Forum for Democratic Change leader Kizza Besigye yesterday led security personnel on a cat-and-mouse chase, twice being placed under “preventive arrest” during a chaotic day in Kasangati, Wakiso District.
The morning run-around saw the police adamantly refusing to charge the opposition leader who was for the first time joining the renewed walk-to-work protests despite his insistence that he be prosecuted.
Police personnel in Kasangati repeatedly declared they were under “orders from above” not to charge, but keep him indoors.
Between April and May, Dr Besigye was confined to his residence under the same archaic law invoked yesterday which was routinely used by former colonial masters - Britain - to restrain mainly Africans from political agitation. Speaking to journalists later outside his home, Dr Besigye said he would continue with the campaign today until he is detained, arrested or prosecuted.
Pressure group Activists for Change (A4C) last week launched the second phase of the campaign aimed at sharing in the plight of Ugandans suffering due to high food and fuel prices as well as rising cost of living.
Along with several aides, Dr Besigye gave the police watching his home a frantic time as they scrambled to ensure that he would not slip out unnoticed even with all roads leading out of the residence closed off.
At 8:09am, Dr Besigye slipped out through a back exit. Accompanied by his driver, Mr Fred Kato, and aides Martin Byomuhangi, Julius Amanya and Moses Byamugisha, he quietly navigated through back passages and neighbouring homesteads, surfacing at the nearby Kasangati trading centre to the astonishment of locals.
His sudden appearance at the trading centre sent crowds jubilating and attracted the attention of riot police who promptly moved in.
At Kasangati Health Centre, the party was stopped by plain-clothed and uniformed security personnel. A scuffle ensued before riot police let off canisters of teargas to disperse swelling crowds.
Dr Besigye and his aides were bundled onto a police double-cabin truck and whisked off to Kasangati Police Station. Mr Byomuhangi and the others were badly beaten by police at the station, leaving him with bruises, a swollen head and lips, and clothes torn.
Here, Dr Besigye insisted he be charged but this was rejected by personnel manning the station. Instead, he was driven back to his home together with Mr Byomuhangi.
Bleeding and bruised, Mr Kato, Mr Amanya and Mr Byamugisha were later taken to Luzira Prison after they failed to complete the bail process in time.
Magistrate Lutalo Bbosa of Kasangati Magistrate’s Court had granted them bail after they were charged with damaging government property while an additional charge of causing bodily harm on a police officer was preferred against Mr Amanya.
Journalists were momentarily barred from entering Dr Besigye’s home as angry youths pelted police with objects and formed barricades on the Kasangati-Gayaza highway.
Patients rushed to Mulago
Two people were injured after teargas canisters exploded over their heads while two others were rushed by a team from the Red Cross to Mulago Referral Hospital after the motorcycle they were travelling on was rammed by a speeding commuter taxi.
A defiant Dr Besigye and Mr Byomuhangi re-emerged at 10am, again through a back exit. They were shortly intercepted by riot police and security personnel.
“I am simply exercising my right to go about my business. Why are you trying to stop me?” Dr Besigye asked as he refused attempts to convince him to return to his house.
Dr Besigye and his entourage made a detour through his nearby farm, stomping through a banana plantation, jumping over a stream and wading through a swamp, cassava plantation and a thicket, emerging at an area called Masooli with plain-clothed security operatives in hot pursuit.
A police van and pickup truck with riot police soon arrived in Masooli. Journalists and residents who had been following Dr Besigye were violently dispersed and Dr Besigye again thrown into the police van. The vehicle sped back to his house where he was pushed out.
While in the van, Dr Besigye said he unsuccessfully asked the officers to arrest and charge him.
“You have to be returned to your home,” he quoted the officers as saying. “That above (who ordered my confinement), which I am yet to know, must be a criminal,” Dr Besigye commented.
Lawyers David Mpanga and Ernest Kalibala rushed to Dr Besigye’s home where they held a short meeting with him. “I have taken instructions from my client and will now execute them,” Mr Mpanga said as he left Dr Besigye’s home in the company of Mr Kalibala.
Dr Besigye called off further action at midday after vowing to walk to work again today.
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