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The death toll from violent protests in parts of Uganda after the arrest of opposition presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi has risen to 28, a police spokesperson said on Friday.

Twelve more people succumbed to their injuries sustained in the Wednesday and Thursday protests, police spokesman Fred Enanga said.

Authorities said at least 75 people were injured with bullet wounds, tear gas canisters and hit-and-run attacks. “We would like to inform the public that a total of 28 people have died following the violent political demonstrations in multiple areas since Wednesday,” Enanga said.

“The confrontations began after the arrest of Kyagulanyi due to his continued blatant disregard of the Electoral Commission guidelines, which were further escalated, after bloggers posted fake news that he had been killed,” the spokesman said.

A total of 577 suspects have been arrested across the country, Enanga said, adding that bows and arrows, “piles of stocked tyres, bottles, drums of fuel, and evidence of mobile money transactions funding the rioters” were seized.

“The violent demonstrations were being coordinated by a group of 300 ring leaders who were actively coordinating the distribution of tyres to their flash points and hotspots, using motor vehicles and boda bodas (commercial motorcycles),” he said.

Kyagulanyi’s arrest on Wednesday in the eastern district of Luuka for allegedly flouting COVID-19 guidelines sparked sporadic protests in some parts of the east African country. “We will continue to work with all partners, to enforce laws prohibiting acts of violence,” Enanga said.

“The joint task force is committed to ensuring that all Ugandan’s freely exercise their constitutional rights in a safe, peaceful and lawful manner,” he said, referring to a multi-agency organ set up to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We would like to warn those that are already drawn into the violent protests and those that are intending to join to reject such calls and remain law-abiding,” Enanga said.

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 no more than 200 people, to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

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