Tyranny in Uganda

Posted on | april 24, 2011 | No Comments

Kizza Besigye

Is it possible that an opposition leader in any given nation state is a criminal? I think we can all answer in the affirmative. Yes, it is certainly possible that in any given country an opposition leader might well be a criminal.

And yet can we also entertain the far more likely possibility? Whenever an opposition leader in any given nation state is arrested the odds are overwhelming that the arrest is based less on criminal merits than on political expedience.

Regular readers of this site know that I really try not to generalize about “Africa” even though this is the FPA’s “Africa Blog.” I rarely write about “Africa” so much as I write about events in African states — South Africa or Nigeria, Kenya or the DRC, what have you. Nonetheless, I have become accustomed to, if you will grant me the generalization, African leaders arresting their most prominent opposition on the most dubious of charges, oftentimes directly related to their role in opposing the government.

The latest example comes in Uganda, where police have arrested Kizza Besigye three times in the past month, most recently in the process of breaking up a new “walk to work” protest with tear gas and general use of force.

Besigye has been staging twice-weekly protests in which he walks to work to denounce rising fuel  and food prices. He has become something of a pied piper in Kampala as hundreds of people have begun joining him in this peaceful opposition. The government has also moved to block Twitter and Facebook in an effort to block the mobilization of protest, clearly  not very successfully. Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has warned that the walking campaign is illegal.

Is it theoretically possible that Besigye is a criminal? It seems to me that such an interpretation requires quite a tortured theory.

These are political arrests, about as overt as such arrests can be. Museveni is running scared even after recently winning February’s election, a result the legitimacy of which Besigye has, not incidentally, contested.

AUTHOR: Derek Charles Catsam
URL: http://africa.foreignpolicyblogs.com
E-MAIL: derekcatsam [at] hotmail.com

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