After being arrested and charged three times in two weeks over his participation in the walk-to-work campaign, protesting high fuel and commodity prices, FDC leader Kizza Besigye was sent to prison yesterday afternoon by a Kampala magistrate.
Dr Besigye, who marks his 55th birthday today, was forcibly removed from Mulago Road and bundled into a police van and driven at break-neck speed to Wandegeya Police Station under heavily-armed guard.
Plain-clothed and uniformed security made the mid-morning arrest near the Mulago roundabout. The opposition leader was later driven to Nabweru Court in Bwaise, northwest of Kampala, along with Harold Kaija, Francis Mwijukye and Jethro Nuwagaba. They appeared before Ms Justine Atukwasa on charges of holding an unlawful assembly, which they denied.
According to Prisons spokesperson Frank Baine, Dr Besigye was delivered to Nakasongola Prison – about 60 miles north of Kampala, at 3pm.
“He was received by Mr Jacob Kivumbi,” Mr Baine said. Contrary information, however, initially suggested Dr Besigye may have been quietly taken to Murchison Bay, Luzira Prison, east of Kampala. But Mr Baine insisted last evening: “Dr Besigye is safely in Nakasongola Prison.”
Dr Besigye’s personal aide Sam Mugumya also told Daily Monitor yesterday evening that he met Dr Besigye in the Nakasongola Prison.
“He is trying to make the best out of an otherwise bad situation,” Mr Mugumya said, adding that the FDC leader was in fairly high spirit.
Dr Besigye joins Democratic Party leader Norbert Mao who was transferred to Nakasongola from the Luzira Prison early yesterday morning with his co-accused.
In Nabweru, a fully packed court house had listened attentively to Chief Magistrate Justine Atukwasa refuse to entertain pleas by Dr Besigye’s lawyers for a bail application. “I will set another date for the bail hearing, not today,” Ms Atukwasa said.
Ms Atukwasa said she had other “pressing matters” to deal with.
The state prosecutor had also told court that inquiries into the matter were still ongoing.
Lawyer Ernest Kalibala then asked to be allowed to confer with his clients. Moments later, Dr Besigye made a statement before he was remanded.
Dr Besigye said: “The circumstances under which I am going to be remanded are disturbing. The police are persecuting me and infringing on my rights. It is trying to use this honourable court to further abuse my rights. I have been arrested three times before for going about my own business. I have done nothing wrong.”
Ms Atukwasa set the bail hearing for April 27.
Addressing the press after court, Dr Besigye said Uganda was at a critical moment in its history. “This impunity will be over very soon,” he said.
The events leading to Dr Besigye’s detention opened with an unexpected appearance of a group of about 30 women outside Dr Besigye’s residence in Kasangati at about 6:30 am.
The women stopped him and requested that he doesn’t start his walk from the area. They said it would lead to chaos and teargas which has affected the children of Kasangati for two weeks now. And so Dr Besigye was driven away in a white Toyota Land Cruiser up to the Kalerwe area where he began his walk.
Chaotic scenes erupted in Kalerwe when news filtered back that Dr Besigye and his entourage had been intercepted by security personnel in Mulago, a couple of kilometres away. Several people were arrested as police fired teargas to disperse youth.
Chaos also broke out in Bwaise and the Nabweru areas with youth burning car tyres and erecting barricades on the road leading to the court house.
Military police moved in, an uneasy calm was restored. It remained tense as security personnel heavily deployed around the Nabweru court premises, keeping the public at bay.
Present at the court house were among others FDC’s Salaam Musumba, Jack Sabiiti, Geoffrey Ekanya, Alice Alaso, Maj. John Kazoora, Elijah Okupa and Christopher Kibanzanga.
At 1pm, Dr Besigye and his co-accused were dispatched to jail in a heavy and fast-moving convoy of police vehicles with strains of “happy birthday doctor” songs sang by his supporters ringing in his ears.