I accuse Museveni, too, but we are pursuing dialogue that is structured and mediated

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Ugandan opposition leader Dr Kizza Besigye. PHOTO | FILE 

Posted  Monday, November 14   2016 at  13:26

In Summary

  • Dr Besigye was arrested on polling day on February 18 for allegedly blowing the whistle on massive rigging.
  • He claims that his multiple arrests and subsequent treason charges sought to prevent him from lodging a legal challenge against Museveni, who has been president since 1986.

Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye has flipped the treason allegations against him on to President Yoweri Museveni, whom he now accuses of staging a coup d’etat against the will of the people.

Dr Besigye says he was arrested on polling day on February 18 for blowing the whistle on massive rigging. In the first exclusive media interview since the election, the opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) leader claims that more than 300 leaders of his party were arrested to frustrate any legal challenge to the outcome of the elections, which international observers said were neither free nor fair. Dr Besigye claims that his multiple arrests and subsequent treason charges sought to prevent him from lodging a legal challenge against Museveni, who has been president since 1986.

“The detention of one of the candidates by another candidate is what constitutes treason. It is, therefore, paradoxical that it is me in the courts charged with treason and not Museveni, who is using guns to contain the rightly elected person,” he said.

Dr Besigye told judges, lawyers and election experts at the Annual Jurists Conference in Durban, South Africa, that he wants to pursue a non-violent strategy for change in what he signals as a break with tradition in Uganda, where there has not been a peaceful handover of power since Independence in 1962.

His forehead furrowing into the trademark four lines, his hair beginning to gray ever so slightly, Dr Besigye launched a blistering attack on President Museveni, an erstwhile guerilla comrade for whom he was a personal doctor.

Reeling off facts and figures about Uganda to a rapt audience, Dr Besigye recalled that when the guerilla war that put Museveni in power began, there were only 30 individuals and 27 guns.

“I bring with me my history and an understanding of the context,” said Dr Besigye.

He called on the international community to support structured dialogue that would lead to a peaceful transition in Uganda.

The leader of the opposition FDC tells KWAMCHETSI MAKOKHA that seeking the presidency is not the end of his struggle, but a push to change the system and hand the control of the country to the citizens

What happened with the last election in Uganda early this year?

On election day, I was arrested for identifying and insisting on an inspection of a house where most of the operation for rigging that election was taking place: A house where there were tonnes of pre-ticked ballot papers and where all the manipulations were being [co-ordinated].

We had located this house from insider information and insisted that it should be inspected. I was arrested and detained until the middle of the night, when I was released. The following day, as results were coming in, the police violently invaded us, fired teargas into the office and premises around about, and arrested us. Before that, one of the senior police officers had come in to inquire if we wanted to release the results of the elections. He said they were concerned that releasing results was the sole responsibility of the Electoral Commission. We could not release the results when voting was still going on, because a lot of areas round the city, which were closest to the Electoral Commission, did not receive their voting materials till the next day.

We told him that we could not release results when voting was still going on… but we were free to comment on results that had been announced at the polling station by the Electoral Commission. We were horrified to hear the same Electoral Commission announcing totally different results at the national tally centre from those released at the polling stations. Announcing what was presented at the Electoral Commission cannot be an offence, because that is why we are given a copy of the results.

This officer left, and what followed was the invasion and arrest on February 19. I did not become free again until May 11, when I escaped from them and appeared briefly in the city.

How did you escape?

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