Besigye now barred from leaving Kenya

May 11, 2011 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 11 – Ugandan opposition leader Dr Kizza Besigye was on Wednesday morning barred from boarding a plane at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to return home.

"(Ugandan) state security told Kenya Airways that if Besigye was on board they would not be given landing rights," Anne Mugisha, a leading official in Dr Besigye\’s party said.

The Ugandan government has however denied issuing such a request.

"If we managed to allow him to leave, how can we stop him from coming back? We had all the powers to stop him from going there after all; Uganda doesn\’t have any authority on Kenya Airways flights," Internal Affairs Minister Kirunda Kivejinja told the Daily Monitor newspaper in Kampala.

The opposition leader remained stranded at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport\’s VIP lounge where he demanded a written explanation from the airline and Ugandan authorities.

Dr Besigye was flown to Kenya for treatment after he was assaulted by Uganda police late last month following a series of "walk to work" protests against rising commodity prices.

At least nine people were shot dead by security forces in the protests, according to Human Rights Watch, which called for an investigation on the grounds that some were struck in the back and were not even taking part.

Dr Besigye had vowed more protests and on Tuesday said they would not recognise Yoweri Museveni as the winner of the February election the opposition says was unfair.

Mr Museveni is due to be sworn in on Thursday at an event to be attended by 13 heads of state including President Mwai Kibaki.

"Whoever is going to be sworn in as president after the sham elections, we will not recognise him as winner of the elections," Dr Besigye said in Nairobi.

"The swearing in of the president in Uganda … is illegitimate because the polls were not free and fair. It is a betrayal to the people."

Opposition leaders have repeatedly tried to hold protests against rising living costs, but security forces have blocked the demonstrations, some of which have been violent.

Food and fuel prices have soared in the east African country, with President Museveni blaming inflation on meteorological and global economic factors, but protesters say the rising costs are a result of bad governance.

On Tuesday, junior foreign minister Okello Oryem accused Dr Besigye of misconduct after he was beaten and injured by police for leading a protest late last month.

"It is true that Besigye was not conducting himself in proper manner," Mr Oryem told foreign diplomats.

"Had he acted in a proper manner and followed procedures as repeatedly advised by the police, all this would not have happened.  Government condemns in the strongest terms possible perpetrators of unlawful assemblies, processions and riots such as those that took place."

The junior minister Mr Oryem said Dr Besigye would not be arrested when he returns home "unless he breaches the law. If he does, he knows what will happen."

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