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Early Wednesday, Kizza Besigye, the Ugandan opposition leader who has spearheaded the recent protests against rising fuel prices and the election of his opponent, President Yoweri Museveni, claimed that he had been barred from returning to his country after receiving medical treatment in Kenya. Two weeks ago, Dr. Besigye was violently arrested during a protest. After posting bail, he travelled to the neighboring country to be treated for eye injuries he suffered when police attacked his vehicle. They had drenched him with pepper spray and hauled him onto a pick-up truck, according to Reuters.
Dr. Besigye has been highly critical of the incumbent President and the recent elections which he believes was rigged.
The east African country has been plagued by violent clashed between demonstrators and police during protests against rising food and fuel prices. The Daily Mail reported that President Museveni, in power for 25 years, is accusing the opposition of trying to spread chaos to avenge their defeat in February’s disputed presidential elections, in which he won by 68%.
The opposition was heading “walk to work” protests which urge Ugandans to leave their cars at home on Mondays and Thursdays in solidarity with those who cannot afford fuel. However, the protests have sparked violence in the capital Kampala, as well as other major cities for nearly a month, leaving scores of people injured. On Monday, at least nine unarmed people are believed to have been killed – Reuters report that three were shot in the back as they fled security forces.
The scene of the clashed, in pictures, show special water cannons spraying protestors with pink liquid spray. This practice is common in Uganda and elsewhere on the continent, having been used during the Apartheid era in South Africa, most famously in the 1989 Purple Rain Protest in Cape Town, The Daily Mail explains.
After Besigye had left for Kenya, his officials told Reuters that upon his return he would stage a “national prayer” rally on the same day as the inauguration ceremony for Museveni which is tomorrow, Thursday. However, before noon on Wednesday, Beignye told the BBC from Nairobi airport that he had been indirectly denied re-entry to Uganda. “The Ugandan government had told the Kenya Airways chief executive that if they board us the aircraft will not be allowed to land in Uganda and that we were not welcome and that therefore they had absolutely nothing to do if they wanted to fly to Uganda but offload us,” he stated.
The Ugandan authorities have denied any role in the matter. “The government of Uganda has nothing to do with Dr. Besigye’s travel plans from Kenya or any sovereign state,” Fred Opolot, director of the government media centre, stated at a news conference in Kampala. “The understanding is that Dr. Besigye, as per communication from his party, is on his way from Nairobi and should arrive sometime today,” he continued as reported by Reuters.
At noon, Dr Besigye confirmed that he had been given permission to return to the BBC, but had no explanation as to why the authorities had reversed their decision.
It is not clear whether the confusion was a misunderstanding between officials, or a ploy to entice or dwindle the demonstrators.
Dr. Besigye and Mr Museveni are former colleagues, but fell out about 10 years ago. According to the BBC, Besigye had left the country but returned in 2005 with the introduction of multi-party politics.
Photo provided by besigyekizza