Uganda: Besigye Arrest Sparks Outrage in Parliament

6 November 2019

The violent arrest of Opposition leader Dr Kizza Besigye and supporters of his Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party on Monday, yesterday sparked outrage in Parliament prompting the House to summon Internal Affairs minister Gen Jeje Odongo to explain the brutality.

Members of Parliament from both Opposition and ruling party condemned the excessive force policeused on Dr Besigye which included splashing him with waves of water from cannons that almost threw him off his open roof car.

The four-time presidential contender was being stopped from leading a procession of the FDC leaders and supporters to the party headquarters in Najjanankumbi after police blocked their conference at Mandela National Stadium Namboole.

The incident happened at Kireka in Kira Municipality, Wakiso District.

A charged debate ensued after the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Ms Betty Aol Ocan, made a statement in which she wondered whether Uganda is still under the multiparty dispensation after the 2005 referendum.

She said Dr Besigye could have fallen off the car in the violent incident that was life threatening if the other occupants in the vehicle did not hold his legs as the water pushed him off the roof.

"We are all Ugandans and we just need to be tolerant because what we are crying for is political space. Must we come and cry before you people (government)? Must we pick up arms and fight?" she charged.

The proceedings were chaired by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga.

Ms Ocan also revealed to Parliament that not only Dr Besigye and people in his car were affected but also some of the pupils who were writing Primary Leaving Examinations at one of the schools in Kireka.

Other MPs wondered whether the 2021 elections would be held for only the National Resistance Movement (NRM) which police have not blocked from mobilising and recruiting supporters.

"Government ought to follow the law and respect other parties in Opposition. We need to restrain the Ministry of Internal Affairs from oppressing the Opposition. Why should we as Parliament support IPOD (Interparty Organisation for Dialogue) where we are restraining parties from operating?"asked Kinkizi West MP James Kaberuka (NRM).

Some of the MPs in NRM expressed fear that the precedent being set by government in shrinking political space for Opposition parties is not good for the future of the country. They said dissenting political views should not be treated with violence.

Opposition MPs accused President Museveni of strategically appointing Maj Gen Sabiiti Muzeyi as Deputy Inspector General of Police (IGP) to fulfil his mission of "finishing Opposition" ahead of 2021 elections.

They demanded that government brings an amendment to Article 69 of the Constitution which provides for the people to choose a system of governance if government wants to end the multiparty system.

Bukonzo West MP Godfrey Atkins Katusabe (FDC) said: "Democracy is about getting to the masses and share your vision and if our leaders can't be allowed to consult, what else can we do?"

Much as the Public Order Management Act 2013 provides that whoever organises a public meeting has to notify the IGP, the police have devised means of frustrating those efforts and only appear to block or disperse every gathering.

"There is no received stamp at the police headquarters in Naguru. Whenever we take our notification letters they only give us a book to write in. But what hurts us is that when our people are arrested they are not charged and if they are charged, police officers never come to testify in court," said Mr Asuman Basalirwa (Bugiri Municipality, Jeema).

The Opposition through the LoP then asked for unconditional release of all their members who were arrested with Dr Besigye and government to allow all registered political parties to mobilise freely.

They also asked for compensation to those who lost properties during the Monday incident and prosecuting the culpable police officers.

Resolution

First Deputy Prime Minister, Gen Moses Ali, ordered Internal Affairs Minister to appear tomorrow. However, he added that Dr Besigye has been a hardliner who does not respect police.

"I hereby direct the Internal Affairs Minister to come on Thursday (tomorrow) to explain circumstances that led to the policeman use water instead of tear gas which is reasonable force," he said.

Speaker Kadaga tasked government to use the same occasion to explain to Ugandans the status of multiparty democracy in the country and whether people are free to enjoy it now since the roadmap to 2021 elections is out.

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