Kampala. The US Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday telephoned President Museveni to raise concern about the detention of the Forum for Democratic Change party presidential candidate, Dr Kizza Besigye, arrested four times over five days since February 15, and the general harassment of Opposition supporters.
Mr Museveni confirmed to this reporter last night by telephone that he [Museveni] spoke with Mr Kerry, but he said he told the topmost American diplomat that “democracy cannot operate in anarchy, and everybody should behave according to the law”.
“I told him that Besigye had not been detained [on Thursday], but escorted back to his house because he had attempted to assault a government [facility], in this case a police, office which is not acceptable anywhere in any country,” the President told this newspaper, recounting his telephone conversation with the US Secretary of State.
Police picked up the four-time presidential candidate in Naguru, a Kampala suburb, where he and top FDC officials demanded access to a building they suspected security agencies were using to alter election results.
The conversation between Mr Museveni and Mr Kerry happened before police yesterday detained Dr Besigye, together with FDC president Maj Gen (Rtd) Muntu Mugisha and the party’s national mobiliser Ingrid Turinawe, whom the Force accused of allegedly scheming to “illegally” announce “purported final results of the presidential elections”.
“It has been made clear through various forums that any attempt by anyone other than the Electoral Commission, including the [Besigye’s] FDC party to declare their own results will amount to disturbing public order,” spokesperson Patrick Onyango said in a statement. Dr Besigye was released last night.
The military earlier in the day rolled out armoured vehicles to patrol highways into the city, placed Kampala Central Business District on a lock-down and several people were arrested in confrontations at polling stations and on the street.
The US Department of State provided a read out of Kerry’s telephone conversation, which detailed only what the American diplomat told President Museveni during the discussion.
Mr Kerry, according to the read out, “expressed his concern about the detentions of Opposition candidate Kizza Besigye and harassment of Opposition party members during voting and tallying, and he urged President Museveni to rein in the police and security forces, noting that such action calls into question Uganda’s commitment to a transparent and credible election process free from intimidation.”
He urged the President to “immediately” end government’s obstruction of the popular social media and mobile money sites since Thursday, this week.
Thousands of Ugandan users afterward began using encrypted private networks to circumvent the snarl-up, and communicate on Facebook, by Twitter and WhatsApp.
In response to a Daily Monitor inquiry on what he told Secretary Kerry, Mr Museveni called this reporter back at 9:07pm to confirm that the latter had “raised those points with me”.
“Most importantly,” the President said: “I told Kerry not to worry a lot about the internal affairs of Uganda because we know how to handle the issues, and I will call the [new United States] Ambassador and tell her the things she does not know about Uganda.”
Ms Deborah Malac assumed office as US envoy to Kampala only a week ago, replacing Scott DeLisi.
Mr Kerry had underscored that Uganda’s “progress depends on adherence to democratic principles in the ongoing election process and that the United States stands by the Ugandan people as they undertake this most essential democratic endeavour”.