By Kangave Mugoya
The opposition National Unity Platform (NUP) will not negotiate with President Museveni to secure the release of its detained supporters, party president Robert Kyagulany alias Bobi Wine has said.
Prior to and after the 2021 general elections, several youthful NUP supporters have been arrested on various allegations. Some are still in detention to date while some of the released have come back with hollowing tales of torture whilst in detention.
Speaking on Thursday at NUP headquarters at Makerere-Kavule while commissioning the NUP mobilizing committees dubbed ‘Kunga’ intended to mobilize NUP support at all levels across the country, Kyagulanyi said there is no way they can negotiate with the government to secure their God-given fundamental rights.
Following the release of Makindye West MP Allan Ssewanyana and his Kawempe North counterpart Muhammad Ssegirinya last week after over 523 days in prison, allegations started circulating that the duo was released after negotiations between the leader of opposition in parliament Mathias Mpuuga and the government.
Kyagulanyi says he has talked to Mpuuga in private and he has categorically denied ever being part of the said negotiations. Ssewanyana and Ssegirinya are accused of being behind a spate of machete attacks that claimed over 26 lives in Masaka region. They are also facing terrorism charges.
“Our two MPs and 100s of other political prisoners are innocent. They were illegally detained, so if anyone took part and please quote me. If anyone took part in any talks with Museveni that was not with our knowledge or endorsement. And if any promises were made, those promises were fake promises. Mr Museveni, if anybody spoke to you claiming to represent NUP, you were conned…I have spoken to the leader of opposition being the head of our front in parliament about the allegations and he has trashed them just like he has trashed them publicly and he has said until concrete evidence to the same is provided, we shall still consider that as regime propaganda. We should be careful not to allow Museveni ladies and gentlemen to sow seeds of mistrust amongst us because that’s what he wants to do. That’s what he did to DP, that’s what he did to FDC and that’s what he wants to do to us,” said Kyagulanyi.
Former presidential candidate and Kimanya-Kabonera MP Dr Abed Bwanika has been at the forefront of urging his NUP party to agree to a negotiated settlement in order to release all political prisoners. Bwanika and Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Norbert Mao have claimed that the talks that secured the release of Ssewanyana and Ssegirinya happened with the full knowledge of President Museveni.
However, Kyagulanyi says while they are open to dialogue, this can only happen when the exit of Museveni who has been in power for more than 36 years is the first on the agenda. He says any discussions and compromises with Museveni still in power, cannot be fruitful.
“I have also read in the media that there were negotiations with dictator Museveni such that our comrades Ssegirinya and Ssewanyana can have their freedom back, and this I will say. While we have always been open to constructive dialogue with anybody, our question has always been what kind of dialogue and with who and about what? We made it clear that we’re open to transparent and genuine dialogue which has a clear agenda and that agenda ladies and gentlemen, has to include transition from a military dictatorship to democracy,” said Kyagulanyi.
“The first thing on the agenda, that dialogue if it is to be there, is when is Museveni leaving and the answer must be; immediately then there we open talks. If any dialogue doesn’t include stopping dictatorship and freeing our country then we can’t talk to Museveni. We cannot be part of a dialogue with Museveni because what Museveni wants is to use us as wheelbarrows and we’re not wheelbarrows so we’re not have no dialogue with Museveni. We have not, and shall not take part in any dialogue because we don’t discuss our fundamental human rights. Those are enshrined in the constitution. We cannot start discussing with Museveni whether he will allow us to be human beings or not,” he added.
At the press conference, Kyagulanyi urged party members to be careful with the alleged regime propaganda aimed at sowing seeds of discontentment and dividing the party. Kyagulanyi said all allegations levelled against party members and leaders must be analysed and not taken on face value.
He added that if anyone took part in any talks with the government, the person does not represent the views of NUP.
“I must also emphasize friends that I’m not trying to silence you or stop you from speaking out, especially against those that are among us that could be working for the dictator and sellouts. I have always said that if you have any evidence that one of our leaders or comrades is working for the enemy please bring it to us the leaders. I will tell you that in the course of this struggle, many people have been attacked – some rightly and some wrongly. Bobi Young for example who is in prison today was at one time accused of being a state operative until he was arrested together with the Eddie Mutwe’s and Nubians and spent over 7 months in Kitalya. So it’s important ladies and gentlemen to deeply analyse before we put it out there because it is going to scatter us. Those stories mostly begin from the enemy side and they plant them in us. Before we know, we’re helping the enemy to divide our own team,” said Kyagulanyi.
On his part, Mpuuga asked NUP supporters to stop spreading fake news and first verify all their claims from the party’s hierarchy. Mpuuga further asked the NUP supporters to also respect their leaders if they are to get what they are vying for. He said any struggle without a plan and respect of commanders is bound to lose track even if it commands mass support like NUP.
Meanwhile, Kyagulanyi also re-echoed NUP’s call to the government security agencies to release their party supporters who have been illegally arrested.
According to Kyagulanyi, there is a renewed wave of abductions of the NUP supporters and the latest victims are Khalid Ssebi, Kabuga Alex, Yasin Ssebunya, and Fred Kagimu who were allegedly picked from Nakaseke, and Mubiru Saddamu Sadat who was allegedly picked from Salaama road.
He said this while welcoming Geoffrey Onjima alias Tawa who was allegedly abducted on February 7 and released on Wednesday.