The home of Uganda’s opposition strongman Dr Kizza Besigye has been under siege since Thursday morning as police sought to foil his attempt to stage a protest over the soaring cost of living and an alleged political succession plan.
Last week, the four-time presidential challenger of Yoweri Museveni, in power since 1986, declared that he would take to the streets to protest the government’s inaction on high commodity prices.
Dr Besigye said his new drive aims to awaken the citizens of Uganda. With placards with inscriptions “We can’t breathe, reduce the cost of living,” and “Transition now, not Succession,” the veteran opposition leader set off for Kampala from his Kasangati home in Wakiso district Thursday morning.
He was, however, intercepted by riot police just moments after addressing journalists about his new campaign that he described as a wake-up call for all the citizens to regain their country.
He also wanted a demonstration against the much-speculated Lt Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba succession plan — it was long rumoured that the First Son was being primed to succeed his father, President Museveni. Kainerugaba appeared to confirm the suspicions last month after he hinted that he had a political plan he would release ‘soon’.
By press time, Dr Besigye’s home was still surrounded by police.
Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesperson Luke Owoyesigire told The EastAfrican that force was informed late in the night that Dr Besigye planned a demonstration in Kampala over the rising commodity prices and they had to step in.
“With respect to what we know about many of his demonstrations and his ideas of defiance, he didn’t go through the normal procedures of the Public Order Management Act so it is through that, that we had to stop him from accessing the city centre with any other person that was with him and he was taken back to his home,” he said.
Uganda’s Public Order Management Act requires an individual or groups to notify and seek permission from the Inspector General of Police before carrying out any form of demonstration. Most of these requests are, however, denied, causing running battles between demonstrators and police afterwards.
The police spokesman added that security forces would remain in place until they feel that Dr Besigye is no longer a threat.
Mr Owoyesigire said the police have arrested one person accused of hitting a patrol car in the vicinity, and he would be charged with a traffic offence of reckless driving.
Dr Besigye was blocked from trying to walk from his home to Kasangati town, about 12km from Kampala, in a replica of his famous 2011 Walk-to-Work protests that came at the backdrop of the general election. The 2011 protests against the harsh economic situation occasioned by the wild election expenditure spread across many parts of the country although they were brutally suppressed by both the military and police, leaving five dead, scores injured and hundreds languishing in prisons.
Dr Besigye was pepper-sprayed to near blindness and routinely clobbered by police.
Read (from the archives): Can’t walk, drive or fly? So why is Besigye’s star rising?