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Is Dr. Besigye under house arrest?

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After a resounding welcome that overshadowed the inauguration of President Museveni for the Fourth term, it is now believed that the leader of Uganda's main opposition party, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) Dr Kizza Besigye may be under house arrest. Following his return from Nairobi hospital, there is now a heavy deployment of several security officers that guarding any movements in and out of Dr Besigye's house at Kasangati, about 14 kilometer north of the country's capital Kampala. Dr. Besigye, who has been spearheading the 'Walk to Work' protests for the last month, is now under house arrest and police surrounded his home on Monday, although a police spokesperson denied the allegations.

Dr Besigye who is a former personal physician to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, came second to Mr Museveni during last February's general elections that the opposition parties claimed had been rigged by the Museveni-led National Resistance Movement (NRM). Dr. Besigye has been the main participant in the “Walk to Work” protests which have been appealing to the people to leave their cars at home every Monday and Thursday of the week and walk to their places of work to draw the government's attention to the rising prices of fuel and food prices.

In a telephone conversation with this newspaper, Dr Besigye's wife Winnie Byanyima, a veteran Ugandan politician in her own right, who works with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in New York as a director for Gender in the Bureau for Development Policy said: “I can't understand this anymore. This is a form of house arrest because he actually wanted to go out to see his doctor for the flue, but he decided not to…, because he is not quite eager to be arrested.”

“Just after I came out of the gate to catch my flight to New York, I fell into a group of five police cars, the armed policemen stopped me,” said Mrs Besigye, adding that: “ They quickly surrounded me, one in front, on the side, behind and others positioned themselves a little distance away from the car.”

“I feared that they [the police] were going to spray some chemicals on me or were going to kill me and I raised the car windows, I thought they were going to kill me.” Sounding quite frightened, Mrs Besigye added: “They blocked my car and they towed us to the police.”

She went on: “When we reached the police station, a policeman knocked on the door, I came out and my colleagues came out.”

“Then they realized that Dr. Besigye wasn't in the car, they left us and quickly jumped onto their trucks and again drove back towards the farm,” Mrs Besigye narrates her early Monday, odeal.”

She adds: “I feared and we tried to get back home because I had already missed my flight but still they blocked me. I'm also worried because Kakooza Mutale has been coming and taking pictures of our house.”

“He [Kakooza Mutale] has been taking pictures everywhere; I really don't know why he trespasses on our properties,” said Mrs Besigye in reference to Maj. Kakooza Mutale a notorious pro-Museveni ruffian who heads the Kalangala Action Plan (KAP), a militia whose record is well documented by several Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports since as early as 2003. Several HRW reports have implicated Kakooza Mutale's KAP of gross human rights abuses.

Mrs Besigye had returned from New York to attend to her husband who had been admitted at Nairobi Hospital after he was brutally arrested and injured by Museveni's security operatives on April 28. This was when Dr Besigye, who had earlier in the same week been shot in the hand and then sprayed with an as yet unidentified chemical by Ugandan security men led by Gilbert Arinaitwe, was on his way to a bank in Wandegeya, a Kampala, to withdraw some money. According to HRW, at least 10 unarmed civilians including two toddlers have been shot and killed during the police crackdown on the protesters. Scores have sustained permanent injuries and young children have been tear-gassed.

Asked to explain reasons why Dr Besigye was under house arrest now,

Uganda Police spokesperson, Judith Nabakobo corroborated Ms Byanyima's account but denied that Dr. Besigye is under house. “No, who has told you that he is under house arrest? No that's a lie, he is not, but it is up to him, whether to go out or to stay inside, it's up to him. We are not bothered,” said Ms Nabakooba whilst responding to a question why Dr. Besigye has been put under house arrest.

“Police are just on their routine patrolling in the area. They are just on normal duties of patrol, nobody has cordoned off his house, he is free to do what he wants as long he doesn't contravene the laws,” said Ms Nabakooba during a telephone interview with this newspaper. “The incident happened very early in the morning at around 6:30 as police were just on a normal routine check patrol point. They would check every vehicle that would bypass them. In the course, they stopped her driver. She refused even to open the windows, she stayed adamant in the vehicle; nobody knew who was inside because it wasn't their official vehicle. Because they were not ready to obey what police was telling them like; opening the windows for police to see inside, the windows had tinted glasses and they were up. Police had to tow the vehicle to the station. When they reached the station they came out, Winnie, some other persons and the driver.”

Whilst responding to a question whether the vehicle Ms Byanyima was traveling in is not registered in Dr. Besigye's names, Ms Nabakooba who was not at the scene at the time of the incident, said: “They told me it wasn't their official vehicle, they [police] were just checking on normal routine.”

Nabakooba added: “It was checked and it normal for any police officer. They can do search, they can open a vehicle, they can mount a search.” “It was Winnie who was inside, they left them to go, however, they opened a file on the driver for disobeying the lawful order under the traffic road section,” said Nambooka without elaborating. She added: “If the police officer stopped you, why would you not stop, why would you even refuse to open the window?. Why would you like people to start speculating that who is inside?”

She went on to add: “Police are just patrolling. They are just on normal duties of patrol. Nobody has cordoned off his house. He is free to do what he wants as long he doesn't contravene the laws. The following is how Ms. Nabakooba went on to explain what was going on: “The incident happened very early in the morning at around 6:30am as police were just on a normal routine check patrol point. They would check every vehicle that would bypass them. In the course [of their duties], they stopped her (Mrs Besigye's) driver. She refused even to open the windows. She stayed adamant in the vehicle; nobody knew who was inside because it wasn't their official vehicle. Because they were not ready to obey what police was telling them like opening the windows for police to see inside, the windows were tinted and they were up. Police had to tow the vehicle to the station. When they reached the station they came out, Winnie, some other persons and the driver.”

Whilst responding to a question whether the vehicle Mrs Besigye was traveling in is not registered in Dr. Besigye's names, Ms. Nabakooba who was not at the scene said: “They told me it wasn't their official vehicle, they [police] were just checking on normal routine.”

Nabakooba added: “It was checked as is normal for any police officer. They can do a search, they can open a vehicle, and they can mount a search.”

“It was Winnie who was inside, they left them to go, however, they opened a file on the driver for disobeying the lawful order under the traffic road section,” she said without elaborating. She added: “If the police officer stopped you, why would you not stop? Why would you even refuse to open the window? Why would you like people to start speculating who is inside?”


























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Articles by Norman S. Miwambo