For the second day in a row, social media has been awash with condemning messages from outraged Ugandans who are calling for the immediate release of three opposition supporters arrested over the weekend for allegedly being in possession of
Kizza Besigye T-shirts.
Under the hashtag #FreeSamwyiri, many are accusing the Ugandan government of infringing on basic human rights and applying double standards when enforcing the law. One Ugandan said in his Twitter post:
In Uganda, wearing a Besigye t-shirt is criminal. How did we get here? How come we don't stone those that wear M7's yellow t-shirts? ???
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— Wilfred Businge (@IamWilfredB) May 29, 2016
The arrests are part of an ongoing clampdown against opposition supporters who have been protesting the February presidential election in which the incumbent President Yoweri Museveni was controversially declared winner with over 60 percent of the total votes cast.
Many now say Besigye T-shirts are selling like hotcakes in Uganda as opposition supporters unite in a show of defiance against police harassment.
— UG-CrazyMedias (@UGcrazymedias) May 31, 2016
Hours before President Museveni was sworn in, Uganda’s main opposition leader Besigye was arrested after he dramatically swore himself in as the people’s president.
Three weeks later, Besigye – a long-standing political opponent of Museveni – is still in police custody, facing treason charges.
Law Enforcement or Repression?
For decades, Museveni’s administration has been accused of heavy-handedness and intimidation of the opposition, with the country’s security agents being faulted for violating human rights on numerous occasions.
In the run-up to the last election, Dr. Besigye was arrested more than three times, put under house arrest and deterred from holding election campaigns in certain regions of Uganda.
Earlier this month, 18 Ugandan opposition supporters were arrested for allegedly planning to disrupt peace ahead of Museveni’s swearing-in ceremony on 12 May.
Hours after these arrests, the Ugandan government banned local media from giving opposition protesters live coverage.
The Ugandan administration has continuously defended its actions, insisting that it won’t tolerate anyone who threatens peace and stability of the East African country.