The drama-filled arrest and eventual charging of Forum for Democratic Change leader Dr. Warren Kizza Besigye with treason hundreds of miles away in Moroto, Karamoja region, has attracted criticism and fear from several sections of the population.
Dr. Besigye was arrested by the anti-terrorism and anti-riot police personnel in Kampala on Wednesday but airlifted to Moroto after he eluded tight security at his Kasangati home and showed up in down town Kampala. Besigye’s defiant and unexpected presence in Kampala came on the eve of President Yoweri Museveni’s swearing-in ceremony which Besigye had described as a ‘coup’.
President Museveni was successfully sworn-in for his 5th elective term in office although the event was marked by a walk-out by envoys from the United States of American and the European Union delegation.
On Wednesday, a video showing Besigye taking a Presidential oath alongside some FDC leaders, was posted on the internet fulfilling his gaffe that it would be him to swear-in as president. The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) ordered for a temporary closure of youtube.
The government accuses Besigye of committing treason by taking the presidential oath even though he was not declared winner by the Electoral Commission for the Feb 18, 2016 poll.
Mukono municipality MP Betty Nambooze posted a prayerful comment on her Facebook page when she said: “I put Dr. Besigye in my prayers O Lord….and petition you God the almighty that you look upon your servant with abundant favour….that even while in the hands of his worst enemies,you will not allow these evil men touch his life.”
The US government addressed the media on Friday, a day after the US envoy Deborah Malac walked out on Museveni’s swearing-in, and criticised the government for what it called violations of fundamental freedoms including freedom of expression, assembly and freedom of the media.
The U.S. Principal Deputy Secretary of State for African Affairs Bruce Wharton, who represented President Barack Obama said: “As you have seen recently, we do have some differences with the government of Uganda. As a friend of the Ugandan people, we are concerned when we see freedoms being denied. And as friends will do, we feel an obligation to raise our concerns or objections about decisions that are taken that will have a negative effect on the trajectory of this country and the future of the Ugandan people.
“We care about what happens in Uganda, not because we are looking to get something out of it, but because we believe all citizens deserve to live in a country where their rights and freedoms are respected, so that they can decide for themselves their own futures.”
Renowned Constitutional Lawyer Ladislaus Rwakafuzi dismisses the treason charges that have been brought against Besigye because, as Rwakafuzi told the Sunday Monitor, Besigye didn’t use arms in trying to remove government and that he was simply demonstrating.
Section 23 of the Penal Code Act says that: “A person commits treason when he/she levies war against Uganda; unlawfully causes or attempts to cause the death of the President or maim or disfigure him/her or aims at the person of the President any gun or offensive weapon whether it contains any explosive or destructive substance or not; (c) contrives any plot or act and expresses or declares such plot, act by any utterance or by any overt act in order, by force of arms, to overturn the government….”
Dr. Bisigye declined to make a statement without his lawyer and was remanded to Moroto prison until May 25, 2016 when he will be brought back to hear the charges.