High court Justice Wilson Masalu Musene has urged both government and opposition political parties to avoid confrontation and embrace peace. He said this when he ruled yesterday that Dr Kizza Besigye, a treason suspect, can walk out of Luzira prison.
"Finally, on the politics of this country, courts of law are neutral and have no sides. But since a case of treason has been preferred against the applicant [Besigye], the message to all concerned, including the applicant now before this court is a message of tolerance and forgiveness; a message of reconciliation and hope; and a message of peaceful coexistence of all the people of Uganda," the judge said, adding that "Uganda should be a free and safe society for all with emphasis on peaceful resolution of conflicts and observance of the rule of law. The applicant is therefore called upon to live peacefully and not to cause any violence as long as the case against him is still pending in court."
But the judge's message seems to have fallen on deaf ears. In the immediate aftermath of the ruling, FDC officials, including Besigye, announced there will be no letup in checking the excesses of government through activism and defiance.
"I'm free but I don't know for how long. But for the media, I'm calling you tomorrow [Wednesday] to my home [Kasangati] to tell you the way forward and what I have seen in prison," Besigye said.
Later at midday, when he spoke to his ecstatic supporters in Kasangati, Besigye assured them that he was ready to rumble. "I want to thank you [supporters] for being with me through all of this," he said.
"I'm still very strong and I'm ready to face this kifeesi [criminal gang] police. You know there are police officers [who are professional] but were infiltrated by kifeesi [criminal gang]."
Nathan Nandala Mafabi, the FDC secretary general, drew first blood immediately after the ruling. "Defiance is peaceful and the court has not said that it is violent; so, we are going to go ahead with our defiance campaign because this government is not in power legally," he said. "The reason they put Dr Besigye in prison is because they know he is the right president."
This message was echoed by Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu, the FDC president, when he talked about the party's next move. "As a party, we are going to sit down and come up with what we are going to do next but just know we are going to continue checking this brutal regime [NRM]," he said.
In granting Besigye bail, the judge refused to go into the legality and the illegality of the defiance campaign. He said the case is before another court. On Monday, principal state attorney Flavia Akello had asked Justice Musene not to release Besigye because he declared a defiance campaign against "an elected government."
But the judge couldn't have any of it. "I hasten to state that the issue of the defiance campaign is now sub-judice. It is pending in the Constitutional court and this court cannot comment on the same," Justice Musene ruled.
Besigye has been on remand in Luzira prison for about two months for alleged treason.
The state had insisted that Besigye shouldn't be granted bail since he is an influential political force who might interfere with police investigations. But citing previous cases, the judge faulted the state for failing to get an affidavit from the police investigator who is in charge of the case to substantiate the allegations.
"I entirely agree with the holding in the above case and further find that although the applicant is said to be an influential person with a large political following, that should not deny him liberty, especially on allegations which have not been proved by affidavit or otherwise," Musene ruled.
The judge further found Besigye's sureties; Muntu, Mafabi, Rukungiri municipality MP Roland Mugume and Lubaga division mayor Joyce Ssebugwawo credible.
During and after the court ruling, there was heavy police and army presence in Kampala and its suburbs. Policemen and soldiers patrolled the downtown areas of Kisekka and Owino markets, Arua park, Clock tower, Nakulabye, Katwe and Kisenyi, among others.
Stephen Tanui, the deputy commandant for Kampala metropolitan police, told The Observer that they deployed heavily because they got information that hundreds of Besigye supporters planned to storm the city to celebrate his release.
"After intelligence told us that FDC supporters were planning to move with him in the city incase court released him on bail, we deployed to make sure we foil such movements because they would disorganize businesses in town," he said.
After fulfilling all bail procedures at about 11am, Besigye was escorted to his home by police.
Source: The Observer