Uganda opposition groups are calling on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to file charges against President Yoweri Museveni after he said his government tear-gassed demonstrators.
The demonstrators were protesting against what they said were difficult economic conditions in the country. Opposition leader Kizza Besigye, along with other demonstrators, were tear-gassed and there were reports that some were beaten by police.
But, speaking over the weekend, President Museveni said the series of protests were aimed at destabilizing the country.
Museveni was quoted as saying, “No one can disorganize the country. Besigye tried to disorganize Kampala, the capital city. We tear-gassed him until he cooled off. He doesn’t need bullets. Just teargas is enough for him.”
A member of parliament, Mathias Mpuga, who organized the protests, said the ICC should use Museveni’s pronouncement as evidence to indict and prosecute him for human rights abuses.
“The ICC should take note that there is no more denial that the prime suspect in this heinous crime against humanity has actually confessed publicly, and there is no turning back in indicting him,” said Mpuga. “If the ICC is a serious organization that is actually concerned about the rights of people globally, then an inquest must commence into the activities of Mr. Museveni and his armed men who actually committed this crime.”
Several opposition groups condemned Museveni’s statement, saying his stance shows he is against dissent. They said the international community should put pressure on the Ugandan leader to uphold constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and association.
“We await the international community to react and draw the president to his obligation to the Rome Statute, to make sure that he respects the rule of law, [and] rights of the people,” said Mpuga.
Supporters of the ruling party say the opposition has refused to accept its defeat in the last general election and is trying to make the country ungovernable through protests and demonstrations. They contend that the president was has a constitutional mandate to deploy state institutions to protect life and property as well as maintain the country’s peace and stability.
But, Mpuga says the constitution doesn’t give Museveni the power to break the law.
“The constitution does not arm the president to behave with impunity in the name of protecting a country, where there is no threat,” Mpuga said.