Ugandan police said on Monday they have arrested 12 opposition activists for planning violent anti-government demonstrations, a move opposition leaders denounced as harassment.
Opposition-led demonstrations hit the east African country in April and May stoked by soaring food and fuel prices and a government crackdown to quell the protests left at least nine people dead.
Opposition activists have since tried to rally large demonstrations without much success, especially as protest leader Kizza Besigye has largely stayed away from the gatherings. Teachers, traders and drivers have staged a number of peaceful strikes since May.
Police spokesman Ibn Senkumbi told Reuters those detained were members of Activists for Change, an opposition pressure group that led the 'walk to work' protests this year.
We arrested them yesterday evening while trying to plot violent and disruptive activities, Senkumbi said. They were distributing fliers calling on people to block roads and bash vehicles and cause pandemonium on streets and highways.
Activists for Change, who had called on the public to begin a week of 'walk to work' protests from Monday, culminating with an opposition rally on Saturday, denied they were organising violent activities.
Mathias Mpuuga, the group's coordinator, accused the police of acting as a security arm of the ruling party, the National Resistance Movement (NRM).
Our activities are non-violent and we have made that clear but they're just acting as though this is the NRM police. They're hell-bent on using violence to prevent opposition exposure of NRM's disastrous management of the economy, he told Reuters.
President Yoweri Museveni, in power for more than two decades, has vowed to crush the protests, blaming rising food and fuel prices on drought and global increases in oil prices.
Double-digit inflation has hit Uganda this year driven by high food prices and a weakening shilling. Headline inflation jumped to 28.3 percent in September, an 18-year high.
Police dispersed on Monday a small crowd of demonstrators who had answered Activists for Change's call for protests at Kiseka market in downtown Kampala.
The market, dubbed by demonstrators as Benghazi after the Libyan city from which a rebellion against Muammar Gaddafi originated, was the epicentre of the April and May protests.
A witness said shops stayed closed and police remained heavily deployed in the market and other surrounding areas.