Democratic Party president general Norbert Mao and six others yesterday refused to apply for bail at City Hall Court in Kampala and were remanded to Luzira Maximum Security Prison for two weeks.
Mr Mao was picked up by security personnel yesterday morning as he left his Ntinda home. He was set to participate in the walk-to-work campaign in solidarity with Ugandans reeling under the weight of the rising cost of living attributed to the high cost of fuel.
The opposition leader’s refusal to enjoy his constitutional right to bail marks an unprecedented turn in events as the campaign enters its third week. The fuel protests are spreading countrywide as the government, led by President Museveni, insists it cannot do anything about the prices.
In court, after the presiding magistrate had read the charges to the accused, she asked each of the accused how they plead to them. The DP leader, who was one of four presidential candidates in the February 18 election, spoke on behalf of his colleagues, waxing poetic. “Once again, Your Lordship, if it’s an offence to protest against the high commodity prices in the country, then I am guilty. If it’s an offence to speak on behalf of other Ugandans, then I am guilty,” Mr Mao replied. “Once again, Your Worship, they have brought the wrong people to court”
The DP chief addressed the press shortly after court and said applying for bail would not help since the following day, they would protest again and be re-arrested. The Activists 4 Change pressure group, which made the clarion call for this campaign, has set aside Monday and Thursday as days of protest against inflation which now stands at more than 11per cent -- up from 6 per cent two months ago. “It’s useless to apply for bail since tomorrow we shall also protest again against the high commodity prices and they will still arrest us again,” he said.
Presiding grade one magistrate Juliet Hatanga was left no option but to remand the seven accused to Luzira although she had earlier asked them to apply for bail since its their constitutional right.“Since your lawyer has said he does not have instructions from you to apply for bail and upon confirmation from each of you, court has no choice but to remand you to Luzira Prison until May 2,” Magistrate Hatanga ruled.
Mr Mao, together with six DP supporters, were charged with two offences of assault occasioning to bodily harm and incitement to violence. Prosecution alleges that Mr Mao, together with Mr Paul Kenneth Kakande, Mr John Mary Ssebufu, Mr Lameck Kasozi Kamya, Mr Moses Bigirwa, Mr Elvis Kintu and Mr Tadeo Kalule, yesterday at Ntinda in Kampala assaulted a police officer, Sergeant Yunuse Baizze
Further, prosecution alleges that yesterday at Ntinda, a suburb east of the city, the accused, without lawful excuse, incited others into acts to cause commotion to other members of the public by reason of their political opinion. The accused were taken to Luzira aboard two police patrol cars amidst cheers from the DP supporters who had thronged the court. They (supporters) vowed to take to the streets today and walk to Luzira to see their president.