April 1, 2016 / 3:27 PM / 2 years ago

Ugandan police withdraw from home of presidential rival

KAMPALA (Reuters) - Ugandan police will lift their blockade on the home of the President Yoweri Museveni’s main rival, they said on Friday, weeks after restricting his movements when he lost an election he said was rigged.

Opposition leader Kizza Besigye speaks during a news conference at his home at the outskirts of Kampala, Uganda, February 21, 2016. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

Kizza Besigye, who won 35 percent of the vote to Museveni’s 60 percent, has been confined to his home since polling day on Feb. 18. He called the result a sham marred by vote rigging, bribery and intimidation by security personnel.

Police accused him of inciting violence and blockaded his home in Kasangati, a suburb of the capital of Kampala. Analysts said the government feared he could have rallied mass protests aimed at toppling Museveni.

Police put spiked barriers outside the property and vetted visitors, turning away leaders from his Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party and delegations of supporters.

Police Chief Kale Kayihura said in a statement on Friday: “We are withdrawing the precautionary security measures we had been forced to take with respect to ... Kizza Besigye.”

The security restrictions on Besigye caused concern among Museveni’s Western backers. The United States said the detention of opposition figures and harassment of their supporters amounted to “unacceptable activities in a free and democratic society”.

FDC official Francis Mwijukye said the lifting of Besigye’s house arrest marked the start of the opposition’s resurgence.

“We’re just getting started, we’ll ramp it up ... Besigye won the election and until he’s declared president we’ll not rest,” he said.

The police decision came a day after the supreme court dismissed a petition by former prime minister Amama Mbabazi, who came a distant third in the election, for the result to be nullified, clearing the way for 71-year-old Museveni to extend his three-decade rule.

Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

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