Ugandan pro-democracy groups have asked the international community to step in and condemn the alleged trumped-up charges of treason imposed on Uganda's opposition leader Kizza Besigye.
Besigye claims he won the 18 February presidential elections. However, official figures from the Electoral Commission show, veteran leader President Yoweri Museveni won the elections with 60.8% of all the votes cast while Besigye came second after pulling 30.5%.
The vocal opposition leader, who has been under house arrest for much of the time since the disputed 18 February elections, was arrested last week after his Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party said it had sworn him in as Uganda's president on 11 May – a day before Museveni took the presidential oath for a fifth time.
"If those laws are abused with impunity by politicians, the people should have the power to regain control over the affairs of their country. It's those very powers that the people of Uganda are exercising when they demand change. That's why those people decided to prepare a ceremony for Besigye to be sworn-in president, ahead of Museveni's bogus swear-in," Prince Dickson Wasajja of the FDC- UK Chapter and Chair of Uganda Diaspora P10 (UK), told IBTimes UK.
Rights groups denounced Besigye's trial as being part of a government repression on opposition and civil society leaders. Many opposition lower ranking officials have been rounded up in various parts of the country and – unlike Besigye who has been officially charged – they are yet to be charged with an offence. Treason is a capital offence in Uganda, but the death penalty has not been carried out for years.
Wasajja claimed members of the Ugandan judiciary "are being used" to fight the opposition inside courtrooms.
"The only crime they are accused of commuting is supporting the opposition," the FDC official said. "It's all just fiction, but we are taking this matter very seriously as the regime is criminalising (opposition and civil society) groups' activities. This circus has got to stop. We will fight these charges politically and legally.""
In an exclusive interview with IBTimes UK, Wasajja called on the international community to impose an embargo on Uganda as a way to "isolate Museveni". The politician outlined the party's key demands.
All the teargas, the guns and the luxury that the members of the regime enjoy in Uganda are sponsored in great part by the West. Taxpayers in the West need to question the way their governments are spending money on dictatorships that brutalise their people.
While the FDC called on Ugandans to protest the regime's steps to ban activities of opposition groups internally, it urged the international community to leverage its financial power to "isolate Museveni".
"Uganda is a highly indebted poor country, which depends on charitable contributions donated by countries such as Britain. All the teargas, the guns and the luxury that the members of the regime enjoy in Uganda are sponsored in great part by the West. Taxpayers in the West need to question the way their governments are spending money on dictatorships that brutalise their people," Wasajja explained.
"It has got to stop. We want to see an arms embargo imposed on Uganda because they are being used against the innocent population. If the taxpayers only saw the brutal force used during gatherings of opposition groups to disperse members – it's like war."
Following the controversial elections, Electoral observers from the European Union (EU), and the United States (US), raised concerns about recent developments in Uganda, which has traditionally been one of the largest recipients of international aid.
While the African nation's donors cut aid after Museveni passed a law imposing harsh penalties for homosexuality in 2014, the UK's Department for International Development said the £97.9m budget for that year would not be withheld, for instance. The United States are Uganda's largest bilateral donor.
Ugandans 'living in fear of military and police'
Bosco Nyeko, an activist who has signed petitions demanding the resignation of Museveni, described how the country is terrified and "in a total lockdown by the military and police" since the poll.
"Ugandans are so terrified of the military and police – the country is literally in a military lock down at the moment – and all members of the opposition who can talk and civil society leaders are being monitored and some of them locked away, while others have disappeared. There is an atmosphere of fear throughout the country," Nyeko told IBTimes UK by telephone.
"Kizza Besigye, obviously, is the symbol of Ugandan's dissatisfaction with Museveni's rule, and their struggle to transcend from dictators and one-man-rule to democracy. While Ugandans were not asking the poll to be perfect, what we have seen were gross failures. Once that is being thrown into a legal battle and Museveni has proven he controls the judiciary, it is going to be tough for Ugandans to overcome this."
Claiming Museveni is not listening to the advice of governments that he says are helping the regime – the US, the United Kingdom and the rest of the EU, Nyeko echoed FDC's demands that Western nations act "against utter, total contempt".
"If they don't, how can Ugandan transcend from here is a million dollar question and it will be extremely challenging for dissenting voices – at the image of Besigye's trumped-up trial," the activist said.