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Ugandan Police Prevent Opposition Leader From Meeting Lawyers

  • Peter Clottey

Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change speaks to the media, Oct. 4, 2016. According to attorney Ladislaus Rwakafuzi, Uganda's main opposition leader was prevented was meeting Rwakafuzi, November 16, 2016.

Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change speaks to the media, Oct. 4, 2016. According to attorney Ladislaus Rwakafuzi, Uganda's main opposition leader was prevented was meeting Rwakafuzi, November 16, 2016.

An attorney for Uganda's main opposition leader Kizza Besigye, from the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), says he plans to file a suit against the government in Kampala after accusing the police and other security agencies of violating the rights of his client.

Police prevented Dr. Besigye from attending a pre-arranged meeting with attorney Ladislaus Rwakafuzi Wednesday morning in the capital, Kampala. He was subsequently taken to the police station after a crowd gathered at the offices of his attorney.

In an interview with VOA, Rwakafuzi said the country's police have been unfair and mistreated Besigye ever since he made a decision to challenge President Yoweri Museveni during elections. The police have restricted Besigye's movement following the recent disputed general election. The electoral commission declared incumbent Museveni the winner of the presidential vote.

“Police to blame”

Rwakafuzi says he is compiling all the human rights violations and police mistreatment of Besigye in preparation to file a suit in court against the government for violating the constitution in the way it continues to manhandle the opposition leader.

But officials of the police say Besigye often disrupts business activities and traffic flow which they say endangers the lives of Ugandans, particularly in downtown Kampala. It is within their mandate, they said, to ensure all laws are enforced regardless of a person's societal status.

“I think they have been very unfair and very mean and they are being economical with the truth …There was no traffic; there was nothing. So he went to the high court. No traffic. He went to another court, no traffic. Then he even went to his office, no traffic. When he attempted to come to our office he was blocked, and once he was blocked thousands and thousands of people gathered. So it is the police to blame. Why did they block him? They know that the moment Besigye is identified by the crowd, especially when the crowd knows that he is being mistreated and that he is being unjustly treated, those crowds would always come around…," said Rwakafuzi.

“They may have prevented him from coming to our office [but] we shall still find him either at his home, office or anywhere. We can even do some conference thing via the phone. So we shall still get his story and file these cases in court," added Rwakafuzi.

Election result should be respected

Besigye recently called on his supporters to continue with his defiance campaign against what he says is the government's dictatorial human rights violations and unconstitutional practices.

Supporters of the government say Besigye is to blame for his encounters with the police. This, they said, is due to his announcement of continued defiance of the country's laws and directive from the police. They contend that as a citizen, Besigye should comply with the country's laws just like everyone else. They also said Besigye is not above the law and urged the police to ensure the opposition leader is arrested and prosecuted anytime he violates the laws or refuses to adhere to directives from the police.

The supporters said the presidential elections are over, Museveni was declared the winner and that it's about time Besigye accepted the outcome and wait for the next general election to contest. They said his continuous defiance could undermine the country's peace and political stability.

"Target of the state"

No, that is not very correct," said Rwakafuzi. "Opposing Museveni is a kind of defiance. It is not the normal thing written in the constitution whereby there is opposition, where it is natural, where it is expected like in so many other countries. You have to give up all your freedoms in order to be able to oppose Museveni, because once you oppose him, you become a target for all the inconveniences the state is able to load upon you. So it is a kind of defiance in itself.”

“On the other side, the present government is the National Resistance Movement. Resistance and defiance I think they are the same thing. If there is a government that is resisting democratic change, when people are trying to make democratic changes, you can only defy that government. There is no other way,” added Rwakafuzi.

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