Ms Winnie Byanyima yesterday began attending to her husband Kizza Besigye, who is receiving specialised treatment at Nairobi Hospital, but said she is “very distressed” by the injuries Ugandan security forces inflicted on him.
“I am very distressed about the whole thing,” she told this newspaper in her first comments to the media since the opposition politician’s violent arrest last Thursday.
Ms Byanyima, who is the UNDP director for Gender in New York, flew into the Kenyan capital on Wednesday to be by her husband’s side as he recuperates from partial sight and hearing impairment following the police attack.
Security operatives - one of them hooded - descended on Dr Besigye at Mulago Roundabout and in broad daylight shattered his vehicle’s backdoor windows before dousing him in pepper spray and tear gas. He was later dragged face-down and stuffed under improvised seats on the back of a police pick-up truck the way they do to unidentified corpses, accident victims and armed robbers.
The operation in which Gilbert Bwana Arinaitwe, a man said to be a CID officer attached to the Kireka-headquartered Rapid Response Unit, took centre stage, left the FDC president half blind and writhing in pain.
This forced relatives to airlift him to Nairobi Hospital but not before thwarting a government attempt to stop the patient from boarding the plane at Entebbe Airport.
In yesterday’s brief telephone conversation, Ms Byanyima said she is disturbed and lost for words.
“All I can say is I have now arrived and we are trying to see the best possible way of how to have his eyes fully repaired so that he goes back to work,” she said.
Ms Byanyima, a former Mbarara Municipality MP, is understood to have been a close friend to Mr Museveni and even participated in the 1981-6 NRA guerilla war together with Dr Besigye who was the President’s personal physician in the bush.
In Kampala, condemnation of the violent arrest continued to grow and divide as debate in Parliament on the incident polarised members along party lines (see story on page 3)
President Museveni and Internal Affairs Minister Kirunda Kivejinja, in explaining last Thursday’s melee and subsequent riots the next day in which five people were reportedly shot dead, blamed it all on Dr Besigye and his supporters.
They alleged that he was the first to threaten security operatives with a hammer and pepper-spray them. This account contrasts with photographs (see page 3), depicting a hooded man wielding the carpenter’s tool approaching Dr Besigye’s car from the rear and smashing its windscreen until he lost grip and the hammer fell inside.
Last evening, Dokolo Woman MP Cecilia Ogwal said Besigye is improving but doctors are uncertain what the long-term health effect of the “toxic chemicals” sprayed on him would be.
Ms Ogwal, a top FDC official, who has spent about seven hours with Dr Besigye over the last two days, said the opposition politician “feels strongly that citizens have a constitutional right, and should not fear, to express their views on how they are governed”.