From Christine Acen in Kampala
Security operatives and police commanded by Kampala Metropolitan Commander Grace Turyagumanawe arrested opposition leader Dr Kizza Besigye, for the fourth time but this time in his car. The police cornered the opposition leader at the Mulago roundabout causing a lot of chaos and drama. After stopping his car, the police asked the occupants to get out and when they refused, one man, in plain clothes but holding a pistol, shuttered Dr Besigye’s vehicle windows and a police man sprayed teargas inside the car, forcing the occupants to jump out of their car.
Then a team of plain clothed policemen armed with pistols, came in and arrested Besigye together with his driver and another aide. One of the plain clothed policemen, later identified to The London Evening Post as Police Superintendent Gilbert Arinaitwe (see footage of Dr Besigye’s beating here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZoNt_RKhIdkhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZoNt_RKhIdk) pulled a pistol from his jean trouser pocket to show his power while intimidating the group. Then the man who shuttered the windows was seen talking to a group of men, telling them to capture whoever was supporting Dr. Besigye. The group ran towards the group that had prevented Besigye’s arrest, brutally manhandling them before throwing them in a waiting police van, where the driver wearing a red shirt pulled out an AK-47 machinegun and using it to hit at the arrested suspects inside the police van. As photographers took pictures of the incident through the front window, the policeman hid the gun upon realizing that he was being captured on camera.
One other plain clothed man, wearing WBS-TV (Wavah Broadcasting Station) jacket stunned other journalists when he attempted to block other journalists from capturing vital footage but when the journalists noticed his strange behaviour, they demanded that he shows them his ID and since he did not have one, the police were quick to come to his defence and immediately paraded him to the nearby police patrol truck where he joined other police officers.
A brief scuffle between journalists and the police ensued at which point Mr Turyagumanawe accused journalists of blocking a police arrest. When asked by the angry journalists that he (Turyagumanawe) provides evidence that the man was a journalist, he avoided answering the question. It was later discovered that the mysterious man was a police officer. This incident has left many people wondering whether WBS is aiding government in its attempt to bring down the opposition. WBS-TV is owned by a tycoon, Gordon Wavamunno who has been in close ties with government officials. When approached, WBS-TV refuted claims that they had played a role in Thursday’s fracas and have called for an investigation into the matter.
Besigye was later whisked into a standby police patrol vehicle under unbearable circumstances, lying under the patrol’s back seat. His eyes could not open and has been unable to see since he was tear-gassed while seated in his car. His ears too are said to have been damaged during the incident. He was taken to Nabweru Court where his lawyers appeared praying for a court bond stating that Dr. Besigye had upper respiratory tract mutation threatening his health. The magistrate, who released him on bail on Wednesday, hours before Thursday’s arrest, granted him a non-cash bond of UgShs5million.
Earlier, Dr Besigye had appeared in court with the help of his co-accused who lifted him into court as he could barely walk. His ears were plastered and he kept his injured eyes and face down covered with a handkerchief. The magistrate noted that under Section 65 of the Magistrates Court Act, the court would take into consideration reasons raised by Besigye’s counsel and granted bond to him. He was immediately released without charge. In the later hours of the evening, Besigye was rushed to International Hospital, Kampala in a very critical condition. His doctor sister and author of The Correct Line? Uganda under Museveni, Dr Olive Kobusingye said that Besigye was in a very terrible situation needing urgent attention. She added that their attempt to reach a specialist earlier had failed. He is accused with five others but the five co-accused were remanded in prison until 2nd May, 2011.
In the court room, supporters and well wishers broke down in tears, looking at their leader in bad shape. But they got together with the co-accused and sang: “We shall overcome some day . . .” A scuffle then broke out outside court when the co-accused refused to board the waiting police taxis where they claimed they were being beaten on their way to court and said they wanted to board the police bus which normally takes inmates to court and returns them to prison. They waved FDC symbols and gave their last word saying that they will continue with the struggle before they were taken away.
In parliament, there was uproar among both the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) and opposition party legislatures as many cried on the floor of parliament. The Kitgum woman MP, Betty Anwyar (FDC) and Maracha MP Kassiano Wadri (FDC) told the floor that they were worried about their leader’s ill treatment. Theodore Ssekikubo of Lwemiyaga county and Banyenzaki of Rubanda both NRM MPs criticised the brutal arrest citing malice on the side of government.
The minister for defence, Dr Crispus Kiyonga said government will formally respond to the allegations regarding Besigye’s arrest soon and the Prime Minister, Prof Apollo Nsibambi told the parliamentarians to leave the discussion regarding Col. Besigye at that. The Uganda Youth Democrats, an arm of the Democratic Party (DP) has vowed to continue with their protests every Thursday and have vowed to walk to Nakasongola where their party president, Nobert Mao is detained.
Dr Kizza Besigye was arrested with Mao in Kampala on the same day and both were transferred to Nakasongola prison. Dr. Besigye and Mao have been arrested every time they participate in the ‘Walk to Work’ protest. On Wednesday, the Nabweru magistrate freed Dr Besigye on bail from Nakasongola prison after being charged with unlawful assembly and after spending five days in prison. Dr. Besigye was due to appear in Nabweru court at first but in a rare twist, the Court was shifted to Nakasongola without his lawyer’s knowledge. The Courtroom was filled to capacity with some foreign diplomats in attendance.
“Our lawyers could not appear before this court because they were informed in the morning. We were told the High Court has powers to change court venue to any place under certain conditions but my lawyers were not informed of this change”. Besigye told his supporters.
The Nabweru magistrate, Justine Atukwasa shifted her court to Nakasongola and heard the case, giving Besigye bail on very stringent conditions. The conditions were that the sureties execute a UgShs10 million non cash bail, a bond of UgShs10million non-cash and a UgShs50 million non-cash for keeping peace for the next seven months.
Besigye said the magistrate breached her power by granting impossible conditions. “The police and the courts [are all on] trial. I am not on trial because it is for them to prove that they can uphold the constitutionalism of this country,” Dr Besigye said in court just after he was granted bail.
The Judiciary now comes under fire for moving Besigye’s case to the Nakasongola court describing the move as strange and violation of the law. David Mpanga, Besigye’s lawyer said that it has been difficult for him to access his client and failed to attend Court in Nakasongola due to the change in venue. The Judiciary spokesperson, Erias Kisawuzi said that the change in venue had the blessing of the judicial authority.
In a twist of events, the Uganda government has now decided to invite the opposition for talks on Tuesday May 3, 2011 to discuss the way forward on the escalating commodity and fuel prices. In Kenya, government has cut the price of fuel and kerosene and is controlling the fuel prices and this is now being seen by the opposition of Uganda as a challenge that Uganda government must adopt. Mathias Mpuuga, the coordinator for Activists 4 Change (A4C) and also a Masaka-elect MP says that A4C is behind the ‘Walk to Work’ protest and that they are not going to hold dialogue with government to resolve the high commodity prices.
The protests were sparked off by the opposition following the escalating commodity prices making it almost impossible for an average Ugandan to put food on their tables. The arrest has so far seen many arrested and placed on remand in prison. So far five people have been killed in the saga. Government has however maintained that it would not cut the cost of fuel and President Museveni was also quoted as saying last week that high commodity prices are good for farmers. In a bizarre turn of events, the Ugandan leader accused the Electoral Commission for conniving with the opposition to rig elections in their favour. Last February’s elections were convincingly won by President Museveni and his NRM party. He also accuses the police, civil service and the media for aiding the opposition. “There is no way these groups can rig in favour of the NRM. They are against the NRM, ” President Museveni told the gathering at the inter-religious council meeting Thursday.