Uganda constitutional court Tuesday finally made a decisive ruling in a treason case involving opposition leader Dr Kiiza Besigye. The case was filed against him by the government about six years ago.
Kiiza Besigye has been given the leeway to challenge President Yoweri Museveni again in the 2011 elections after the court dismissed all treason charges against the leader of the country’s main opposition political party, Forum for Democracy (FDC).
On giving the final ruling Tuesday, the five judges unanimously cleared Besigye of all charges brought against him including, treason, rape and possession of fire arms.
A virulent critic of President Yoweri Museveni and a candidate in the 2001 and 2006 presidential elections, the opposition leader, who was considered the only real challenger of Uganda’s long time president, had been arrested three months prior to the elections.
His arrest, following a rapturous return from his exile in South Africa, was condemned as a political gimmick to prevent the only real challenger to Museveni from running in the elections.
His eventual participation in the polls saw him losing to Museveni who won 59% of the vote against Besigye’s 37%. Besigye rejected the results.
International observers stopped short of saying the votes were rigged although they admitted that there was no “level playing field”, while some said that soldiers had been deployed to polling stations to intimidate voters.
According to the court, the high court that had been hearing the treason case had been intimidated by a group of armed soldiers or the “black mamba”, forcing them into fear and preventing them from giving the final verdict.
In 2006, soldiers locally called black mambas stormed the court and re-arrested the 10 suspects who had been granted bail by court.
That same year, Besigye had filed an appeal to the constitutional court calling for his case to be heard in the constitutional court and not in the high court or general court martial.
A petition filed in 2007 to the constitutional court by Kiiza Besigye and the 10 co-accused urged the court to disregard the case because it was not acceptable for them to be tried in a military court and a civilian high court at the same time, as it went against the country’s constitution.
Arguing in favour of Besigye and the other co-accused persons, the five member panel said that the petitioners had “proved their case with mathematical precision”.
Just after the ruling, Besigye castigated the current government for not
respecting the rule of law. He also at the same time lambasted the attorney
general for failing to interpret laws impacting false charges against innocent victims.
Meanwhile, Besigye has called for the case to “go in the history of Uganda.” He argues that “it has shown that Museveni and his government do not respect rule of law.”
Allies during the Uganda guerrilla war and later a government minister, Dr Kiiza Besigye and President Yoweri Museveni challenged each other in the 2001 elections after the former, Museveni’s ex-personal medical doctor, had resigned from government shortly before the 2001 elections.
Kiiza Besigye is expected to challenge Yoweri Museveni under the umbrella of a four-party coalition, the Inter-Party Cooperation, in the February, 2011 elections.