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Ugandan Opposition Leader Undaunted by President's Threat

  • James Butty

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni, left, being interviewed by a journalist, after he was nominated to run for presidential elections; Forum for Democratic Change’s Dr. Kizza Besigye after being nominated for presidential elections in the capital city Kampa

Kizza Besigye, candidate for a four-party coalition says President Museveni is acting as both a candidate and manager of elections

In Uganda, the candidate for a four-party coalition in next year’s presidential election told VOA he will not be intimidated by President Yoweri Museveni’s threats ahead of the elections.

Kizza Besigye was reacting to a warning from President Museveni that he would arrest and imprison Besigye if the opposition leader announces his own election results from the 18th February presidential poll.

Besigye said President Museveni’s statement is yet another example of the Ugandan leader acting as both a candidate and manager of the election.

“We are supposed to have an independent electoral commission that manages elections and Mr. Museveni is supposed to be a candidate just like me, and if he has any complaint against any other candidate for the behavior of that candidate, it should not be him to start arresting people. It shows you the problems we have in our country of having a president who has no respect, whatsoever, for our constitution, for our laws,” he said.

Besigye cited as an example how he was jailed and charged with treason and rape during the 2006 election on the orders of President Museveni and had to be nominated from prison.

The Ugandan opposition leader said he and his supporters have acted within the country’s electoral laws, whenever they announced their own results.

Uganda opposition leader Kizza Besigye
Uganda opposition leader Kizza Besigye

“The election results are announced at every polling station and, thereafter, what remains is tallying the votes, and the contention has been whether, after the results had been announced at the polling stations, other people have the right of repeating what has been announced at the polling station. We have been emphasizing that it is perfectly within the law, and what Mr. Museveni is saying is totally outside the law and, in any case, it should not be his call,” Besigye said.

Besigye said, while he is not deterred by President Museveni’s latest threat, other happenings in the country give him reason for concern.

He accused Ugandan police of recruiting militia throughout the country to help with the 2011 election.

“We are obviously concerned about more than just his statements. At the moment, throughout the whole country, there is a recruitment of militia from every village by the police that they should help with the election. But, we know, for sure, that this is part of the preparations that are being made to carry out violence and harassment of our supporters,” Besigye said.

The 2011 election would be the third straight election that Mr. Besigye is standing as the main opposition candidate.

In both the 2001 and 2006 elections, Mr. Besigye accused incumbent President Museveni of fraud.

Besigye said, unlike his previously challenges to President Museveni, the 2011 election is a referendum on Mr. Museveni’s more than 25 years as president of Uganda.

“Every election has different situations. The issues are different. And, in this election, obviously, the country is to decide whether, after a quarter of a century under the rule of President Museveni, he should be given another mandate. The clear, overwhelming view is that the whole country will reject Mr. Museveni, and that is causing the kind of reaction,” Besigye said.

On the post-election crisis in Ivory Coast, Besigye said embattled president Laurent Gbagbo should step down after being rejected by the people.

“The situation in Ivory Coast is one which is very, very clear. The incumbent lost the election. He is using every means at his disposal to sustain himself in power. I think the international community has reacted correctly to make their position clear that what Mr. Gbagbo is doing is completely unacceptable and that he must vacate (his office). I think what is required is to shoulder the means to force him to do so,” Besigye said.

The Ugandan opposition leader accused the international community of being complacent in dealing with past Ugandan election disputes. As a result, Mr. Besigye said Ugandans are not counting on the international community in case there are problems following next year’s election.