By Elias Biryabarema
KAMPALA – Allies of veteran Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye visited him on Tuesday to demand his release from house arrest imposed last week after he called for protests against skyrocketing consumer prices.
Besigye, who has failed to dislodge long-ruling President Yoweri Museveni in four elections, has been blockaded at home by police since he gave a news conference last Thursday urging public action over high inflation.
“It is very illegal. There’s no provision of the law that gazettes Dr. Besigye’s house as a detention place,” said Anna Ebaju Adeke, one of more than a dozen opposition lawmakers who went to his Kampala house on Tuesday.
Besigye says he has been cheated of past elections by vote fraud and still commands a large opposition following.
He accuses the government of failing to help households and wants taxes reduced on essential commodities.
Museveni’s government calls Besigye a troublemaker and blames the surge in prices – especially for fuel, cooking oil and wheat – on the war in Ukraine.
In a Labour Day speech drawing criticism from many Ugandans, Museveni advised people who cannot afford bread to eat the cheaper and locally-grown cassava staple instead.
Police on Monday accused Besigye of planning “unlawful assemblies and processions” which could disrupt traffic and trigger looting. The government has not commented on the case.
“Police cannot turn somebody’s house and farm into a prison,” said another lawmaker Francis Mwijukye, threatening to mobilise supporters to storm the property if police did not go.