Uganda’s Kizza Besigye under house arrest for planning protest

Police in Kampala on Thursday morning foiled an attempt by opposition strongman and four-time presidential candidate Dr Kizza Besigye to stage a protest.

Dr Besigye was set to protest against the soaring commodity prices in the country and an alleged political succession plan.

Last week, the former Forum for Democratic Change leader said he would announce a public protest against the government inaction in dealing with rising commodity prices.

He also wanted a demonstration against the much-speculated Lt Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba succession plan—talk has been going round that Kainerugaba is being primed to succeed his father President Yoweri Museveni, while Kainerugaba has also hinted at having a political ambition.

Dr Besigye’s new drive is dubbed “awakening the citizens of Uganda”, coupled with monikers such as “transition not succession” and “Tusimbudde”, a Luganda word that means “we have set off.”

Dr Besigye was intercepted by riot police deployed around his home in Kasangati, Wakiso District in Kampala, just moments after he addressed journalists about his new campaign that he described as a wakeup call for all the citizens.

By press time, Dr Besigye’s home was still surrounded by police.

Kampala Metropolitan police spokesperson Luke Owoyesigire told The EastAfrican that police got information late in the night that Dr Besigye planned demonstration in Kampala over the rising commodity prices and they had to step in.

“In respect to what we know about many of his demonstrations and his ideas of defiance, he didn’t go through the normal procedures of the Public Order Management Act so it is through that, that we had to stop him from accessing the city centre with any other person that was with him and he was taken back to his home,” he said.

Uganda’s Public Order Management Act requires an individual or groups to notify and seek permission from the Inspector General of Police before carrying out any form of demonstration. Most of these requests are denied, causing running battles between demonstrators and police afterwards.

The police spokesman added that police would remain around Dr Besigye’s home as long as they felt there was still a threat of him engaging in such activities. 

Mr Owoyesigire said the police have arrested one person accused of hitting a patrol car in the vicinity, and he will be charged with a traffic offence of reckless driving.

Dr Besigye was blocked from trying to walk from his home to Kasangati town in a replica of his famous 2011 walk-to-work protests that came at the backdrop of a general election, and which were embraced by several opposition leaders. The 2011 protests spread across many parts of the country although they were brutally suppressed by both the military and police, leaving five dead, scores injured and hundreds languishing in prisons.

Dr Besigye, civil society group Activists for Change, and other citizens, were protesting rising food and fuel prices, corruption and government misappropriation of public funds by Museveni’s administration. The 2011 protests attracted press coverage and unwanted attention from the military and police.

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