Monday, November 14, 2005

Ugandan main opposition leader arrested

Gotta feel a bit sorry for Yoweri Museveni, the old dinosaur who runs Uganda. When he took power in 1986 following a guerrilla war, the African Big Man was in vogue. From Mobutu in Zaire to Omar Bongo in Gabon to Daniel arap Moi in neighboring Kenya, the head of state-as-God phenemon seemed well-entrenched. Little did he know that this trend would start its downward decline in the 1990s. Museveni never adjusted.

For most of the 1990s, Museveni and Uganda was seen as the pearl of the continent, a seemingly well-governed exception to the mess that was much of Africa. At the very least, he was a vast improvement upon the country's previous megalomaniacal leaders: Milton Obote and Idi Amin.

Then it all started going wrong for the Ugandan strongman. He risked his international reputation by collaborating with Uganda in an insane invasion of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). It was done under the pretext of creating a 'security zone' but was really about exploiting the eastern DRC's mineral wealth. Then, Uganda and Rwanda fell out and their armies fought each other... ON CONGOLESE SOIL!

After 19 years of banning all political parties, Museveni's regime finally legalized multipartism.

He even invited main opposition leader Kizza Besigye to return to the country. In addition to being the main threat to his power, Besigye was once Museveni's personal doctor. When Museveni invited Besigye to return to the country, he promised that doctor wouldn't be arrested.

So Besigye came home on Nov. 1. And less than two weeks later, he was... you guessed it... arrested on dubious charges.

Update: a spokesman for Besigye's party has said Besigye is likely to remain in jail for a year before standing trial, due to Uganda's law on treason. Convenient for the Museveni regime since the next presidential election is in a few months. If found guilty, Besigye could face the death penalty. Additionally, riots have erupted in Kampala when the public learned of his arrest. This arrest could be a horrific miscalculation by Museveni. If Ugandans feel that they risk their freedom (or their lives) by simply taking part in the democratic process, then they may turn less than peaceful means to change their government. Museveni, better than anyone else, should know the resentment that builds when a regime excludes all those who disagree with the Leader; that's how he got to power himself.


At 9:49 AM, Blogger sokari said...

It seems charging people with treason has become the latest weapon of tyranny for Africa's false democracies. Museveni, Meles Zenawi (Ethiopia - opposition members and demonstrators)and Nigeria's Obasanjo has two radical ethnic leaders in detention on treason charges.

At 8:14 AM, Blogger sokari said...
Brian you may wish to respond to this comment on Global Voices
"Please tell us where you got the information that Museveni promised not to arrest the doctor. This is the kind of misinformation that goes unchecked!"

At 5:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a Ugandan living and working in Northern Uganda that has for the last 20 years been experiencing a brutal insurgency. The problem i find with your kind of article is the total lack of focus on the context of the situation. Dr Besigye even after being allowed back in Uganda continued to legitmatise armed rebellions. His approach to issues were extremely cofrotational and inciting violence. No state regardless of the level of civilty would stand on and look aside. It must be emphasised that Besigye is held to account as an individual not a party. All other parties including the one he belong have been conducting a series of political activities un challenged. i believe you need to get a lot more of your facts right to make a fair judgement based on the prevailing parameters of democracy embedded in every country's constitution
thank you

At 9:34 AM, Blogger Brian said...

I am well aware of the insidious LRA and their activities. If you're a regular reader of this blog, you'll know I've written about this quite often. The problem I have is that Museveni's style of governance makes peaceful dissent almost impossible. Even aside from the arrest of Besigye, look at his war against the free press simply because they dare expose his excesses. If the purpose of Besigye's arrest truly is not to silence the only figure remotely capable of beating him in an election, then surely you'll agree with my hope that Besigye's trial should proceed quickly and expedetiously.

The US president John Kennedy once said, "Those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable."

At 7:07 PM, Blogger museveniOUTcampaign said...

Uganda cannot afford the rise of yet another despot! The recent and still ongoing arbitrary process in the country is the clearest indication of why Museveni and his administration should not be allowed to overextend their stay in power. The 2006 multi-party presidential election in Uganda, is going to be a watershed moment for the country's political process.
Ugandans will for the first time have to decide whether to keep the status quo of one man rule in Uganda or vote for the long overdue change in leadership for the first time in twenty years since Museveni came to power!
There is only two ways Museveni can win: one is if the majority of Ugandans who know better acquiesce and remain subservient to his erratic and autocratic rule; the other is by bribing and cajoling gullible voters!
Museveni's shameless decision to run again in 2006 has more to do with his personal quest for power and control rather than a sincere desire to establish a peaceful transfer of power in Uganda.
If Museveni had Uganda's interest at heart he would have lived up to his manifesto promise not to run for office at the end of his current term!
If Museveni had the country's interest at heart, he would not have bribed members of parliament (with tax payer money!) to amend the constitutional two term limit rule for president.
If Museveni had Uganda's interest at heart, he would have magnanimously stepped down after twenty years in office and oversaw the foundation for a peaceful transfer of power for the first time in our country's history.
Wherever you have leaders that stay too long in power, abuse of power is more likely than not! Arbitrary rule and corruption is more likely than not!

The best campaign strategy for defeating Museveni at the polls is to present consistent and straightforward reasons why he should not be reelected president.
The most obvious and recent reason for defeating Museveni is clearly the governments heavy handed and arbitrary detention of an opposition leader that had voluntarily returned to challenge the president at the polls.
Where is the reconciliation spirit he expressed at Dr. Obote's funeral?
This was an ironic and desperate act of oppression by a government that is clearly afraid of loosing power to a popular opposition leader.
Even if Dr. Besigye is kept behind bars through the elections, his supporters can still cast a clear and overwhelming protest vote in favor of a change in leadership for our country!
Voters should be reminded that Museveni came to power by overturning a legally established government by use of force of arms.
Should the country now also look into charging Museveni and his conspirators with treason?
Museveni is also a leader that came to power fiercely critical of African leaders that stayed too long in power. Museveni is now among Africa's longest serving leaders!
The longer Museveni is allowed to stay in power the more autocratic and arbitrary his rule is going to be.
Its, therefore, absolutely necessary that the people of Uganda including members of his movement, gather the courage to vote for a new leader for our country.
Let Uganda have a peaceful transfer of power for the first time in our history!
" The leadership of any nation cannot be the work of one man or one party. It must be the effort of all capable citizens getting an equal and fair chance at leadership, through a transparent democratic process."


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