Museveni the new Mugabe: Bars opposition leader from entering Uganda

NAIROBI – Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye was barred from boarding a flight to Uganda from the Kenyan capital Nairobi on Wednesday, a day before President Yoweri Museveni's swearing in for a fourth term.\r\n

Besigye flew to Nairobi two weeks ago after being injured when Ugandan police dragged him from a vehicle and drenched him in pepper spray to prevent him taking part in so-called “walk to work” protests over rising food and fuel prices.

\r\n

 

\r\n

One of the twice-weekly protests is due to take place on the same day as the president’s inauguration. Given Thursday will be a public holiday, Uganda’s opposition plan to walk to a stadium and pray in what they are dubbing a “walk to pray” protest.

\r\n

 

\r\n

Besigye told Reuters by telephone from Nairobi airport that the Kenya Airways duty manager told him the Ugandan government would not allow the plane to land with him on board.

\r\n

 

\r\n

“Kenya Airways said that is all they were told and once that had happened they could not take off with us on board,” he said.

\r\n

 

\r\n

Kenya Airways spokesman Chris Karanja said Besigye had not been allowed to board for “safety reasons”.

\r\n

 

\r\n

Ugandan authorities denied any role in the matter.

\r\n

 

\r\n

“The government of Uganda has nothing to do with Dr. Besigye’s travel plans from Kenya or any sovereign state,” Fred Opolot, director of the government media centre, said.

\r\n

 

\r\n

“The understanding is that Dr. Besigye, as per communication from his party, is on his way from Nairobi and should arrive sometime today,” Opolot told a news conference in Kampala. 

\r\n

 

\r\n

Museveni, in power for 25 years, is due to be sworn in for a fourth term after winning an election in February in which Besigye was his closest rival. Besigye has now lost three presidential elections in a row to the veteran ex-rebel leader.

\r\n

 

\r\n

While the walk-to-work protests had not initially mustered a huge following, the violent manner in which Besigye was arrested sparked riots across the capital Kampala the next day that killed a least two people and wounded scores.

\r\n

 

\r\n

“LACKS LEGITIMACY”

\r\n

 

\r\n

On Tuesday, Museveni said he would change the law to deny bail for up to six months for people accused of rioting and economic sabotage, signalling a further crackdown on opposition protests.

\r\n

 

\r\n

Museveni has vowed to crush the protests that started in April and he blamed the rising food and fuel costs on drought and global increases in crude oil prices.

\r\n

 

\r\n

Museveni has accused the opposition of trying to spread chaos to avenge its loss in the election, which he won with 68 percent of the vote. Besigye has been arrested four times since the protests began.

\r\n

 

\r\n

“The extra measures applied on me are meant to discourage our supporters. I have contested Museveni three times and he has stolen all the elections,” said Besigye.

\r\n

 

\r\n

“He knows he lacks legitimacy, he knows there’s popular discontent and that has galvanised around me.”

\r\n

 

\r\n

Reuters witnesses in Kampala said there was a heavy security presence on the streets. 

\r\n

\r\n

Reporters were moved from the airport in Entebbe onto the road leading to Kampala, where riot police and members of Besigye’s Forum for Democratic Change party (FDC) gathered.

\r\n

\r\n

“It’s sad for Uganda, it’s sad for Kenya, it’s sad for us and it’s sad for business. We just don’t know if it’s safe to fly Kenya Airways anymore,” FDC vice president Salaam Masumba told reporters.