Police have foiled yet another attempt by Dr Kizza Besigye, the former Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) president to stage a protest against the high commodity prices. Flanked by his fellow former presidential candidate, Samuel Walter Lubega Mukaaku Besigye left his residence enroute to Kampala capital city centre.
Besigye earlier told journalists that he had decided to continue with the protests to wake up Ugandans to compel the government to address the high commodity prices since President Yoweri Museveni had failed to provide solutions during his Sunday night address. He, however, couldn’t move far since the police had blocked the road out of his residence.
For several minutes, Besigye remained seated in his car and the police looked on unbothered. This prompted Besigye to open the roof of his vehicle and inquire why the officers had blocked him.
“This is my private property. Kindly remove your vehicle. I have some business to carry out in town. If you want to block roads, go and block the government road,” Besigye said as the officers looked on.
After close to an hour, Besigye disembarked from his vehicle insisting that he had a right of movement. He threatened to move on foot but before he hit the main road, police officers grabbed Besigye and placed him in a van that they had used to block the route to his residence.
Another scene was already playing out in the nearby Kasangati town, with police blocking a group of people led by Soroti Woman MP, Anna Adeke who were on their way to visit Besigye. Police ordered the group to return to Kampala. Police also tried to beat up journalists who were covering the scene.
To continue with his campaign, Besigye has re-modified his vehicle popularly known as the beast to the people of Kasangati who liken it to the vehicle that transports the US president. Previously, Besigye had sealed the windscreens of the vehicle with wire mesh and mounted the vehicle with megaphones.
This morning, our reporter saw the vehicle accessories preventing officers from damaging it. The con speakers that were removed last time as police tried to prevent him from communicating have this time been covered with wire mesh making it hard for anyone to access them.
Besigye noted that this has been done to ensure that officers don’t use monkey tricks to prevent him from passing on his message. He added that he could have resumed his campaign on Friday following the Thursday incident but noted he had experienced some logistics problems. “We had logistical problems but we have sorted them….” The smiling Besigye told journalists.
On Museveni speech
Museveni absolutely said nothing during his televised Sunday address on the economic situation in the country according to Besigye. Museveni said that the government wouldn’t make any interventions such as tax cuts or subsidies as this could even lead to the collapse of the economy. Besigye accused Museveni of wasting time for the many Ugandans who watched his speech
“And like we certainly knew and expected, he had absolutely nothing to say and he said nothing in very many words. All he could have done if he didn’t want to spend a lot of data of people, airtime and so on, he could have summarised it in one sentence; ‘We don’t have what to do, tighten your belts and suffer’ because at the end of the day that is what he said.
Besigye noted that the president tried to cover his empty speech with lies and shifted the blame on the worsening economic crisis to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The four-time presidential candidate says although the two have affected the economy, they have just worsened the crisis in the country that is driven by other factors.
“He told lies about how he has solved all the problems of the country in the past, he should be trusted to solve all the future ones. He said you know there were locusts, there were these – he solved it and we shall solve all the problems. We’re in this crisis because of what he calls the right line which is eking from the population and not putting back. That is the summary of his correct line. Extract as much as you can, put back as little as you can. That is what has caused the crisis in the country. It is not Ukraine, it is not Covid – all those were simply enhancers,” he said.
He says the president failed to address the country on critical issues including wasteful expenditure in the government and the huge public expenditure. Besigye says that although Museveni is urging Ugandans to tighten their belts and brace for the worst, this isn’t reflected in the government budget.
He cited the allocation of Shs 2 billion as a daily expenditure for the State House and wondered why the president who is advising Ugandans to eat cassava should continue to spend such huge sums of money.
“He didn’t mention anything about the wasteful expenditure which we have been raising. That money is there, it is simply being wrongly used. He can’t touch on the uselessness of having more than 80 ministers, the uselessness of having hundreds of RDCs, the hundreds of presidential advisors – all taking billions upon billions of money. That massive unnecessary expenditure, he didn’t touch anything about it. There is a lot that can be done to cut the wasteful expenditure. Mr Museveni is telling Ugandans to tighten their belts when in the new budget that is going to start in July, he has put more than Shs 2 billion per day for his home, just his home not the office but is telling Ugandans to tighten their belts. To tighten what?” he added.
In his speech, Museveni emphasized that the most effective solution to high commodity prices is to find alternatives to costly items like wheat. The president noted that the use of local products like cassava and bananas can help reduce the high costs of producing bread. This wasn’t the first time the president has offered such advice. He had already mentioned the same while addressing the nation during the international Labour Day celebrations. However, the proposed local alternatives are already being affected by the skyrocketing fuel prices.
Besigye also wondered why Museveni failed to suggest solutions to the loopholes which are swallowing government money in bribes and corruption. According to available statistics, every year, Uganda loses an astonishing Shs 9.14 trillion to corruption, which is equivalent to 44 per cent of the total government revenue in 2019.
To Besigye, if the government eliminated the disgrace and damage of corruption, the situation wouldn’t be as ugly as it looks right now. According to Besigye, the government is currently giving back to the population, which grapples with high taxes as people foot high medical bills since the health system is in limbo and education costs.
He further argues that even if the situation was a result of the COVID-19 effects and the war in eastern Europe, people couldn’t be suffering this much if the government was meeting the basic requirements. Quoting from the president’s speech, Besigye noted that the government is eying the oil cash as the only way to save the situation, which he is skeptical will also be put to good use.
Besigye notes that since the president has come out and rightly stated that he has nothing to do in relation with the current crisis, this justifies his campaign to rally Ugandans to wake up, join hands, and send a unanimous message to those in government who are indifferent to the hard economic situation that Ugandans are faced with.
Last week, police held Besigye in his car for about eight hours as he attempted to drive to the Kampala city centre from his residence in Kasangati town council in Wakiso district to rally Ugandans to rise up against the skyrocketing commodity prices.
The prices of most imported and domestically manufactured products have been increasing since late last year pushing the inflation rate up from around 3.2 per cent in November to 4.9 per cent in April 2022. Soap, cooking oil, and other similar products are the most affected while the price of fuel, wheat, and fertilizer are also on the rise.