In 1999 when Dr. Kiiza Besigye published a letter criticizing to the Museveni regime, his life changed immediately and forever. He was arraigned before the military court martial for apparently airing his views in the wrong forum.
In October the year 2000 he announced that he would run for president in the 2001 general elections. Now, if the letter had brought him problems, the declaration that he would challenge Museveni in an election turned him into the number one enemy Museveni and all state institutions in Uganda. This has been the case for the past 20 years.
In June 2001, a few months after the election, Dr. Besigye was arrested and questioned over treason. The Museveni regime claimed that he was training rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Soon after his release, threats against his life increased and he was forced to run into exile where he spent four years.
In 2005, when he returned to Uganda to participate in the 2006 election. As soon as campaigns started, he was quickly arrested and charged with treason and rape. In charging him with treason, the regime claimed that he had links with the PRA rebels. They also claimed that he was connected to Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army!
Regarding the rape case, the regime claimed that in 1997, nine years earlier, he had raped a daughter of a deceased colleague, a one Joanita Kyakuwa. Years later, High Court judge, Justice John Bosco Katutsi dismissed the rape charges as contemptible and a clear case of persecution by the regime.
It should be remembered that the rape case was prosecuted by the current chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Justice Simon Byabakama Mugyenyi. Gen. Kale Kayihura and the present URA Commissioner General, Mr. Musinguzi Rujoki played a critical role in the case.
On 16th November 2005, Dr. Besigye and his co-accused persons were taken to the High Court for a bail application. As the hearing was proceeding, armed security men dressed in black raided the court, and surrounded the holding cells in which the successful bail applicants were waiting to be released. As a result of this action, the bail papers could not be processed. The armed men infamously known as the Black Mamba entered into offices at the court and interrupted the processing of bail. The accused were returned to jail.
The army spokesperson at the time, Major Felix Kulaigye told the nation that the Black Mambas had been deployed to re-arrest the suspects in case they had been granted bail by the High Court, in order to ensure that they faced new charges that had been brought against them in the General Court Martial.
The population reacted with anger to these clearly trumped up charges and the persecution. The regime responded by banning all public gatherings, rallies and demonstrations related to his trial. Dr. James Nsaba Buturo, then Minister for Information banned talk shows and media debates on the matter, and was quoted as stating that the Broadcasting Council would cancel the licenses of any media house that did not take heed of this ban.
When Justice Joh Bosco Katutsi issued orders against the continued detention and trial of Dr. Besigye and others in the General Court Martial, Gen. Elly Tumwine defied the court order and continued the trial. When the Constitutional Court made further orders against Dr. Besigye’s persecution disguised as prosecution, Museveni vowed to fight the court ruling both legally and politically by appointing what he called cadre judges to the bench. Dr. Besigye would be nominated for the 2006 presidential elections while in jail!
Since then, the trials and tribulations of Dr. Kizza Besigye and indeed all those who fought alongside him have been long and unending. He has since lost count of the number of times he has been arrested and detained illegally. Of all the charges he has faced, he has never been convicted of even one.
In 2007, his brother, Joseph Musasizi Kifefe died under unclear circumstances, after spending several years in prison, having been charged with treason! Many other Ugandans lost lives in hundreds if not thousands as a result of the struggles for freedom and democracy, championed by Dr. Kizza Besigye and his fellow strugglists. Indeed, the husband to our Deputy President in charge of Northern Uganda, Rauxen Zedriga has been missing for over 20 years!
In February 2006, the state lined up one Moses Kizige, Member of Parliament for Bugabula County and former presidential advisor, to petition against Dr. Besigye’s academic credentials. The petitioner claimed that Dr. Besigye, who was Museveni’s qualified personal doctor, had used another person’s marks to join Kitante Senior School in 1969!
When Museveni is fighting his opponents, he stoops to any level and deploys every tool available.
Unbelievably, the regime mobilized people from Dr. Besigye’s village to come and claim that indeed, he had used another person’s academic documents 37 years earlier. As usual, the intention of the regime is not that such ridiculous moves will succeed. The intention of Museveni is usually to detract his challengers and keep them busy answering very nonsensical questions, keep them busy in courts of law, to embarrass them, etc etc.
Another case in point which is related to what is happening to us now, is that in December 2004, when the Forum for Democratic Change first attempted to register as a political party, the state sponsored some individuals and other parties to ferociously fight against the registration of FDC. Various petitioners claimed that FDC was a rebel group, and went ahead to challenge its slogan, name and symbols as being linked to rebel groups. Years later, a case would be filed in court seeking orders to block FDC from nominating candidates!
