Monday, January 16, 2006

Uganda Update

I'm taking a quick break from Kuwait to report that the political situation in Uganda has gotten more and more ridiculous.

The opposition candidate—Dr. Kizza Besigye—was, as you may recall, imprisoned on charges of treason and rape. The courts released him on bail. The treason charges have been delayed until after the election, but the rape trial is going on right now.

The rape trial is similar to rape trials all over the world. The casual observer (me) cannot make head or tails of who is right and who is wrong. The plaintiff has been proven to have been treated several times for mental illness, but no one has gone into if this means depression or something delusionary. A key witness for the plaintiff has been proven to have received financial assistance from the intelligence officer in charge of the case. The complaint against the defendant was not made until well after the incident, so there's no DNA evidence that's been produced yet. A witness has been kidnapped.

Who is guilty? Who is innocent? Of course I have no idea. Our natural sympathies for the underdog cut both ways here. On one hand, we are sympathetic towards the woman, and history has shown time and again how difficult it is to take the stand in a rape trial, and how the woman will always be raked over the coals. On the other hand, there is the natural assumption that the politician in power is wrong and that the challenger is being railroaded.

I've been reading the hearing transcripts on the Monitor's site and it's just a big mess. And while I do know that it's wrong to imprison the opposition just before the election, I don't know who would make a better president for Uganda.

To complicate matters, Dr. Kizza Besigye's wife complained that the President had bribed judges to keep her husband in jail. So now she has been charged with libel and so has the party treasurer.

This mess ends—in theory—just over a month from now. But we already know that the election will be super-charged. If President Museveni wins, he must do so in a transparent election and by a landslide. If the opposition wins, he must also win in court or Uganda will have a real mess on its hands.

Meanwhile, I'll be transiting Dubai on my way to Egypt next month. I have some Ugandan shillings to dump at the airport exchange place there (should be possible as Emirates flies direct from Dubai to Entebbe). Wouldn't want to be holding those shillings after the election.

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