The military will be on the streets of Kampala until 2011 general elections," Latigo predicted.
He said Museveni, who has been in power since 1986, "is staring defeat in the face" if he runs again.
Troops and police clashed with supporters of Buganda king, Ronald Muwenda Mutebi, on September 10 and 11 in the capital, leaving at least 15 people dead. Local media have put the toll as high as 21. More than 600 people were arrested in connection with the unrest, in which dozens of police vehicles and at least one police station were destroyed.
Latigo, a senior official of the opposition Forum for Democratic Change, accused the president of having precipitated a crisis "to bring the military on the streets for his own benefit".
"You would expect in a democracy, cabinet to give directives to the police in this case it is the National Security Council, where he (Museveni) is the chairman," Latigo added.
But Museveni's senior advisor on the military and top member of the Army High Command, General Elly Tumwine, said the population finds a military presence reassuring.
"The population feels more secure where they see the military nearby," he told AFP, adding: "The army is on the streets to guarantee people's security. Nobody's freedom is being interfered with".
"Elections can only take place when people are secure," he said, adding that Museveni did not need the approval of parliament to deploy troops on the streets of Kampala because "it is his duty to see that the country is safe".
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