Protests have erupted in the Ugandan capital city of Kampala following the arrests of a number of opposition lawmakers, including pop star-turned politician Bobi Wine.

Ugandan soldiers seen arresting a protester in Kampala.
Ugandan soldiers seen arresting a protester in Kampala. (Twitter)

Ugandan police fired tear gas to disperse a demonstration in the capital on Monday as protests against the beating of detained lawmakers continued for a second day.

Police spokesman Emilian Kayima said police had deployed to stop a riot that had broken out in a market in downtown Kampala. "Some groups of youths have participated in a riot and they are being handled ... we're stopping the riot."

Kayima did not give details on the scale of the police action.

TRT World's Staci Bivens reports.

Heavily armed police in anti-riot gear and soldiers took control of the streets around the bustling Kireka market. Armoured personnel carriers were positioned at key intersections as security forces ordered members of the public to evacuate city blocks.

Hundreds of market traders and passers-by winced in fear as they were ordered to walk in single file with their hands raised by baton-wielding soldiers.

On Nasser Road – a hub for printers and stationers – soldiers forced hundreds of people to kneel in the street with their hands up while they patrolled the area.

Amid chaotic scenes members of the public used scarfs and t-shirts to shield their eyes and mouths from the clouds of tear gas and black smoke that hung in the narrow streets between shopping arcades while shopkeepers rushed to seal their doors. 

Uganda's Daily Monitor newspaper reported that police and army fired live ammunition in a bid to disperse protesters who had lit fires in the middle of roads in Kampala.

Reuters photojournalist, James Akena, was arrested and beaten up while covering the protests.

He later said after his arrest, "I was just standing holding my camera near to the protest. Suddenly there were many soldiers hitting me. I have some bruises and my hand is swollen. They still have my camera, and I don't know when I'll get it back," he said.

The Foreign Correspondents Association of Uganda (FCAU) has called for Akena's release.

Journalist Sadab Kittatta, who works for the Observer newspaper in Kampala, told TRT World that the protests had started at about 11am (0800GMT) local time.

"Right now I am outside the parliament, and not very far away from here I can still hear gunshots and explosions," he said.

The FCAU also reported that two other photojournalists who had been arrested were freed after being forced to delete their footage of the protests.

Sadab said, "Even journalists are being targeted."

He said that three journalists from a local TV station had been arrested.

"The condition for their release was that they had to delete their footage."

Referring to Reuters photographer Jame Akena, he said that "the last I got was that he was being taken by the military."

He said that a number of military personnel had also been seen donning police uniforms, including members from the presidential guard.

"One does not know whether they really are policemen or not," he said.

He said he could not confirm if there were any injuries or anyone that had been killed in the clashes. 

Unrest began last week when five opposition lawmakers were arrested and two allegedly were tortured, part of what the protesters call a pattern of repression by President Yoweri Museveni's government.

Government spokesman Ofwono Opondo denied security personnel had deliberately beaten up the lawmakers and others. "Some of these injuries could have been sustained in the course of the [convoy] confrontation," he said.

In power since 1986, Museveni is accused of stifling dissent through intimidation, beatings, detentions and prosecutions on trumped-up charges. Critics say he is set to rule for life after parliament last year removed an age limit from the constitution that would have barred him from seeking re-election in 2021.

Museveni and his backers say he remains in office because of genuine mass support. He also has enjoyed Western support for contributing to the fight against militant Islam, particularly through the Ugandan role in an African peacekeeping force in Somalia that is fighting Al Qaeda-linked Al Shabab.

Footage on local TV on Monday showed demonstrators setting up bonfires and barricades on streets in Kampala and police and military personnel trying to remove the roadblocks.

One killed

On Sunday, one person died and five others were injured when police fired into a minivan as it moved through a town west of the capital while a protest was underway.

The violence began when supporters of the independent candidate stoned a motorcade carrying Museveni as it left Arua town in northwestern Uganda, according to police.

The five members of parliament and dozens of other people were detained shortly afterwards on suspicion of taking part in the assault. Two of the MPs were beaten during their arrest, according to politicians and relatives who have visited them.

On Thursday, four of the detained MPs and dozens of others were charged with treason and unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition for their alleged role in stoning the convoy.

One of those detained and charged with treason is Robert Kyagulanyi, a popular musician-turned-politician who goes by the stage name Bobi Wine.

Lawyers and family members say that Wine is in urgent need of medical attention after being beaten by security forces during his arrest.

But in a weekend statement, Museveni, 74, said this was "fake news" and accused the MP of forming "indisciplined groups" and intimidating ruling party voters in what he said was "terrorism."

Source: TRTWorld and agencies