Countrymen and women, I have labored to give this history first and foremost for the benefit of some of our brothers and sisters who were too young to follow these events. Let them know the history of their country. I invite them to read Dr. Olive Kobusingye’s book, the Correct Line, and Daniel Kalinaki’s Kizza Besigye and Uganda’s Unfinished revolution. They will understand the character and nature of Yoweri Museveni, the man who has ruled over their nation for the last 35 years.
Secondly, I am speaking about this history to pay tribute to Dr. Kizza Besigye and other Ugandans who led the way and those who paid the ultimate price fighting against General Museveni and his corrupt regime.
As I have consistently said, we must never forget the incredible sacrifices made by those who came before us!
Third and finally, I am talking about this history to remind the nation that the challenges we have faced ever since I announced plans to run for president in 2021 are not a new phenomenon. They are in fact a pattern of repression and suppression against anyone who has dared to rise up against the regime. That is how Museveni fights- like all cowards.
The first attempt of dictators throughout history is normally to bribe and co-opt their opponents. They rely on intimidation and violence to suppress voices dissent against them.
If God grants me an opportunity in future, I will give details of how many people the regime sent to me in a space of one week after the Kyadondo elections, to give me part of their stolen billions in order to silence me! It was after I had made it clear that I was never going to be compromised that they changed tactic and came with full force.
Aside from compromise and violence, one of the most compelling tools employed by dictators is the law! Right from the apartheid regime in South Africa, to the Mugabe rule, to Gaddafi, Bashir, Hosni Mubarak and others- dictatorships use the law as an instrument for oppression.
Ever since we started the People Power Movement, the regime has deployed the law in its full force to fight us. In Arua, a part from charging me with possession of machine guns before a military court (guns which later disappeared in thin air), I was charged with treason, annoying the president, and many other ridiculous charges. They even claimed that we had broken a bullet proof car screen with a stone.
Later on, I was charged with protesting against
the social media tax.
I am out on police bond in respect to more than 20 other incidents.
Sometime last year, Uganda Revenue Authority issued me an embarrassingly high tax demand in respect to transactions I did many years back. You will all recall that last year, I together with other leaders of People Power were sued in the Constitutional Court for operating the People Power Movement!
The cases against me personally have been numerous. The regime has deployed people to file a case claiming this very land where our office is in Kamwokya, another case claiming Magere where my house is, and another case claiming Busabala One Love Beach! I have owned all these properties for more than 10 years and no one had ever come up to complain – until I decided to take on Museveni! Any sane person would understand the motivation!
Recently, when we officially launched the National Unity Platform political party, some imposters came up claiming that we took over the leadership of the party illegally.
As ridiculous as it sounds, the same people who appeared before the press with forged membership cards went on to file a case without the cards they brandished before the press. This time, they claimed that the party previously never issued membership cards! Since this matter is before court, I will not go into its details because that would be sub-judice. But you can just imagine the lack of shame!
We have concrete evidence of which state operatives have been facilitating them, at the expense of the tax payer.
What gives me hope is that these desperate attempts have failed in the past and they will fail now. Dictators use these tricks to divert opponents, embarrass them and detract them. Every day you spend in court, the regime uses that time to steal more money and entrench itself further!
Having said all this, let me now use this opportunity to address something which has for the past days been a subject of public debate. As I have highlighted above, whenever the regime has wanted to deter its opponents, some Ugandans have availed themselves to be used as tools. For Doctor Besigye, it was the Kyakuwas, the Kiziges, the Gilbert Arinaitwes, the Byabakamas etc. For me, you have seen them already and the list is still growing.
When I first ran in Kyandondo, you all remember how the regime and its sympathizers did everything to attack my morality. Too bad for them, it did not stick but they have never given up. Now they are seemingly challenging my credentials and desperately trying to cast me as dishonest.
To be clear, in a functioning democracy, leaders should be put on the spot and called to question. No leader should be above scrutiny, and in fact our struggle is meant to promote a culture of accountability by leaders at all levels. But from the pattern I have explained above, this is no quest for accountability. This is witch hunt. What Museveni has mastered is the art of deploying tools to help him witch-hunt his opponents .
I have lived most my life in the camera. There is nothing I have not spoken about publicly, including the question of my age and my academics.
Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine is the National Unity Platform presidential flag bearer in 2021 elections.