Uganda Dictator: Opposition Grows

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Momentum continues to build against the government of Gen. Yoweri K. Museveni as Ugandans around the world participated in mass demonstrations following the arrest of Dr. Kizza Besigye, widely believed to be poised to win Uganda’s March presidential elections.

Dr. Besigye who returned from four years exile in South Africa to tumultuous welcome was arrested November 14 after addressing supporters in Uganda. He is being held at Luzira Maximum Security Prison. Last week, the judge trying the government’s case withdrew after armed government thugs wearing black T-shirts and military fatigues surrounded the High Court where Dr. Besigye's bail application was due to be heard. Dr. Besigye’s family has been denied the right to bring him food from home—he has not eaten solid meals fearing he will be poisoned, something not uncommon in Uganda prisons.

His arrest sparked days of rioting in Kampala, the capital, by pro-democracy supporters. One person was shot to death when the country’s armed forces suppressed the uprising. The strong-arm tactics by the Ugandan government, formerly a darling of Western governments, was widely condemned. Here in New York, Saturday, scores of Ugandans from within the state, as well as those from Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania showed up at Dag Hammarskjold Park near the United Nations headquarters to voice the concern with the increasing state of tyranny in their home country. They were joined by some Americans and Africans from other countries. The peaceful demonstrators wore placards that read “Free Besigye Now,� and “U.S. End Support For Dictator Museveni,� and chanted “Free Besigye, Arrest Museveni,� and “No Justice, No Peace.�

The demonstration attracted a diverse group of Ugandans of all ethnic, religious and political groups. The theme of the rally was that Ugandans have had enough of President Museveni's tricks and tactics aimed at staying in power for life. “It is quite ironic that this was one of the main criticisms he had against the former Presidents he fought so hard to remove from office,� the marchers said, in a statement issued.

The group also issued a press release passed on to members of the local and international press as well as members of the UN Missions and general public. At the end of the demonstration, the Ugandans moved peacefully with their placards past the building housing Uganda’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations. “The Ugandan community in New York will continue to monitor the events in Uganda and plans to have more demonstrations and consultations, coordinating with Ugandans globally, until Dr. Besigye is released from jail so that Ugandans can have a real debate of ideas and choice of leadership,� the group said.

 The press release disseminated denounced the Uganda government on the following matters: 
• The recent events of the current government of the Republic of Uganda including the baseless arrest of the leading  opposition leader, Dr. Besigye during the Presidential campaign under way and intimidation of other opposition leaders

• The recent violation of human rights for concerned citizens who had gathered to protest the recent events by members of the military, intelligence organizations and the police forces, commanded by President Museveni and his military leaders

• The current intimidation of members of the judiciary trying cases brought by the state against opposition politicians--armed soldiers and militias surrounding the Uganda High Court and re-arresting citizens freed by the judges.

• The harassment of the newspapers and radio stations that are committed to report the embarrassing events of the past week

• The manipulations of the current administration of President Museveni to amend the constitution so that he can run for another term after being in office for 19 years. There is strong resistance among the Ugandan population for this idea because people are anxious for new leadership that will move the country along with new ideas and plans.

• The usurping of powers of governance by the President and his closest relatives so that they continue to spend government resources for personal gains. The corruption and waste of national resources has reached epidemic levels and the current administration cannot imagine living under different conditions

• The increasing levels of unemployment, poverty, disease and infrastructure decay. The national health care system, education system and economy have been stagnant over the last 5-10 years due to lack of leadership and new ideas from the current government

• Lack of a comprehensive peace initiative for the people of Northern Uganda who have been displaced and affected by a civil war in the last 19 years

• The United States, World Bank, EU and IMF’s support of President Museveni’s government and dictatorship by continuing to give him funds to support his primitive methods of governance.

• The lack of a level playing field for opposition parties in Uganda seeking to ouster the current administration from power while the President’s NRM party has access to government resources as needed.

• The deteriorating rule of law and order in Uganda during the presidential elections under way.

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