Ugandan police Thursday arrested Forum for Democratic Change leader Dr. Kizza Besigye. He was later released without charge.
But it was Dr. Besigye’s second arrest this week and came as Uganda prepares to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its independence on October 9.
Besigye said he was arrested because the opposition has told Ugandans to mourn on October 9 rather than celebrate the golden jubilee.
“The main reason for the action is that our pressure group, which is called 'For God and My Country' announced that for the independence anniversary next week that considering that the majority of Ugandans are in a desperate condition and the country has been mismanaged for 50 years, we say that rather than celebrating we should mark the 50th anniversary in mourning. And we asked all those people who are in bad desperate condition to put on black and again show our dissatisfaction by walking on foot rather than using vehicles,” he said.
Besigye cited an economy in shambles, infrastructure rundown, social services in decay, unemployment at an unprecedented level and deepening poverty across the country as some of the reasons for which Ugandans should mourn the 50th independence anniversary rather than celebrate it.
Thursday’s arrest was Besigye’s second in a week, and he said on both occasions the police did not say why he was being arrested.
“That’s why I was refusing to leave police cell in Monday because I said you cannot treat me like this. And it’s not the first time that they were doing that. Even previously on a number occasions they had done the same. So this time I said no, I will not leave. You must show cause why you violently arrested me. Obviously there is no crime that we have committed by moving around peacefully. We haven’t even called for a procession or a congregation,” he said.
Besigye said the government has been conducting preventive arrests of opposition figures to prevent them from coming into Kampala because it realizes that many Ugandans are dissatisfied with their situation.
Senior presidential advisor Kirunda Kivejinja said the government has a responsibility to maintain law and order. He accused Besigye and the opposition of trying to disrupt the 50th independence anniversary festivities.
“We are organizing the 50th anniversary of our independence anniversary of our independence, and as a person who took part in the struggle for independence, I know things have not been well, and they can never be well except in heaven. The opposition called not their supporters to disrupt to make sure that the celebration is marred by whatever means,” Kivejinja said.
Kivejinja accused the opposition of holding violent demonstrations with the intent to disrupt commercial activity in the city. But Besigye said it’s the government that has been violent.
“You need to look at what actually goes on at the time we were arrested. Today [Thursday], the part of the town where I was when I was arrested, there were jubilant crowds, giving me donations and all kinds of things until the police came and beat them up and dispatched them violently and injured many people and cause a stampede. So quite obviously, there has never, ever been any violence or any kind of chaos before the police comes and attacked the public,” Besigye said.
The Uganda Daily Monitor reports Friday that its journalists covering the arrest of Dr. Besigye were roughed up by men in police uniform and their equipment destroyed.