Uganda opposition unite to demand justice for political prisoners

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Opposition leaders attend prayers at the National Unity Platform party headquarters in Kampala
Leaders from Uganda’s mainstream opposition political parties on Thursday called out the failure to get justice for persons who have been arrested, abducted, or killed for their political views on their lack of unity.

During joint end-of-year prayers held at National Unity Platform (NUP) headquarters in Kampala, leaders from the Katonga faction of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC); Alliance for National Transformation (ANT), Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) and Conservative Party (CP) committed to back NUP’s pursuit of justice for victims of political persecution.

Among these victims are the missing 18 NUP supporters; those in prison without trial and the more than 54, who lost their lives during the violent November 18, 2020 protests against the arrest of NUP presidential candidate, Robert Kyagulanyi.

Speaking at the ceremony, ANT leader Maj Gen (rtd) Mugisha Muntu said “it is very absurd” that human rights matters have been reduced to a mere political issue where victims are defined by their political party affiliation.

“We want to tell all Ugandans that the issue of human rights violations is not a NUP affair. Human rights violations have been [going through] a vicious cycle for decades and it’s up to us to either break this cycle or allow the regime to legalise the abnormal into normal,” he said.

“It is not by accident that we have people who were abducted, arrested, or killed; it is deliberate and part of the dictator’s toolbox. Dictatorial regimes use all the methods to instill fear in the people, strategically to keep themselves in power,” he added.

The former army commander urged Ugandans who want political change to be strong and ready to face all acts of intimidation by the incumbent regime, including arrests, torture, abductions or death.

Col (rtd) Dr Kizza Besigye, the former FDC president, and four-time presidential candidate, urged that if opposition parties cannot unite on political grounds, it is high time they came together for peace and the defence of human rights.

“Human rights abuses are the reasons that bring us together. We may disagree on political grounds, but peace should unite us because it is not a political matter,” Dr Besigye said.

Addressing the congregation, Kyagulanyi (Bobi Wine) commended his counterparts for adding their voices to NUP’s clarion call for justice for their members who have been missing for almost four years.

“Our coming together is a candle of hope to our people who have been or still are victims of human rights violations. It is also an assurance to the victims that we still remember and dearly love them no matter the situation they are going through,” Kyagulanyi said.

The prayers were also attended by Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, Conservative Party leader John Ken Lukyamuzi; former leaders of the opposition in parliament, and FDC-Katonga members; Phillip Wafula Ogutu and Winnie Kiiza.

Separately, the opposition leaders criticized leaders of Uganda’s religious bodies for not honoring invitations to the function.

“The faith talks about equality of all human beings, but, sadly, we are here praying for ourselves and the victims when those whose responsibility is to pray for us have not answered our request to come and do the praying,” Dr Besigye said.

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