Two Of A Kind
Silvio Berlusconi once lamented that he was the most prosecuted politician in the world; then Kizza Besigye happened.
Kizza Besigye is a Ugandan opposition leader, one who used to be President Yoweri Museveni’s personal physician, before running against, and losing to him, in four consecutive electoral cycles. He retired from the army, to run for the presidency, in 2001, after having written a document that accused the ruling National Resistance Movement of being undemocratic, dishonest, and corrupt.
For no other reason, really, other than challenging President Museveni for the presidency, one he has publicly declared a dictatorship, Kizza Besigye has been arrested more times than can ably be counted on anyone’s fingertips.
Months before the 2016 general elections, Besigye was arrested ahead of a campaign rally accused of violating public order laws, by attempting to hold public meetings without government’s permission. On his way to another rally, three days before the election, Besigye was briefly held by police who accused him of, wait for it; disrupting the traffic. Brilliant!
His numerous arrests have been rather quite violent. He has been slapped, shot – in the hand, and been doused with pepper spray. All occasions happening while Ugandan security forces – the police and the army – have cracked down on Forum For Democratic Change – Besigye’s political party – leaders and supporters.
Courts Of Law
Whether it was by way of being taken there by the government or him taking the government to court, Besigye has had his days in the courts of law.
Besigye went into exile between 2001 and 2005; purposely, “to continue to be politically active rather than being behind bars or six feet under as had been promised.”
On his return, on the onset of the 2006 elections, he was arrested and charged with both treason and rape. The charges were later dismissed, but not long after the polls, and they, obviously, did what they were meant to; distract him from campaigning.
He has, also, been accused of having connections with a rebel group – People’s Redemption Army, an accusation which led to other charges for Besigye. Memories of Kizza Besigye and 22 others, which went before the General Court Martial. He denied any rebel links, although he said that he would not rule out going out to the bush to battle the government if the constitution was overthrown and needed to be reinstated. Following allegations that he was collaborating with rebel movements operating in Western Uganda at the time, Besigye was placed under house arrest. Fearing for his life, he beat the security intelligence and fled the country to South Africa where he was exiled until October 2005 when he returned to contest the 2006 presidential election.
Besigye’s lawyers have been to court, to challenge the results of the 2006, he alleged fraud, whereas, in 2011, he said the votes were flawed.
Let Us Walk To Work
After the 2011 elections, Besigye continued to campaign against the result along with the rising cost of living by staging what came to be known as the “walk to work” protests. For those, he was arrested, four times, and on all, accused of inciting violence and beaten by police during the protests, before all charges were dropped.
Some of Kizza Besigye’s arrests have been enabled and affected under the Public Order Management Bill, a legislation which was drafted so that members of the public could seek permission, from the police, whenever they were to hold meetings, gatherings, or proceedings in public spaces.
Most recently, as recent as July 25, 2016, Besigye has been in court for disobedience of lawful orders, a case which was, later, dismissed after the prosecution failed to produce a single witness to testify against him – the accused.
As of March 24, 2016, we had realised and accepted that the most notable effect of Besigye’s trials and tribulations has been well illustrated by a video clip he released on his social media platforms during the unlawful detention that followed the February 18, 2016 elections.
In the video, titled 32 Days; My Life In Illegal Detention, Besigye said that it was “extremely stressfully to be in detention that is undefined, that one does not know when it will end, that has no reason, that is a complete blatant violation of one’s rights, that is annoying and disabling.” I could not say it any better.
Human Rights Violations
When Kizza Besigye was subjected to a thirty days house arrest, one which was occasioned by the police’s continued presence at his private residence and one which he sought to be freed from, his lawyers petitioned the Principal Judge to help intervene to secure an earlier date for handling Besigye’s application (the presence of the police was regarded as a violation of his human rights.)
When contacted, the Principal Judge, Yorokamu Bamwine J, responded by saying that “there is no law that mandates us to urgently hear civil cases apart from election petitions.” The election petitions that Besigye was already used to. He, now, in March 2016, became another victim of the least ideal situations that characterise the Ugandan judicial services, such as, inter alia, “the lack of enough manpower.”
Without a doubt, the government of Uganda’s intentions of keeping Kizza Besigye at bay, have been achieved through the numerous arrests, incarcerations, and court appearances, all that he has endured during his political career.
With consideration that he never enjoyed as much reaction especially before he started scheming for the presidency, it is only fair to say that the government’s reaction amounts to unwarranted embarrassment, harassment, and totalitarianism.
BY ALEXANDER TWINOKWESIGA
This article appears in our digital law newsletter, The Deuteronomy Vol 4, Issue 2 of April 14th 2017
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