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Muntu, Besigye face-off

By Edgar Tushabe Muhairwe

Party officials express concerns about police interference as race for presidential flag bearer heats up

Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party officials remained concerned even after police on July 13 cleared the party’s country-wide rallies for the primaries of the presidential flag bearer race that pits former party President Kizza Besigye against his successor, Mugisha Muntu.

Party Electoral Commission boss, Dan Mugarura said that police is in the habit of disrupting their activities as he announced police clearance at the party headquarters.

The clearance followed a July 9 incident in which police arrested Besigye as he left his home headed for the American embassy. He was also expected to launch his candidature at a rally in Kasangati, which police claimed he had not informed them about.

Given that another Presidential aspirant Amama Mbabazi was on his way to the eastern district of Mbale for his maiden consultative meeting, observers say, police could have feared to be over stretched and decided to arrest Besigye ahead of time.

With a letter to the party’s electoral commission from the Inspector General of Police (IGP), signed by Okoth Ochola, the Deputy IGP, officials feel some relief.

“Following your notice of meetings and discussions held with you over the matter, you are hereby cleared to proceed with the meetings,” the letter reads.

However, some are concerned about the litany of conditions including that officials should not allow processions after the meetings and that the numbers should also be controlled.

“All our contact persons will be the district chairpersons or the party leadership in the district,” Apollo Sunday, the personal assistant to Muntu told The Independent, “But who has the time to count how many people are able to attend a rally and those who may not? That is not plausible.”

Muntu’s first rally was planned to take place in Hoima district after he cancelled the first meant to take place in Kisoro on the day the police arrested Besigye and Mbabazi. Besigye’s first was slated for Kasangati and Kawempe on July 14.

Ingrid Turinawe, an ardent Besigye supporter, who is also the party’s secretary for mobilization, told The Independent that they were not worried about eventualities.

“We will handle that when we are there,” she said, “Because when you call a rally, it is indeed a rally. You cannot tell people not to move. And we cannot say it will be 100 people, because it is a public event. If we say 100 and 200 come what do we do? We abandon our activity?”

Ingrid’s candidate, Besigye has said he would never be held hostage by the Public Order Management Act (POMA), whicSh the police has exploited to stifle opposition activities like rallies.

But Fred Enanga, the police spokesperson insists police is not up to any mischief.

“This is the requirement of the Public Order Management Act. For instance, if we don’t know the number of people attending the event, if we don’t know the venue or the person hosting, how do we offer security?” he asked, “Besigye could want to move from Kasangati to Kalerwe, to Bwaise and then Kawempe. This will cause unnecessary commotion which may not be acceptable.”

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