The Ugandan government has created a climate of "oppression and despondency" that could spark an Egypt-style uprising, the country's top opposition leader told AFP Wednesday, only days from elections.
"I can't tell you how many of our people are following the events internationally, in Egypt and elsewhere, but they don't have to, because the conditions are the same in Uganda," Kizza Besigye said.
Besigye is challenging President Yoweri Museveni for the third time in February 18 elections. He lost to Museveni in 2001 and 2006, but both votes were tainted by intimidation and rigging, according to multiple reports.
Besigye on Wednesday said that while he is often criticised for making alarmist predictions about unrest, the political turmoil in north Africa demonstrates that desperate people can revolt without prompting from politicians.
"The government should understand that it is not the opposition that would provoke violence or protest. It is the government that created these conditions of oppression and despondency, conditions of frustration, unemployment, that can lead to violence," he said.
Besigye served as a top commander in the National Resistance Army rebel movement that brought Museveni to power in 1986.
He was Museveni's personal medical doctor through much of the 1981-1986 rebellion, but was forced out by the regime in 1999 after publishing a letter critical of the president's record in his first 13 years in power.
Hundreds of thousands of Egyptian demonstrators have been calling for President Hosni Mubarak's departure in an unprecedented three-week-old revolt that has sent shockwaves across the Arab world and beyond.