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Main Opposition Leader Accuses Ugandan Police of Brutality

FILE - Kizza Besigye, leader of opposition party Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), speaks to the media announcing his candidature for the 2016 presidential election in the capital Kampala.

Uganda’s main opposition leader, Kizza Besigye, has accused President Yoweri Museveni of instigating violence against the opposition ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

This comes after Ugandan police over the weekend manhandled Dr. Besigye and his entourage while they were en route to Rukungiri District, about 400 kilometers from Kampala for a Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) rally.

A female member of Dr. Besigye’s entourage who is shadow secretary for environment was stripped naked in public, tied up and thrown in the back of a pickup truck.

The police said they were simply enforcing the guidelines of the National Independent Electoral Commission. A spokesman was quoted in the local media as saying Dr. Besigye was only a candidate whose nomination has not yet been endorsed by his party and therefore could not hold public rallies.

Dr. Besigye said there’s no law in Uganda that bars him, as a political leader from holding public rallies.

“The statement of the Inspector General of police was quite obviously not based on any law because political parties according to our laws are allowed to hold public meetings of the type that we were to hold. Secondly, I am a leader in a political party, a party which has legitimate functions of holding public meetings. My role in the political party is not suspended because I am a candidate,” he said.

Besigye said Ugandan police have a record of brutalizing women as a way of discouraging them from becoming political activists.

“You know that the Ugandan police have behaved in this manner especially toward women, and I think the intension is quite clear. It is not just to intimidate and harass the particular lady involved but it is intended to send a chill down the spines of our women to make sure that they do not attempt to become political activists, but also to cause fear in the general population,” Besigye said.

Former Ugandan PM Condemns Police

Former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, who is the candidate for the opposition coalition, The Democratic Alliance (STD), issued a statement condemning what he called “the willful police brutality meted out against the FDC Presidential aspirant Dr. Kizza Besigye and his colleagues. We call on Government to rein in the state police who have been brutalizing the innocent public,” he said.

Besigye welcomed the Mbabazi’s statement, but he said he was disappointed by the fact such statements are not issued by those in government.

“What has been one of my concerns is that while he [Mbabazi] was in government a short while back, there were heinous crimes committed by the police, similar violation s of human rights and there was not a finger raised by the Honorable Amama Mbabazi. But it’s good that at least now he’s believing it; he knows where we’ve been and it would be a good thing if those in government, his successors, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda and others in government to raise their fingers because tomorrow they will be victims of the same criminality of these institutions,” Besigye said.

Court: Police can be held liable for human rights violations

In a related development, Uganda’s Constitutional Court ordered Monday that police officers and other state agents implicated in violation of human rights of suspects will be held liable as individuals and not as institutions.

According to the Ugandan Monitor, the panel of five Judges also ordered the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Inspector General of Police to investigate a case in which a couple based in Mbarara is accusing two officers of the disbanded Rapid Response Unit of alleged torture, seizure of property and money worth millions of shillings.