The opposition leader Kizza Besigye was arrested yesterday by Ugandan police, just hours before the man he accuses of rigging the recent elections, Yoweri Museveni, is sworn in to extend his 30-year rule by another five-year term as president on Thursday.
Kizza’s arrest came after being ‘sworn in’ as president, a day before incumbent Museveni’s inauguration.
"Winner of the 2016 election, after swearing in as the new President of Uganda," the opposition party Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.
As the FDC leader was addressing a crowd in Kampala after the mock ceremony, police descended on them and arrested him.
Ever since the country’s disputed February 18 general election, Besigye has been on a campaign of defiance with an aim of invalidating what he terms as Museveni’s “illegal presidency.” He has been arrested several times prior to the elections and even after the polls.
According to Besigye, he won the election with 52 percent votes, despite the official announcement that declared Museveni winner garnering 61 percent votes. Besigye got 35 percent but called the vote rigged.
Since the February polls, the opposition has called for an international audit of the election results, but the government has rejected the demand with officials claiming that Museveni’s victory was lawful, free and fair.
However, EU monitors argue that the election was held in an intimidating atmosphere. It further said that the electoral body was neither independent nor transparent as it ought to be.
Uganda should learn from Comoros
Uganda is not the first country to have disputed elections, but how it handles the difference of opinion is what democracy is all about.
Following a disputed second round of the presidential poll held on April 10, Comoros decided to hold a partial re-run in 13 constituencies with an aim of identifying the lawful candidate to take up the leadership position. The re-run was ordered by the country’s constitutional court following irregularities in the second round vote.
But not in Uganda. Instead of a re-run or allowing an independent body to audit the election results, Uganda has been arresting and teargassing protesters in order to intimidate them, and on Thursday, it will be swearing in a leader that has not been accepted by the majority of people, according to Besigye.
Last Thursday, Ugandan police arrested at least 18 protesters. The opposition accused the police of using live rounds and detaining about 100 people demonstrating against newly re-elected president.
The police said they detained the 18 for "disobeying lawful orders" by holding unauthorized demonstrations.
Ingrid Turinawe, of FDC which called the protests, disagrees with the police statistics saying the number detained was much higher than they (police) said.
"We're still compiling data but it's in dozens, close to a hundred people," she said.
"The response from the state was very brutal, all the people who tried to match across the country were arrested," she was quoted by Reuters, adding police fired live ammunition in some areas.
Police spokesman Patrick Onyango denied the allegation, saying officers had used "minimum force".
Since the disputed vote, Besigye, who has lost four elections to Museveni, has been under virtual house arrest, according to FDC.
The media has been banned by the local government from covering "live activities" of the FDC party.
Human Rights Watch said the Ugandan government was showing "contempt for free expression rights."
"Media should report fairly and accurately but it cannot be required to agree with the government at all times," said Maria Burnet, a researcher for the New York-based rights group.
While Museveni is credited for restoring steady economic growth and stability in the country which was under brutal and chaotic rule by former dictators such as Idi Amin, his critics accuse him of not handling corruption, maltreating the opposition and add that he acts increasingly like the men he overthrew.
Acknowledging that corruption is a menace in Uganda, Museveni argues that his government is working hard to tackle it.
Image credit: Reuters/Goran Tomasevic