Hundreds arrested in deadly Uganda riots

A man tries to put out a fire on Friday in Kasubi, Uganda, a suburb of Kampala.
At least 640 people were arrested and 14 killed in fighting in Uganda’s capital between government forces and loyalists of a traditional kingdom, police said Sunday.

The number of people arrested for suspected roles in the three-day riots could go up because investigations are still under way, said Kale Kayihura, the nation’s police chief. Trials for the suspects will start Monday on charges including taking part in violent acts and unlawful assemblies, Kayihura said. At least 82 were injured, according to the police chief. Tensions between President Yoweri Museveni and the Buganda kingdom — headed by King Ronald Mutebi II, the ruler of the Baganda tribe — have intensified in recent years. The violence flared Thursday when the government said it would not allow the king to travel to an area inhabited by a renegade rival group. After the travel ban, young Bagandans took to the streets, stealing ammunition from a police station and confronting officers, accusing them of harassment. “The government is wrong to undermine cultural institutions which are the backbone of Uganda’s heritage,” said Mzamiru Balidha, a resident of Kampala. “Cultural leaders must be left alone since they are not interfering in politics.”

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Rioters burned tires and cars, set buildings on fire and looted stores. Streets in the capital were strewn with debris over the weekend, including torched cars and burned tires. Police and the army patrolled deserted but calm streets Sunday as residents tried to return to normalcy after the protests. “I’m happy to see that there is peace now,” said Harry Sagara of Kampala. “Now people can return to work.” Government officials and the Buganda kingdom have been at odds for years, sparring over land, sovereignty and political power. A government official said Sunday that the two leaders have pledged to meet and address their differences. “Both the central government and the king are still working out details of the meeting,” said Daudi Migereko, the minister of parliamentary affairs. Bagandans are the dominant ethnic group and one of four ancient kingdoms in the nation. Kings in the east African nation are limited to a ceremonial role overseeing traditional and cultural affairs.