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Uganda: Justice is for the Vigilant, Besigye Tells Diaspora

Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye has told Ugandans in the Diaspora to use the power given them under the constitution by speaking out against injustice in their country. He said justice is for the vigilant and those who demand it. Besigye, who is out on bail on treason charges, said Ugandans are struggling against what he called a neo-patrimonial regime which he said is using all means to maintain state control over the people.

Besigye spoke in Washington over the weekend at a town hall meeting on the role of the Diaspora in Uganda’s political dispensation. He said the political climate in Uganda is worrying.

“As you know, Uganda is one of the countries where there has been a failure to make a transition to a democratic dispensation. Since independence 42 years ago, every government in Uganda has been removed by force of arms. Unfortunately, the trend does not seem to be changing. The current president has been in office for over 20 years. The election that we just concluded early this year was judged by all seven judges of the Supreme Court as not been free or fair. So the situation is worrying,” he said.

Besigye said the current lecturers’ strike at Makerere University in Kampala is a further sign of the gradual failure of the Uganda state.

“There’s a significant break down in the economic infrastructure. You find that, for example today, in spite of having a lot of potential, Uganda has no power. People have to live in darkness. The industries cannot work. The roads are breaking down. The health sector is in shambles. So we have a failure of the state,” Besigye said.

The Ugandan government said it cannot meet the university lecturers’ demand for salary increase because it has other demands such as the energy crisis, the country’s 20 year-old war in the north of the country with the Lord’s Resistance Army, and hosting the Commonwealth Conference in 2007.

Besigye says the Ugandan government should blame itself for lack of planning.

“First of all, the fact that they are mentioning them as priorities now, really shows that there was a failure of planning because if there had been appropriate planning, there is no reason why energy becomes a priority when the country is in darkness. Secondly, and I think more importantly, the fundamental sectors of the economy cannot be the hosting of Commonwealth heads of government meeting in preference to supporting education. Education, health, sanitation, and so on form the basis of life of any country. And therefore, it shows the crisis of leadership that we have in the country,” he said.

Besigye said he is not against Uganda holding the 2007 Commonwealth conference because it brings positive international focus on the host country. But he said he was concerned about the Commonwealth having a meeting in Uganda when Uganda was at the time violating the Commonwealth’s own principles of democracy and respect for human rights.

“Therefore, hosting the meeting in Kampala in such an environment is like an endorsement of what is going on in Kampala. That’s why we hope that when the meeting comes, we shall focus the situation in the country onto the agenda of the meeting,” he said.

Besigye, who was described during the town hall meeting as a courageous political leader who is willing to stand up for all Ugandans, said he chose to remain in Uganda to fight for a democratic environment that can engender development.

While in the United States, Besigye said he would like to meet with a few members of Congress and non-governmental organizations that, according to him, are relevant to the situation in Uganda.

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