17 November 2005

Uganda: Ambassadors Meet Ministers Over Besigye

Kampala — DIPLOMATS accredited to Uganda yesterday met government ministers and voiced concern over the arrest of opposition leader Kizza Besigye.

The diplomats, who expressed particular concern about the timing of the arrest, urged the government to show that it was not politically motivated. The diplomats' meeting with the government came on the same day President Museveni once again sounded a warning to "foreigners" against interfering in the internal affairs of Uganda.

The Danish ambassador, Mr Stig Barlyng, who is the outgoing chairman of the donor democracy and governance community said Uganda's development partners were not yet ready to release a public statement about their position.

"We shall continue observing the situation," he told Daily Monitor. "We don't want to stir any kind of situation at the moment." Another diplomat told Daily Monitor that a statement would be released today.

Besigye, the leader of the Forum for Democratic Change, and a political challenger to President Museveni, was on Tuesday charged with treason, concealment of treason and rape. His arrest sparked two days of riots in Kampala.

Heads of missions, ambassadors and high commissioners from 14 countries, mainly European, attended court as Besigye was committed to the High Court. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Sam Kutesa, told Daily Monitor yesterday that the government had called the meeting with diplomats to give a brief on the current political climate.

"They were worried about the timing of the arrest," he said. "They wondered why it was not done after the end of the NRM Delegates Conference." Kutesa attended the meeting. Others were the Minister of Internal Affairs, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, and the Minister of State for Information, Dr James Nsaba Buturo.

Besigye was arrested on Monday, the day the NRM Delegates Conference kicked off at Mandela Stadium, Namboole. It will end on November 20.

Kuteesa said the government had maintained its position that the arrest was not politically motivated. "I wish it was, but the arrest was (sanctioned) by the Director of Public Prosecutions who believed that Besigye had some questions to answer," he said.

Kuteesa added: "We assured them that since Besigye has been committed to the High Court, the trial is expected to be open, free, impartial and speedy."

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