Besigye gets bail. But for how long before the police pounce again?
It was the usual scene of wild excitement when opposition leader and former presidential candidate Kizza Besigye was was granted bail by the High Court on July 12. Besigye left the court atop his Pajero waving to his animated supporters. Before the ruling, Besigye’s supporters could be seen waiting anxiously. His bail hearing before Justice Wilson Masalu Musene had been set for July 11 only for the court to rule that the verdict will be read the following day, after assessing both sides.
In his ruling, Justice Wilson Masalu Musene said that bail is representative of the notion that an accused person is innocent until proven guilty or if they confess. “The accused person religiously attended court in previous cases in honour of bail conditions,” Justice Masalu said.
After two months on remand at Luzira Maximum Prison for treason charges, Besigye’s request for bail was finally granted. His lawyers Ernest Kalibala and Frederick Mpanga cited their client’s advanced age, and his consistency in attending court sessions as reason for his bail. Senior officials of Forum for Democratic Change (FDC); party president Mugisha Muntu, Secretary General Nandala Mafabi were in attendance.
Justice Musene told Besigye that starting July 26, he will be required to report to court every fortnight. The judge also cautioned Besigye not to breach public order as he goes about his business.
On May 13, Besigye, the FDC presidential flag-bearer was charged with treason before Moroto Chief Magistrate Charles Yeteise after a video leaked of him taking a presidential oath. Besigye and his legion of loyal supporters claim they won the February 18 presidential poll and maintain that President Yoweri Museveni, of NRM, who was declared winner by the Electoral Commission is in office illegally.
Brian Atuheire, an FDC member and a staunch supporter of Besigye says he was unsurprised by the bail because the charges were baseless. “The day they set a date for this hearing I knew government had no case to present against Besigye being given bail. However the judge showed that there are sober men and women that respect the rule of law.”
Atuheire said the moment was a sign of good things ahead. “It is a sign of victory to our struggle and I know we are going to be galvanized to continue with our defiance campaign since our leader is out. I am therefore happy that Besigye my mentor is out but mostly that we have the engine of our struggle.”
However the joy of Atuheire and his ilk may be cut short anytime from now as Besigye tries to make his presence felt among his fanatical supporters in the city where Police may not spare any chance to arrest him if they think he will cause disorder.
Atuheire has also accused Mugisha Muntu and Nandala Mafabi of killing the defiance campaign saying neither of the two supports the campaign and both apparently lack direction in the absence of Besigye.
It is not clear what Besigye’s next move will be now that he is out on bail but he will have to deal with members of FDC who are disgruntled by Muntu’s shadow cabinet appointments and his perceived lack of enthusiasm in the defiance campaign proclaimed by Besigye, way before the presidential election was held.
In his new found freedom, Besigye will find that some of his lieutenants in FDC, like Semujju Nganda (Party Chief Whip) and Winnie Kizza, (Leader of Opposition) deemed hardliners, were entrapped by Muntu’s shadow appointments.
Recently when Museveni was meeting some members of the opposition at State House, he said that he cannot tolerate the likes of Besigye and Michael Kabaziguruka, FDC Member of Parliament for Nakawa (also facing treason charges), who he accused of being engaged in subversive activities.
Now with Besigye not impressed by reports of some members of opposition consorting with his eternal rival Museveni, and some even serving in the latter’s cabinet, he may be compelled to resort to protests to re-affirm his position as the only counterweight to Museveni’s decades-long grip on power.
Police Spokesperson Fred Enanga told The Independent that the Police will monitor Besigye’s conduct just to ensure that he does not break any law. “We don’t want to go into any speculation but the bail condition was clear, it gave him some guidelines, if he does anything outside his bail condition that is illegal, the police will take action.”