News and Views
Kayihura on spot over claims to overthrow govt
Police chief Kale Kayihura yesterday accused FDC Women’s League chairperson Ingrid Turinawe of plotting to overthrow the government, and announced 15 opposition activists taken into custody on Sunday for attending a meeting she addressed in Kampala, face treason charges.
But Ms Turinawe, who spoke to this newspaper by telephone, last night, said Maj. Gen. Kayihura is a “liar” who has failed in his attempts to link pressure group Activists 4 Change, organisers of the revived walk-to-work demonstrations, to terrorism.
“He has sold a lot of lies to Ugandans,” said Ms Turinawe, “He should be ignored. What he is struggling to achieve is to intimidate opposition activists and find ways of detaining us for a longer time.” The FDC leader said she was not in hiding and dared police to adduce incriminating evidence to justify plots to arrest her.
The police chief had said A4C has hoodwinked the public into believing the walk protest over soaring cost of living, which resumed on Monday, is an “innocent” civil disobedience, yet their motivation is to stir anarchy.
He said: “It is a deliberate and well-planned plot to overthrow the government. The public should be aware that any act done in furtherance of any such plot is also deemed treason.”
Police last evening circulated to media houses copies of an audio recording that Gen. Kayihura earlier in the day told journalists contained treasonable utterances Ms Turinawe allegedly made in her Sunday address to opposition youth, code-named ‘commanders’, at the Inter-party Cooperation (IPC) offices on Katonga Road in Kampala.
We could not independently verify authenticity of the audio, and a police detective told us in confidence last night that Ms Turinawe’s statements being circulated was recorded on September 23, and not three days ago as the IGP said.
That notwithstanding, Gen. Kayihura said: “The 15 (opposition activists in police detention) are going to be charged with treason. We have submitted their files to the Director of Public Prosecutions for advice.”
Legal minds yesterday faulted the charges as “unsustainable” since, according to human rights lawyer, Mr Ladislaus Rwakafuzi, the law envisages treason as the plot to or change of government by force of arms, not words. “Kayihura is a political commissar for the ruling NRM party but should not, as head of police which is a civil force, be a politician,” he said.
Amnesty International’s Godfrey Odongo urged government “must unequivocally move to allow peaceful demonstrations and police role should be to regulate, not block the assemblies by using excessive force”.
“If that right has to be limited,” he said, “it must be for a specific and justifiable purpose not the broad reason that the demonstrations will turn violent. That amounts to government intent to ban peaceful assemblies.”
Article 29 of the (amended) 1995 Constitution provides for freedom of assembly and peaceful demonstration, and limitations imposed under Article 43 that police often cite as the basis of their intervention to forestall infringement of other people’s rights, requires such restrictions should be “acceptable and demonstrably justifiable in a free and democratic society”.
The police insistence to permit when and where individuals should hold rallies instead of regulating the processions by offering security is unconstitutional, argued Mr Odongo.
The Uganda Peoples Congress last evening weighed in support of the walk-to-work demonstrations over an economy the party said was in “shambles” and denounced Gen. Kayihura’s claims of treason charges against the opposition activists as “arbitrary, hollow and treasonous”.
“The IGP’s announcement fits well in President Museveni’s mischievous plan to deny bail to his political opponents in order to extract submission from Ugandans,” read UPC deputy Spokesman Moses Nuwagaba’s statement. “This explains the change of tactic by the IGP to, this time; use a hammer to kill a mosquito.”
At the height of first phase of the walk protest in May, which put the nation on tenterhooks, and clashes between demonstrators and security forces resulted in 10 deaths, mostly from gunshot wounds, President Museveni proposed that the Constitution be amended to deny suspected economic saboteurs and rioters, among other offenders, bail until they serve at least six months on remand.
Last night, Ms Turinawe said she is not scared because she prepared for the unexpected in politics.
Treason is a capital offence punishable by death and under the laws, treason suspects can be incarcerated for the duration that Mr Museveni suggested, without an amendment to the Constitution.