Uganda’s opposition leaders say the bi-weekly Walk-to-Work campaign started by Forum for Democratic Change president Kizza Besigye will continue Thursday, despite the government’s arrest and continued detention of Mr. Besigye and Democratic Party president Norbert Mao.
The two are jailed at Nakasongala Prison for allegedly inciting violence and participating in unlawful assembly for organizing the walk-to-work campaign over high fuel and food prices. Besigye was to appear in court Wednesday for a bail hearing.
Lawyers for the two detained opposition leaders argue that there is no law in Uganda that prohibits people from walking and that the politicians are being detained illegally.
A U.S. government statement Tuesday called on the Ugandan government to respect the rights of its citizens to demonstrate peacefully without fear of intimidation.
Meanwhile, the Ugandan government has accused Besigye of collaborating with some Western diplomats in Kampala to overthrow the government of President Yoweri Museveni by instigating mass uprising.
Kirunda Kivejinja, the minister for internal affairs in charge of police, denies the government has made such accusations. But, Kivejinja says there is only one way for changing governments in Uganda, and that is through constitutional means.
“What we contend in the government is that there is only one way of changing government, and that is according to the constitution. Now, if somebody has lost in an election, the only way is that he can go to court and the court can overturn the ruling,” he says.
Kivejinja says the report accusing Besigye of plotting to overthrow the Ugandan government was attributed to a member of parliament and not to the ruling National Resistance Movement government.
“It can’t be from the government. If it is from the government, we are very straight; we would have already arrested him and put the charges on him,” Kivejinja says.
He denies the government’s decision to delay granting Besigye bail was a deliberate attempt to sabotage the opposition’s Walk-to-Work campaign.
“If I will only remind you that there are three arms of government; our work as the police under Article 212 of the constitution is to detect and prevent crimes. So, once we detect and arrest somebody, our job is to report him to the judiciary. It is the judiciary that gives him bail,” Kivejinja says.
Kivejinja says, while walking by itself is not an issue, the government will arrest anyone who walks in order to demonstrate an idea, especially when such walk might affect other citizens.
“In Africa, as I have told you before, most of the people walk. So, walking is not an issue. But, if you are walking in order to demonstrate something that may affect some people, we shall arrest you,” Kivejinja says.
Anne Mugisha, an official of the opposition Forum for Democratic Change says the Walk-to-Work protest will take place Thursday with or without Besigye.
“We shall be walking to work on Thursday regardless whether Dr. Besigye is a free man or not. The Walk-to-Work is about protest over inflation, and that has nothing to do with Dr. Besigye or Anne Mugisha,” Mugisha says.