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Africa

Has Besigye become Uganda’s Assange?

media Besigye escorted by police outside his house on the outskirts of Kampala Reuters/Stringer

Hearings at Uganda’s Supreme Court continue on Wednesday with members of the opposition contesting the recent presidential election results. However, a leading member of Uganda’s opposition is conspicuously absent.

Kizza Besigye, leader of the Forum for Democratic Change party, has been under house arrest for almost four weeks since the announcement of results.

“We have now filed a case in the Uganda high court, seeking to enforce my rights,” Besigye told RFI, referring to his continued house arrest. “We have not yet received a hearing date for that application,” he said in a telephone interview from his home in Kasangati, just outside of Kampala.

In the run-up to Uganda’s 18 February election, Besigye was detained several times. He was taken to police stations or his home on a number of occasions, but Ugandan authorities have never filed any charges, according to Besigye. The Ugandan police say Besigye poses a threat to public peace and national security.

“It’s a unique situation,” said Roland Adjovi, a professor of law and member of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. “As my recollection goes, I can't remember any similar situation from Africa,” he added.

President Yoweri Museveni won the presidential polls with 60 per cent of the vote, according to results from the country’s election commission. Besigye took 35 per cent, but rejected the results, calling the electoral process fraudulent.

Ugandan security forces raided the offices of Besigye’s FDC party a few days after the polls. “They went inside and picked up eight of our data entry clerks, those are the clerks who were entering data from all over the country,” Mugisha Muntu, president of the FDC, told RFI on 22 February.

The FDC claims that raids on its offices as well as Besigye’s continued detention since 19 February is intended to prevent them from effectively contesting the election results at the Supreme Court.

“We will be considering all legal avenues available to us,” Besigye said, discussing his continued house arrest and his subsequent inability to file a petition against the election results.

“I have been in detention since that time, denying me a constitutional right and process of challenging in court the outcome of that election,” said the long-standing Ugandan opposition leader, saying that he is preparing a case for the East Africa Court of Justice.

If he does not get the desired outcome in Ugandan courts over his continued house arrest, Besigye has not ruled out taking a case to the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights or requesting an investigation by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

“It is not something common,” said Adjovi, who was appointed to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in 2014. “I can't remember if we had any identical situation in the past,” he added.

“You probably know about the Julian Assange case,” said Adjovi, using the example of the Wikileaks founder to describe how the UN Working Group initiates an investigation.

“Depending on the facts of that house arrest - that lack of charge, due diligence of the prosecution - all those elements, the working group, we have to take them, assess and weigh them, and decide whether it is arbitrary or not,” said the Beninese legal expert.

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