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Siege on Uganda Opposition Leader Ends

  • Douglas Mpuga

Hundreds of policemen who have surrounded the home of Uganda’s main opposition leader for the last five days left Sunday morning.

Kiiza Besigye has been under house arrest since Tuesday after he attempted to participate in the “walk to work” demonstrations.

The police then confined him to his home. Police say the confinement was preventive detention but Besigye insists it is house arrest.

“We have been having about 300 hundred armed policemen surrounding my residence,” Dr Kiiza Besigye, the leader of Uganda’s main opposition party the Forum for Democratic change (FDC) told VOA.

He said what the police were doing is illegal. “We have challenged it in court and the hearing of the petition will be on Tuesday.”

“Nobody has told me anything about the reasons for doing this,” Besigye said, “about how long they will stay [here], what the conditions of their stay would be, except to say you are not going to get out of your gate.”

He said even when they (police) were leaving they didn’t say why they were leaving or if they were coming back.

Besigye vowed to continue the “walk to work” campaign. “Without any doubt; tomorrow I will be on the road walking [to work].”

He accused the government of acting with impunity and using trumped up charges with the intention of keeping people in prison but not because they have committed any offense.

“Certainly those who were charged with treason did not do anything that can remotely be considered a treasonable act,” he explained.

Two members of the group Activists 4 Change were arraigned on treason charges on Wednesday. One of them is an assistant to Besigye.

The opposition leader hailed civil society, human rights groups, and the Uganda law council for coming out to condemn the government action.

He described the government actions as part of a repressive regime that they are protesting against. “We know the consequences of our protests; that we can be charged with all kinds trumped up charges,” he said, adding that he has in the past been falsely charged with a litany of offenses.

“The important thing is that I am an innocent person,” Besigye said, “eventually we shall, I am sure, overcome this dictatorship as indeed our fellow Africans are doing in other parts of the continent.”

Activists held "Walk to Work" protests in Uganda in April and May over high prices and political corruption. Those demonstrations sparked violence and standoffs with police. At least nine people were killed and hundreds arrested.