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Ugandans Angered by Besigye Arrest For Planned Protest

FILE- Dr Kizza Besigye addresses media at Entebbe airport after arrival from South Africa where he was in exile, October 26,2005.
FILE- Dr Kizza Besigye addresses media at Entebbe airport after arrival from South Africa where he was in exile, October 26,2005.

Uganda's opposition and civic society leaders are denouncing the arrest of former presidential candidate Dr Kizza Besigye who was planning a protest over the high prices of goods and services. VOA’s Peter Clottey spoke to Mathias Mpuuga, Uganda's parliament Minority Leader, about the detention.

Dr Kizza Besidye, leader of the political group People’s Front for Transition, was recently arrested after organizing a protest demanding government action to cut the high cost of goods and services, a move in parallel with activists calling upon President Yoweri Museveni’s government to reduce taxes on essentials. VOA Nightline Africa host Peter Clottey discussed the situation with parliament Minority Leader Mathias Mpuuga.

The interview was edited for brevity and clarity.

Clottey: What are your thoughts on the arrest of Dr Kizza Besidye?

Mpuuga: Dr Besigye is exercising his right as a citizen and there is nothing illegal about demonstrating. What is illegal is a violent demonstration. Dr Besigye is not violent and has not threatened national security. The police and the military demonstrated being overzealous, therefore I join the rest of the country in demanding Besigye’s release and the stopping of abuse of citizens’ rights by armed forces.

Clottey: Some experts suggest that he [Besidye] is violating the law by not following the rules. Some of the actions he took disrupt businesses and traffic which the experts argue is unacceptable. What is your response to that?

Mpuuga: It is not new for the regime security to invoke the Public Order Management Act which was annulled by the constitutional court a year ago. The constitutional court ruled that the requirement of police permission to protest is unconstitutional. They [Uganda’s state security forces] are just trying to regurgitate that annulled section of the law. There is no requirement for Dr Besigye to get their permission. The law only requires that they be informed however there is no documented record of them allowing anyone to protest even after being informed on pending protest action.

Uganda Activists Protest Presidential Aspirant's Arrest [03:31]
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Clottey: Talking about poverty. The internal affairs minister Kahinda Otafire was quoted in state media saying poor people will not go to heaven because they insult God through lamentations and accusations every day. What are your thoughts?

Mpuuga: That is incorrect, and I believe Uganda has more serious things to quote. I am sure state media is using that quote to divert people from real issues. I don’t think any serious media should waste their time on Otafire, whose poverty background is well known. Let him not waste people’s time.