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Ugandan Opposition Requesting Release of Presidential Candidate

Uganda’s opposition Forum for Democratic Change is asking for the release of its presidential candidate, Kizza Besigye, who was arrested Monday by Ugandan security forces. Mr. Besigye returned to Uganda 20 days ago after a four-year exile in South Africa and was arrested on the outskirts of the capital, Kampala. He is expected to challenge President Yoweri Museveni in next year’s presidential elections.

Betty Kamya is party envoy for the Forum for Democratic Change. She told English to Africa reporter James Butty that Mr. Besigye was arrested and charged with treason, knowledge of treason, and rape. She says the government accused Mr. Besigye of recruiting and providing arms and other logistical support to a rebel military group in the Democratic Republic of Congo that is trying to topple the government of President Museveni, the People’s Redemption Army, PRA.

But Ms. Kamya says Mr. Besigye has no knowledge of the PRA. She says the Ugandan government has claimed the existence of the PRA for the past four years. Ms. Kamya says Mr. Besigye has never fired a shot, never issued a statement of intent or objective, and never attacked any government interests. She says this was very unusual for any rebel organization. Ms. Kamya says the PRA is a fabrication of the Ugandan government created for the sole purpose of intimidating and arresting Mr. Besigye and his supporters. Ms. Kamya says Mr. Besigye will not be intimidated.

The Ugandan government says it discovered Mr. Besigye’s links to the PRA when it arrested suspected PRA rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ms. Kamya says the Museveni government is known for fabricating charges. She says in 2003 she herself was summoned by the Ugandan Criminal Investigation Division and questioned about her supposed activities with the Lord’s Resistance Army. She says the only thing that saved her was that she was out of the country on the dates that her interrogators were quoting.

Ms. Kamya says most people in Ugandan prisons are held on trumped up charges. She says the Forum for Democratic Change plans to intensify pressure on the government for the release of Mr. Besigye, their presidential candidate. The opposition will continue with the demonstrations, even though she says security forces were ruthless during Monday’s protest. Ms. Kamya says security forces used tear gas, including spraying it directly into the eyes of Mr. Besigye’s lawyer.