A jailed Besigye can unite Opposition

Author: Phillip Matogo. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • ‘‘This jailing of Besigye may be seen in the same light as the jailing of Mandela.”

The People’s Front for Transition leader and four-time presidential candidate, Dr Kizza Besigye, was arrested more than a week ago as he materialised downtown (Kampala) to exhort Ugandans to rise up against the rising commodity prices.
Before his summons were heeded, however, he was whisked away and detained at the Kampala Central Police Station before being transferred to Naggalama Police Station in Mukono District.

Subsequently, the Buganda Road Court, presided over by magistrate Asuman Muhumuza, rejected Besigye’s bail application. The magistrate then remanded him to Luzira prison.
Prior to the magistrate’s gavel coming down hard on Besigye, the State Attorney had previously requested court that if Besigye’s bail was to be granted, he should be made to pay Shs30 million in cash bail to restrain him from further civil disturbances. 
Besigye’s lawyer Erias Lukwago said the magistrate’s decision was purely political.

“The magistrate has not addressed himself to matters of law, he is considering a political issue otherwise he knows the foundation of our justice system that one is innocent until proved guilty,” Lukwago said.
Lukwago added that the magistrate agreed with his team that as much as Besigye and activist Samuel Lubega Makaku have charges against them, they are not serving any sentence and, therefore, are not guilty.
“It’s a political decision, the law is very clear, they are innocent until proved otherwise and the fact of the matter is clear, the two have never been convicted of any offence,” he complained. 
Besigye’s arrest might, on the surface, seem more political than historical. However, on closer inspection, a simple case of comparative history will reveal how his continued arrests are the stuff of revolution. 

Let me explain. 
In the Chinese language, the word “crisis” is composed of two characters, one representing danger and the other, opportunity. The crisis of leadership in the Opposition with regard to Besigye being in jail presents the Opposition with an opportunity. 
In 1961, Nelson Mandela was arrested for treason, and although acquitted he was arrested again in 1962 for illegally leaving the country. Convicted and sentenced to five years at Robben Island Prison, he was put on trial again in 1964 on charges of sabotage. In June 1964, he was convicted along with several other ANC leaders and sentenced to life in prison.

Mandela spent 27 years in jail. His incarceration, along with other senior African National Congress (ANC) and Pan African Congress (PAC) members such as Robert Sobukwe, left a leadership crisis in the ant-Apartheid struggle. 
This presented an opportunity leading to the rise of Steve Biko and the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) which joined with PAC and ANC to open up other fronts on the war on oppression. This proved instrumental in the felling of Apartheid. 
In Uganda, this jailing of Besigye may be seen in the same light as the jailing of Mandela. While the People Power Movement (rebranded as National Unity Platform) may be viewed as our BCM.
Bobi Wine, our potential Biko, should now do what Biko and his cohort did for Mandela by fighting for Besigye’s freedoms in similar fashion, thereby uniting the forces of change in Uganda under the Free Besigye banner. 

Indeed, Besigye’s continued arrests represents an opportunity to rally the Opposition against not only his mistreatment but also the rising commodity prices. 
This is sure to build a steady momentum that shall leave government on the ropes and unable to get back in the driver’s seat as Besigye assumes cruise control and the forces of change surge forth. 

Mr Matogo is a professional copywriter  
[email protected]