The former president of Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), Dr Kizza Besigye has called for the unconditional release of all politicians and civilians arrested in Arua this week.
Among those arrested are Arua Municipality MP elect Kassiano Wadri, MPs; Robert Kyagulanyi (Kyadondo East), Francis Zaake (Mityana), Gerald Karuhanga (Ntungamo), Paul Mwiru (Jinja East) and former Makindye East MP Mike Mabikke.
The politicians were arrested alongside 30 others on Monday and Tuesday for allegedly obstructing the president’s motorcade and pelting it with stones. Except for Kyagulanyi, the other suspects were arraigned before Gulu Magistrate’s court and charged with treason and remanded to prison until August 30 when their case will come up for mention.
The presiding magistrate didn’t allow the suspects to enter plea, saying the court lacks jurisdiction on the charges brought against them. Relatedly, Kyagulanyi was later arraigned before an Army court in Gulu and charged with three counts of illegal possession of firearms. He was remanded to Makindye military barracks until August 23.
Now, Besigye has the demanded for the unconditional release of the suspects. Besigye told reporters during a press briefing at his Katonga office that the violence in Arua was state inspired and as a result many leaders were arrested and tortured, which he says must be condemned by all Ugandans.
“The people who are in detention have been detained against a background of state inspired violence. The whole idea that we now see being again choreographed in the media that people had guns should be dismissed with contempt at this stage because if there was a situation that these people were having guns, really there should have been a more transparent way. Accordingly, we demand that all those persons being detained be freed unconditionally and immediately,” said Besigye.
Besigye also dismissed the decision by the state to arraign Bobi Wine in a military court for alleged illegal gun possession, saying even if the charges were true; the case can still be tried in a civilian court.
“No civilian person should be charged and attempted to be charged in military courts. Military courts are courts of service discipline of servicemen. They are part and parcel of the hierarchy of the military service. These courts are not only formed by Mr Museveni like the civilian courts of course but these ones are subordinates to the commander-in-chief. They take orders, they have no protection of independence…even if the charges were that they had guns illegally those cases are triable also in the civil courts and there is absolutely no reason whatsoever why somebody should be arraigned in a military court,” he added.
Besigye observed that he and his wife, Winnie Byanyima have also been victims of the trumped-up charges and asked the jailed MPs to stand firm.
“I have been charged with treason twice. I have been charged with rape, terrorism, illegal possession of guns, my wife was charged with having a pistol at home in our home in Luzira where we used to live…These trumped up charges are the rule in as far as how NRM addresses opponents and in their attempt to criminalise them,” he said.
Besigye further disclosed that they have set up a team of lawyers to help secure the freedom of all those under detention and attend to their health as well to be coordinated by Kampala City Lord Mayor, Erias Lukwago.
He also said that Mubarak Munyagwa, the Kawempe South MP and three other FDC officials including Mahmood Mutazindwa, Hajji Sowedi Wanyama, Musa Lukwago and others were arrested and tortured in Arua while monitoring the polls. He also said several other injured by the president’s security are suffering in silence. Besigye said there are so many casualties that have not been reported.
At least one person Yasin Kawuma, the driver of Bobi Wine was shot dead on Monday and six others are nursing bullet wounds following a confrontation between presidential guards and opposition supporters on Monday.
Kawuma was laid to rest on Wednesday and Besigye commiserated with the families of the people in detention.
“We extend our sympathies, condolences to the family of Yasin who lost his life and certainly to the families of those who are in detention to encourage them to remain strong because that is what freeing this country entails. They need to remain strong and supportive of those who are in detention,” said Besigye.