Uganda Opposition Surges

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A day after he was released on bail, Forum for Democratic Change president Kizza Besigye revealed that he would ask court to postpone his trial until after the February 23 elections.
Dr Besigye said yesterday at the first press conference since his release that he would instruct his lawyers to ask court to allow him to answer the charges of treason and rape later so that he could get more time to campaign.

“I have to divide myself between many places and other things but I still have very many cases in court [and] I still have about 70 districts which I have to campaign in,� he said from his residence in Mbuya.

 Besigye added, “We shall ask court to give us time. The campaigns end on February 21, but I have up to May to be sworn in so between that time, I can answer the cases.â€?

Besigye, who was nominated as the FDC presidential candidate behind bars on December 14, has been in detention since his arrest on November 14.

The five other presidential candidates, incumbent Yoweri Museveni, DP president general Ssebaana Kizito, UPC leader Miria Kalule Obote as well as independents Nasser Sebaggala and Abed Bwanika, hit the campaign trail soon after nominations ended on December 15. Sebaggala has since pulled out and asked his supporters to stand behind Ssebaana.

Ssebaana joined Besigye at the press conference yesterday and the two hinted at the possibility of supporting a joint presidential candidate for the opposition. Besigye said the opposition had been working through the G6, a loose coalition of the mainstream political parties, and would correct any weaknesses that would endanger their chances in the 2006 race. He added that
they had considered “the possibility of supporting a joint candidate�.

Said Ssebaana, “All of us including DP, FDC and others are on the same side of the rope. So we are working on all aspects of cooperation you can think of, including a coalition.�

He added that supporting a joint opposition candidate was still a real possibility. Besigye said if he is elected president, his government would not persecute President Museveni.

He said despite “all the transgressions and aggressions� Museveni’s government has committed against him and FDC supporters, “we will invite all our tormentors to the table and show them how a democratic government is run�.

Besigye added, “We are not bitter. We know what has been done against us but we forgive all those people who have been doing them. We have taken a decision that we must push our unfortunate history behind us including that of President Yoweri Museveni.�

He said the FDC government would give due respect to the current rulers. “We shall duly observe their rights and shall give them a chance to participate in the development of this country,� he said. Besigye hailed the ruling by Justice John Bosco Katutsi that led to his release. “I am proud as a Ugandan that despite all the direct attacks and intimidation against the judiciary, there are still some judges in our judiciary who are courageous to give such a judgment,� he said.

Katutsi ruled that Besigye’s detention at Luzira since November 25 was “illegal and unlawful�. The judge said the General Court Martial had no mandate to renew his remand warrant when the High Court had on December 2 ordered a stay of its proceedings on his case.

Besigye’s release came on the heels of allegations that two judges involved in his cases had received bribes from State House to subvert the course of justice in his trial.

Yesterday, Besigye accused Museveni of being the mastermind of his detention. “The court martial is a court of President Museveni,� he said. “It’s his walking stick. He is part and parcel of the court, so it is President Museveni directly using his court which has deprived me of my freedom all this time�.

Besigye said that instead of him being tried for treason, it is the president who should be in the dock following the ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that found Uganda guilty of invading the Democratic Republic of Congo and looting the neighboring country’s natural resources.

“It’s him who has been running rebel groups in Congo. I have the ruling of the ICJ. It’s him who has plundered Congo, not Besigye,� the FDC leader said. Besigye denied Museveni’s recent accusations that the FDC had been inciting violence.

“All the political violence we have had in this country has been orchestrated by the government,� he said. “When they stole our elections in 2001, we did not go to the bush but we went to court. The court ruled that although our election was massively rigged, the election stands. As soon as I walked out of court, the black mambas of those days were on me.�

The government accuses Besigye of being behind a shadowy rebel group, the People’s Redemption Army (PRA). He has always denied the allegations, although he has also continued saying that Uganda had all the conditions that make countries prone to war.

Yesterday he said, “All I have been saying without apology is that a government which conducts itself in a manner that is against the people would be fought. A person who points a finger at the danger is not the cause of danger. I do not have any rebel organizations.�

(Source: The Daily Monitor

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