Uganda: Nakasongola Prison a No Go for Anne Mugisha, Olara Otunnu
Anne Mugisha and Olara Otunnu's attempt to see Norbert Mao and Kizza Besigye today was unsuccessful.
Uganda's 'Walk to Work' protests are making global headlines, and the Ugandan government is cracking down, jailing opposition leaders, intimidating citizens andÂ tightening controls over media and internet â€“Â but Uganda's opposition appears determined.
This morning, police blocked Olara Otunnu, President of the Uganda Peoples Congress and Anne Mugisha, a Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party official, from visiting jailed opposition leaders Norbert Mao and Kizza Besigye.
Besigye (president of theÂ Forum for Democratic Change) and Mao (president of the Democratic Party)Â have been in prison since last week,Â arrested duringÂ their participation in the ongoing â€œwalk to workâ€ protests.
Besigye appears in courtÂ tomorrow â€“ many are speculating that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni will make good on threats to charge him with treason, as reported by Ugandan media.
'Orders from Above'
When Mugisha and Otunnu first arrived at Nakasongola Prison,Â officialsÂ told them that due to the public holiday theyâ€™d need to produce a letter from the Commissioner General of Police in order to be granted access to the imprisoned leaders.
Speaking to the Black Star News by phone from Kampala on Monday afternoon, Mugisha detailed the nearly three-hour ordeal with the prison officials.
Mugisha told the Black Star that following the initial denial of access by the first prison officer, Otunnu persisted and asked to speak with the officerâ€™s supervisor.
Several hours later, the supervisor eventually emerged to talk to them, but heÂ also denied them accessÂ â€“ and eventually ordered them to leave prison grounds.
Mugisha says prison officials seemed to be getting directions from an outside source.
â€œThe officer, as he was talking to us, he would pause and go back and talk on the phoneâ€ Mugisha explained.
Mugisha said the security officers appeared to be under a lot of pressure: â€œThey are working under a lot of fear â€“ the officer in charge is not really in charge, because he is getting orders from someone else â€“ whom we do not know.â€
Mugisha said there was an increase in the number of officers as their standoff continued.
â€œI think the most scary thing of all was that they refused to identify themselvesâ€ she said.
â€œWe had three sets of security forces, and as we continued to resist and say that we wanted to see them, the guys who were wearing camouflage started increasing.â€
Despite being turned away today, Mugisha says she will return on Tuesday and try again.
WalkingÂ for Change
An active member of Activists for Change (A4C), the pressure groupÂ organizing the 'Walk to Work' protests, Mugisha says the group has multiple purposes.
â€œOur immediate objective is to really shine a light on the people of Uganda who are undergoing a lot of challenges due to the current economic situation in Uganda and the headlining inflation caused by both local and international factorsâ€ Mugisha told the Black Star.
The groupâ€™s second objective, according to Mugisha, is toÂ "juxtapose" the economic crisis in Uganda "against the exorbitant expenditure of the state."
â€œOne-quarter, and I mean one-quarter, of the national budget was spent on buying the jet fighters, ostensibly to protect our oil reserves. This, in a country that is not producing oil!â€ Mugisha noted.
A4Câ€™s third aim is to reveal the â€œbrutality and violenceâ€ she says is rampant in Uganda. â€œAnother objective is just to expose the brutality of the state and to show the violence of this police state.â€
As evidenced by the world coverage of the brutal crackdown on â€œwalk to workâ€ demonstrators the violence of the state has been exposed, but what will it take to stop it?
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