While returning home one evening last week, a conversation started in a vehicle we were travelling in about Police’s recent use of force while arresting former Leader of Opposition party Forum for Democratic Change president Dr. Kizza Besigye at Container village in Kampala.
The police had assembled hundreds of its men dressed in anti-riot gear, as well as plain clothes, plus several of its ugly vehicles used for quelling riots to try to stop Besigye from progressing to address a rally at Wankulukuku in Lubaga division.
Whereas some co-passengers backed Police for reportedly protecting the businesses of ordinary people from allegedly getting destroyed by a rally, one woman seemed incensed by the force’s routine and growingly ruthless violation of Dr. Kizza Besigye’s rights.
She argued that Police’s recent behaviour especially in its treatment of opposition politicians, have a chilling effect on the state of human rights in Uganda.
“It’s as if Besigye no longer has any right to do anything. He cannot go to the market to buy anything like the rest of us, he cannot walk.”She went on: “The police say that he disrupts business when he walks, but even when he gets out in his car, they tow it,” said the lady, whose submission quieted everyone in the car. She recounted similar experiences including from her home town of Lira, where she said, the Police have beaten up beat as a pretext to arrest opposition leaders by claiming that the opposition causes chaos.
On the fateful evening of May 27, Besigye was bundled into a police van and whisked to Jinja road police in Kampala where he was released late in the night without any charges preferred upon him. Besigye recently said he has grown tired of the police’s violation of his rights and that he planned to sue the police.
But as Ugandans wait for Besigye’s court battle with government over his rights, it appears that the Police’s hostile handling of the former FDC leader is starting to boomerang by making the opposition politician gain more popularity as opposed to diminishing his influence.
Following his arrest at Container village, hundreds of people have asked the two time presidential contender to once again run for president. While Besigye has not ruled out a third attempt at the presidency, he has repeated that with the current Electoral Commission hand-picked by president Museveni, he cannot contest for power.
In their quest to rally the masses to demand for an independent Electoral Commission as well as laws that guarantee free and fair elections that has however landed them into trouble with the police.
Since Besigye, Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago and other opposition leaders launched their plan to rally Ugandans to demand for meaningful reforms in Uganda’s electoral laws, they have become haunted men by the police.
Over the past one month, Besigye and Lukwago have been arrested thrice. They were arrested at Nsambya on May 14 ahead of a consultative meeting on electoral reforms.
Nearly a week after, May 19, Besigye and Erias Lukwago, were again prevented from leaving their homes by the police.
Writing on his Facebook wall, Besigye said the officer in charge of Kasangati Police where he lives, told him that the detention was made to stop him from causing mayhem.
“I was informed by the police “blockade commander” (one Ahimbisibwe) that I wouldn’t be allowed out of my home because he had reliable information that I intended to cause mayhem in Kampala city that day!,” said Besigye.
The inter-religious council of Uganda this week condemned police’s treatment of opposition politicians.
From Besigye’s analysis however, the Police is not about to abandon their hostile attitude because of their partisan tendencies.
Besigye recalls for example that on May 20, the day when he and other opposition leaders presented the views to the Comittee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, that is considering the Constitutional reforms, one female colleague – one Phiona Kabayiza, was badly beaten and bundled into a police pick-up. FDC strongwoman Ingrid Turinawe followed her to the police.
On leaving Parliament, Besigye narrates that he and JEEMA president Asuman Basalirwa visited the police station to try to secure the freedom of their colleagues.
He was shocked to find Room 48 at CPS plastered with posters praising President Yoweri Mseveni in an institution that is supposed to be impartial.
“In Room 48, police detectives welcomed us. Ingrid and Phiona were there, apparently, in the process of being given police bonds. Shortly after our arrival, the detective who was working on their case received a telephone call and walked out of the room.
Besigye adds “While he was outside, I noticed the Museveni/NRM campaign posters for 2016-2021, which were plastered all over the office.
Besigye wrote that the partisan posters reminded me of similar campaign posters that filled the office of Siraj Bakareke (the Kampala Regional Police Commander), when he was still in charge of Kawempe.
Although Besigye says that he “can never rest unless the blatant abuse of Human Rights in our country is brought under control!” it appears the police is determined to break his will, for as long as the rest of Ugandans tolerate it.
In a telephone interview with the Police Spokesperson Fred Enanga told this reporter that on several occasions, the police has resorted to using ‘all necessary means prescribed in the Criminal Procedures Code’ to arrest Besigye. Enanga says the police resorts to the extremes because Besigye usually resists arrest.
At Container Village, police blocked Besigye from proceeding to Wankulukuku for a rally. Enganga told The Sunrise that whereas the Lubaga mayor Joyce Nabbosa Ssebuggwawo, who happens to be the FDC national chairman, had organised a rally in the division, she allegedly told Police that she had not invited Besigye. The Sunrise could not verify if indeed Besigye had not been invited as Ssebuggwawo’s could not be reached on her phone.
“At container village, Besigye’s driver abandoned the can in the middle of the road while Besigye locked himself in the car. We were forced to tow the vehicle, because we could not let it in the road,” added Enanga.
This week, June 04, 2015, Besigye and Lukwago were charged in Makindye court for allegedly staging an unauthorised assembly. The duo denied the charges and were released on bail. But Besigye said everybody saw that a rally never took place and that police is trying to fabricate cases to frustrate them,
But human rights experts argue that without broader active involvement of other Ugandans in demanding for the freedoms of even a few people like Besigye, the state of human rights will worsen. One wonders what it will take to ignite action among other Ugandans to stand up for human rights in Uganda.