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The death toll from last week’s violent protests in Uganda over the arrest of an opposition presidential candidate has risen to 45, police has said.

Police spokesperson Fred Enanga told reporters that 17 more people over the weekend succumbed to the injuries sustained in the Wednesday and Thursday protests. “It is very unfortunate that the riots have so far claimed 45 lives, which included 39 male adults and six women who fall in the age bracket of 25-40,” he said.

“A total of 42 bodies have been claimed while three remain unclaimed at the mortuary,” Enanga said. The police spokesperson said the joint security forces continue to hunt for ring leaders who actively coordinated the protests in various parts in the east African country.

“As part of the ongoing investigations into the violent political and criminal protests, our task teams continue to track down perpetrators after the riots,” Enanga said.

“All our territorial commanders intensified efforts to identify protesters and looters mid-last week, across all flashpoint areas, using the widespread CCTV technology (both public and private), license plate readers and facial recognition,” he said.

So far, over 550 suspects have been arrested across the country, according to the police. The arrest last week of Robert Kyagulanyi, an opposition presidential candidate, in the eastern district of Luuka for allegedly flouting COVID-19 guidelines sparked sporadic protests in some parts of the country.

Uganda’s Electoral Commission earlier this month cleared 11 presidential candidates, including incumbent President Yoweri Museveni, to run in the 2021 general elections.

The electoral body urged candidates to follow the strict COVID-19 guidelines, such as keeping the size of campaign rallies to not more than 200 people, to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

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