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Museveni defends assault on Besigye

NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 30 – Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni on Saturday defended police action against Kizza Besigye, saying it was the opposition leader who provoked the police by first attacking them.

Mr Museveni who was responding to questions from the participants at a Mindspeak forum in Nairobi claimed that Dr Besigye was first to attack the police with pepper spray before the police grabbed the can from him and used it to subdue him.

Ugandan police were captured live on camera smashing the windows of Dr Besigye\’s car using pistols and hammers before assaulting him and its occupants with pepper spray.

"I think the lenses of CNN don\’t see very well because they did not capture this opposition leader attacking the policemen. I\’m told that women use pepper spray to defend themselves against rapists but I had never heard of it before," he said.

"But it was that leader who started the attack," insisted the Ugandan president.

The police were captured beating up the occupants of Dr Besigye\’s car after attacking them using the pepper spray before bundling them onto a waiting police truck. Dr Besigye who suffered injuries during the attack has since been flown to Nairobi for specialised treatment.

A civil society activist was ejected from the forum after heckling the Ugandan president.  Benjie Ndolo was led out of the venue by security officials after he began shouting.

As he was being ejected, Mr Museveni jokingly said he had expected an exchange of ideas at the forum and not name calling.

Mr Ndolo was questioned for five hours at the Central Police station and has just been released.  He says he was treated well apart from the officers who roughed him up during arrest.

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Prime Minister Raila Odinga was due to visit him at the hospital but cancelled the plans after being told Dr Besigye was recovering from minor surgery.

"He prefers hospitals in Nairobi of all the hospitals in Uganda. I wish him good luck here," quipped Mr Museveni.

The attack on the opposition leader led to a public outcry from various civil societies and diplomatic missions in Uganda. The country also witnessed violence in some sections of Kampala city on Friday with rioters demonstrating against Dr Besigye\’s attack.

The Ugandan President also accused the opposition leader of flouting the law with his protests, claiming that he did not have the permit to carry them out. Mr Museveni said that Dr Besigye should have informed the police about his activities before embarking on them.

Thursday\’s arrest of the opposition leader was the fourth in a month.

"There is no problem for Besigye to walk; either to work or as an exercise… but Kampala is a very crowded city and we are still struggling with problems of infrastructure. All we ask of him is please if you want to walk tell the police so that you agree with them," he argued.

The Ugandan leader maintained that the walking campaign over the rise in the cost of living in the country was illegal.

"If you want to walk through my farm with 200 or 300 people following you, surely you should inform me because if my cows stampede and get lost that will be very bad of you," he quipped.

He also said that his government was in touch with the families that have so far lost their loved ones to the violent attacks by the police. He also passed his condolences to them.

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"We are also investigating the cases to know what went on because if someone dropped a snake right here a lot of things would go wrong and you would not know who did what. You would even be surprised to know that the gentleman in this room is a pick pocket (if there was commotion)," he said.

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