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November 20, 2013

Uganda Police to Prosecute Detained Politicians

by Peter Clottey

A police spokesman says Uganda’s administration may file criminal charges Thursday against two prominent opposition politicians accused of inciting violence in the capital, Kampala.

Deputy Police spokesman Patrick Onyango said the two accused politicians planned to use chaos and instability to bring about regime change in Uganda.

Dr. Kizza Besigye, former presidential candidate for the main opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), and Erias Lukwago, the embattled Lord Mayor of Kampala city, were detained Tuesday night and are in police custody.  They were charged with inciting violence after attempting to address an “illegal rally.” Lukwago faces expulsion from office after a tribunal accused him of incompetence and abuse of office. He denies the accusations as politically motivated by the government. 
                 
“They incited the public [by telling them] that if we don’t allow them to hold the rally, [they] should go to the street and cause chaos,” said Onyango. “We wouldn’t allow this peace, which people are enjoying, to be disrupted. So we have been carrying out investigations to that effect.”

He said the politicians failed to acquire the necessary permit for the rally, despite repeated calls for them to postpone the gathering.

“We advised them that the rally they are intending to hold was falling short of the legal requirement. So, we advised them to put [off] their rally to another date, but he [Lukwago] went ahead to mobilize people [saying] by force or by peace they would have to hold a rally,” said Onyango. “When somebody says either by war or by peace that means they are inciting people.”

Onyango said Besigye created disturbances, specifically traffic congestion, in downtown Kampala and brought business activities to a halt.

“He went straight in the middle of the road in the middle of the Kampala city, got out of his vehicle, [and] started calling people to cause chaos. Imagine addressing people in the middle of the road? So we couldn’t allow that,” said Onyango.

But critics say President Yoweri Museveni’s government is using state institutions like the police and the courts to clamp down on dissent as well as to intimidate and harass opponents. They also accuse the administration of undermining the constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech and association. Onyango disagreed that the government is contravening the country’s laws.

“The constitution also says that people should exercise and enjoy their freedom, others should not infringe on their freedoms,” said Onyango. “So as they were mobilizing people, they are infringing on other people’s rights who are peaceful, who don’t want to engage in their chaos. So we cannot allow that.”

Onyango said the police are waiting for the advice of the director of public prosecutions in order to begin proceedings against the two politicians.

 “Thursday morning is when we expect the file to come back from the director of public prosecutions, and when the file comes back with the advice to take the two to court, we shall immediately take them to court without hesitation,” continued Onyango, “because we shall not allow criminality to be in rooted in a country where there is law.”

Onyango also denied there is chaos in the city following the arrest of the two opposition figures.
Clottey interview with Patrick Onyango, Deputy Police Spokesman