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37 dead in Uganda as protests over arrest of politician continue

A You Tube screenshot at the scene of Bobi Wine's arrest in Luuka district

Ssentamu has been arrested repeatedly in recent months.

On Thursday morning, the BBC saw members of the security forces entering shopping malls in Kampala's city centre to chase people out, or firing tear gas inside to flush them out.

The protests in Kampala and other cities broke out after news of Wine's detention, the latest in a row of run-ins with the authorities for the professional pop singer, was announced.

Earlier on Friday, authorities deployed the military across the capital Kampala and surrounding areas to help the police disperse protesters.

Police pathologist Moses Byaruhanga told Reuters on Friday the death toll had jumped to 37.

Kyagulanyi's Wednesday arrest in the eastern district of Luuka over flouting the COVID-19 campaign guidelines sparked sporadic protests in some parts of the east African country.

A government spokesman, Ofwono Opondo, said that police had responded appropriately.

Kyagulanyi who was presented in the Iganga Magistrate's court is being charged with doing an act likely to spread infectious diseases, under section 171 of the Penal Code Act.

Human Rights Watch said Wine's arrest was a sign of "growing repression of opposition politicians ahead of Uganda's national elections scheduled for January 2021".

The violence has raised fears and attracted condemnation.

"This is just the beginning of the campaign season", said Oryem Nyeko, the group's Africa researcher.

"We urge all parties to renounce violence, undertake good-faith measures to reduce tensions, and respect fundamental freedoms", it said.

Onyango said those arrested will be charged with various offenses that include participating in unlawful demonstrations, inciting violence, assault, malicious damage and robbery.

Many young Ugandans see him as their champion in a country mired in poverty and youth unemployment.

Ssentamu is widely considered the most popular opposition candidate among the dozen-or-so people seeking to challenge 76-year-old incumbent Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, whose National Resistance Movement held power since 1986.

Reports suggest that presidential candidate Patrick Oboi Amuriat of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) was also arrested on Wednesday.

Other opposition candidates have also been detained and had their rallies broken up by security forces who claim the gatherings contravene Covid-19 restrictions.