26 February 2016

Uganda: Kayihura - Why I'm Arresting Besigye Again and Again

A week after presidential elections, the government has not stopped what is turning into an almost daily arrest of Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) candidate Kizza Besigye.

Yesterday, police arrested Besigye for the sixth time in 10 days, despite protests from the United States-based Human Rights Watch and the European Union against the opposition leader's continued harassment by the government.

The Forum for Democratic Change secretary for mobilisation, Ingrid Turinawe, said their efforts to locate Besigye's whereabouts yesterday were futile, as police declined to divulge where they had taken him.

"He [Besigye] was arrested again this morning and driven away by the regime police," said Turinawe in a social media announcement. "All efforts to have his lawyers and family members access him have failed. All police stations in Kampala and nearby have been visited but he is not in any of them. His maids at home have camped at Naggalama police station with the hope of giving him meals but he is not there."

Despite the six arrests, police has not charged Besigye with any crime to-date. Yesterday, a frustrated Turinawe said the humiliation and torture inflicted on Besigye by the police "are reaching a level that will tempt some of us to respond in defence of our leader."

Besigye's sixth arrest came on the day the European Union Election Observation Mission to Uganda (EU EOM) condemned, in a statement, the incarceration of Museveni opponents and urged the Electoral Commission to publish results from all polling stations.

INTERNATIONAL PROTESTS

The EU EOM chief observer, Eduard Kukan, said in the statement that the undue restrictions on the presidential candidates jeopardises the electoral season, which is supposed to continue with a legal challenge of the results by candidates not satisfied with the outcome.

"The restrictions on freedom of movement of the FDC leadership in Kampala, as well as the arrests of local candidates and party agents in Mbarara occurred while the party is still collecting documents, including the declaration of result forms, from its agents in the field," said the statement.

"The EU EOM encourages all stakeholders, including the police, to adhere to the rule of law and to show equal respect for each and every citizen's fundamental freedoms."

On Wednesday, the United States-based rights group, Human Rights Watch (HWR), released a statement saying they had been denied access to Besigye, despite an invitation from the opposition leader to the group. They described Besigye's house arrest as illegal.

"We hope police will keep their promise that we can have access another day though we dispute that they have as basis on which to assert that authority to control guests to a private residence," the statement said.

KAYIHURA BLAMES BESIGYE

However, in his own statement released yesterday to clarify on police actions towards Besigye in the last week, the inspector general of police, Kale Kayihura, blamed Besigye's conduct for his numerous arrests.

"The responsibility for the actions that police has taken involving Rtd Col Dr Kizza Besigye during, and after the campaigns lies squarely on his shoulders and that of his unruly and [undisciplined] supporters," Gen Kayihura said in his statement.

Besigye, who has been under house arrest, was first arrested on February 15 when he was due to address a public rally at Makerere University. Since then, he has been arrested five more times, with police even denying him the opportunity to travel to his home district of Rukungiri to vote in Wednesday's local council elections.

Kayihura, however, says Besigye's continued detention will not prevent him from challenging the presidential election results in court.

'KAYIHURA LYING'

However, FDC spokesman Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda said Kayihura was only looking for a scapegoat.

"Everything that has happened to Besigye and FDC has happened in the public. Many of us have made attempts to meet Besigye but we have failed to meet him. Why does he have to lie?" he asked.

Ssemujju said attempts by Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago and FDC party president, Gen Mugisha Muntu to meet Besigye were also thwarted by police, who instead arrested the duo.

"Why should you arrest people for just meeting Besigye? He knows that what police is doing is illegal," he said.

A senior lawyer who is part of Besigye's legal team also denied Kayihura's claims that Besigye has been allowed to meet his lawyers to discuss his intended move to challenge the presidential elections.

"We were able to access him on Tuesday night but that was not for purposes of preparing for the case. Access to a lawyer is not a lawyer visiting a client's private home. If it is for purposes of preparing for the case, like in the instant case, it has to be at office. This case requires a discussion of many things which cannot happen if we don't have adequate access to him," said the lawyer, who declined to be named for fear of jeopardising his other professional engagements.

The lawyer said Besigye's continued arrests infringe on Article 43 of the Constitution, which allows limitation on the enjoyment of some rights in public interest but "does not include political persecution or detention without trial like it is being done to Dr Besigye."

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