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Ugandan Opposition Leader to Detail Government Harassment

  • Peter Clottey

The leader of the opposition Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) said the government intentionally prevented him from attending the opening ceremony of the African Union (AU) summit in Kampala Sunday.

Olara Otunnu told VOA President Yoweri Museveni’s government continues to use state institutions to systematically intimidate and harass the opposition as part of a well orchestrated plan to stifle dissent.

Opposition leader Otunnu said he will detail the intimidation tactic the government has been employing at a news conference scheduled Monday morning.

“As I went to the final gate, the police said, ‘You must wait here (because) we need to clear you.’ And, I said, ‘But, I have been cleared.’ I sat there in my car for two and half hours. The security men standing by me urged three drivers behind me to ram into my vehicle, to hit my vehicle from behind. I kept hearing say, ‘Do it, hit it.’ The two vehicles turned out to have plate numbers that belong to the State House. That is to say they belong to the presidency,” he said.

The opposition leader was reportedly invited by the AU secretariat and Uganda’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to participate in the opening ceremony of the summit.

Supporters of the UPC expressed shock and condemned what they described as the unwarranted violence meted out to their leader.

They also questioned the reason why Otunnu was prevented from attending the AU opening summit after other opposition leaders were allowed to attend the same event.

Otunnu said the security agencies refused to listen to his complaints.

“I was able to get the telephone number for the Inspector General of Police, General Kayihura. When I identified myself he then switched off the phone. Subsequently, I tried to reach him, but there was no answer. I also tried the chief of the army. I got his number from somebody, but there was no answer from his side,” Otunnu said.

Meanwhile, Uganda’s Director of Public Prosecution has reportedly summoned the opposition leader to answer charges of libel and promoting sectarianism against President Museveni’s government.

This came after Otunnu refused to make a statement at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) after he was accused of making “unsavory and divisionary” comments on a recent radio program.

Under Ugandan law, the promotion of sectarianism attracts a five-year sentence upon conviction. But, opposition leader Otunnu denied uttering sectarian statements saying President Museveni should rather be answering the charges.

Officials of the government were not immediately available for comment despite repeated attempts.