Ugandan opposition leader applies for bail

Police blocked roads leading to court on Wednesday as crowds gathered ahead of a bail hearing for a top opposition leader charged with treason.

A day earlier, at least one person was shot dead in rioting by Kizza Besigye supporters protesting his prosecution on charges of treason—which carries the death penalty—as well as concealment of treason and rape. His supporters ransacked businesses, burned vehicles and tyres and threw stones and other objects at security forces in Kampala’s central business district.

Besigye’s wife, Winnie Banyima, told the BBC on Wednesday that she thinks charges against him are “trumped up”. The charges came as he prepared to challenge his one-time ally, President Yoweri Museveni, in elections set for next year.

Museveni has denied opposition claims that Besigye was charged in an effort to eliminate a credible opponent.

Supporters, foreign diplomats and opposition politicians gathered at the court for Besigye’s bail hearing on Wednesday.
Ugandan anti-riot and military police sealed off roads leading to the high court and chased away dozens of Besigye’s supporters and curious onlookers who had gathered in the area.

Besigye, who was greeted by huge crowds when he returned from exile last month and has mounted the strongest challenge to Museveni’s 19-year rule, is accused of recruiting, funding and arming rebels with the help of neighbouring Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Sudan.

Besigye has denied past accusations from the government that he led the People’s Redemption Army and had links with separate rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army.

The People’s Redemption Army is described as a group of armed Ugandan dissidents based in the east of neighbouring DRC. Those insurgents have never attacked Uganda’s territory or interests.

The cult-like Lord’s Resistance Army is notorious for kidnapping children and using them as soldiers or concubines. It is made up of the remnants of a northern insurgency that began after Museveni, who like Besigye is a southerner, first took power. The rebels have declared they want to replace Museveni’s government with one guided by the biblical Ten Commandants.—Sapa-AP