Uganda opposition leaders will be charged Friday after they were arrested for unlawful assembly and inciting violence in the capital, Kampala, according to Ibin Ssenkunbi, Kampala police spokesman.
Police arrested former presidential candidate for the opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) Kizza Besigye, Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, parliamentarian Moses Kasibante and other opposition leaders for inciting violence aimed to create chaos in the city.
Ssenkunbi told VOA the leaders were arrested as part of a measure to prevent tension and chaos in the city.
“Depending on the investigations the arrested [leaders] are likely to be taken to court on Friday and those who would not be liable for charges would be released,” said Ssenkunbi.
“They had organized a rally, but behind it was continuous commotion, which had been organized and we had information to that effect because they had gone to the city,” said Ssenkunbi. “[They planned] inciting violence in different corners of the city to try and engage police on different fronts. But we intercepted that information and we were on high alert. So, when they started, most of the areas was covered [by police].”
Opposition parties have condemned the arrests and accuse the government of contravening the constitution by using state institutions to trample on the civil liberties of citizens. They are demanding the immediate release of their arrested colleagues.
Kampala Lord Mayor Lukwago invited the opposition leaders for a scheduled meeting to discuss strategies to help resolve the impasse with the government-supported council executives of the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA).
The KCCA executives impeached Lukwago after a tribunal report accused him of incompetence and abuse of office, among other charges. The impeachment was later thrown out by a court.
Ssenkunbi says the police arrested the opposition leaders to protect the rights of the majority from being disturbed.
“We are defending the rights of the majority because you can’t say Dr. Besigye is enjoying his rights to the detriment to the hundreds of thousands of people who actually use Kampala roads and have businesses in Kampala,” said Ssenkunbi. “Inciting violence is illegal in Uganda and equally participating in unlawful assembly, which actually they did,” he said.
The police have often accused opposition and civil society groups of embarking on protests without a permit, which they said disrupts business activities and brings traffic to a halt. But in an interview with VOA Lukwago disagrees with the police accusations.
“That is a frivolous accusation always leveled against us by the police to curtail our rights [and] our civil liberties,” said Lukwago. “I want to assure you and the international community [that] if the police come in with the intention of giving us protection, and to ensure that the procession [is] peaceful, there [will be] no such incident like the disruption of business whatsoever.”