The wife of former Ugandan opposition presidential candidate Dr. Kizza Besigye is calling for his immediate and unconditional release from police detention.
Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party was arrested Wednesday by Ugandan police after making a surprise appearance in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, causing a stampede by his supporters who wanted to see him.
He had been under police surveillance at his house since the disputed February 18 presidential election. Yoweri Museveni, who won the contested poll, is to be sworn in for another term as president on Thursday.
The Uganda Electoral Commission said Museveni, who has been president since 1986, won the February election with 61 percent of the vote. Besigye and his party supporters say he won with 52 percent of the vote.
Besigye’s wife, Winnie Byanyima, said she is concerned about her husband’s health and the lack of information about his whereabouts.
“I’m extremely concerned because I cannot confirm where he is being held. I’m demanding to know where he is being held so the family can check on him and his lawyers can check on him. I’m also demanding for his immediate release because he has committed no crime,” she said.
“I’m concerned about his health because he has been suffering from chest infection since they injected teargas and pepper spray into the car that he was in a couple weeks ago when he was arrested. He hasn’t been well, and I’m now concerned that he has disappeared,” Byanyima said.
Besigye's charge of ‘illegal presidency’
Besigye has embarked on a campaign of defiance since the election aimed at invalidating what he calls Museveni’s “illegal presidency”.
But the Ugandan Constitutional Court has barred the FDC and Besigye from carrying on their campaign of defiance pending the outcome of a constitutional case filed by the Ugandan government.
The FDC had announced on Tuesday it would swear Besigye in as the "people's president" and Byanyima said she heard the FDC inauguration had been carried out and she saw video of it on social media.
She said her husband should never have been arrested because he committed no crime.
“What I know is that Kizza Besigye has committed no crime. It was not a crime that he stood in the election; it was not a crime that he won that election; and it’s not a crime that he should go among his supporters and be seen in the city like any other citizen,” she said.
Police: Besigye arrest justified
In an interview with VOA this week, Inspector General of Ugandan Police Kale Kayihura defended the government’s policy of containment of Besigye. He also denied the police have been partisan.
“The police do not act on the basis of politics, let alone partisan politics. Police operate on the basis if there is an indication that somebody is about to commit an offense or has committed an offense obviously the police will be interested,” Kayihura said.
Byanyima described the police containment action as rubbish and total nonsense.
“He’s a Ugandan and enjoys the same rights as every other Ugandan to move freely in the country, to go wherever he wants, to meet, and to even call a meeting,” Byanyima said.
She called on President Museveni to find a solution to the challenge his government faces.
“My message to President Museveni is to step back and reflect. He may go to his coronation but this will not take away the fact that it was a discredited election and that Ugandans are rejecting the results and that he needs to step back and find a resolution to this challenge that the country faces,” Byanyima said.
Byanyima also called on the government to end its blocking of social media in Uganda.