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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 March 2006, 09:18 GMT
Besigye undaunted by court cases
Since returning to Uganda last year, opposition politician Kizza Besigye has regularly been in court on a number of charges.

Kizza Besigye
Kizza Besigye and his wife are both former allies of President Museveni

He says this contirubted to his defeat in the recent presidential election - though he still managed to secure 37% of the recent presidential vote.

His lawyers are going to court to challenge that result.

But what is not in doubt is that he relishes challenging authority.

When he arrived at Entebbe airport late last year after four years in exile, his scathing attack on the government was delivered with so much aggression and passion, they could have picked up the message from miles away.

And in the few months he has been back in Uganda, fiery encounters have remained everyday events as he battles charges of treason, terrorism and rape - all of which he says are politically motivated.

The run-up to the presidential elections was dominated by protracted legal proceedings, and at one point it looked possible that he might be disqualified from standing - or even in prison on polling day.

But he remained out of prison in the weeks up to the elections, despite a number of court appearances, and has now been at least partially vindicated by a court judgement that cleared him of rape, and dismissed the investigation against him as "crude and amateurish".

The encounters with the judiciary did not seem to have damaged his support.

Charisma

Interestingly, a pre-election poll suggested that Dr Besigye himself was more popular than his party, the Forum for Democratic Change - suggesting that it is personal charisma rather than new ideas that has built his following since that first rip-roaring speech at the airport.

Dr Besigye, aged 50, is married to Winnie Byanyima, a former MP who is seen as intelligent and ambitious and who was once a close personal friend of Mr Museveni. Dr Besigye and his wife have one son.

Kizza Besigye was born in Rukungiri District in western Uganda and gave a few interesting insights into his early years during an interview with David Kaiza of the East African newspaper just prior to the last election.

Dr Besigye is the second child in a family of six and the son of a policeman. Both his parents passed away while he was at secondary school.

Studies

In 1975, Kizza Besigye headed to Kampala and to medical school at what was then the region's most prestigious university, Makerere.

Idi Amin was president of Uganda at the time and his army was causing misery in many areas of the country including on university campus.

Kizza Besigye did not escape that treatment. Aged 18, he was in a Kampala hotel about to have dinner. Walking to the toilets, he stopped to talk to a former class mate.

A huge man lifted him up by the collar, slapped him hard across the face and sent him sprawling to the floor.

As he recalled in the interview, he never made it to the toilets, and never ate his dinner. He picked himself up and ran for dear life.

Imprisoned

Following the overthrow of Idi Amin, Dr Besigye - as he now was - became a member of the Uganda People's Movement of Yoweri Museveni.

The movement had little success in the 1980 election which saw the return of Milton Obote to power, and which is widely considered to have been rigged.

President Yoweri Museveni
Mr Museveni defeated Dr Besigye at the last election
Dr Besigye told the East African newspaper that he did not immediately join Mr Museveni in the bush war.

But he was imprisoned for two months in the Nile Hotel in 1981, accused of working with the rebels, and was tortured.

Dr Besigye fled to Nairobi and in 1982 joined Mr Museveni in the bush where he became his personal doctor.

Although rarely at the battle front, Dr Besigye was deployed in divisions which were sent into battle where he treated the casualties.

When Yoweri Museveni came to power, Dr Besigye, now aged 29, was appointed state minister of internal affairs and national political commissar.

These appointments shocked some who had been in the bush with Dr Besigye, as he had not been heavily involved in the political side of the bush war.

Threat

Some believe Dr Besigye's rapid rise led to him being viewed as a potential threat to Yoweri Museveni and as a result he was given less demanding work during the 1990s.

Dr Besigye rose to the rank of colonel in the army but didn't retire from it until shortly before the 2001 elections - having written a document which accused the ruling Movement of being undemocratic, dishonest and corrupt, and which almost earned him a court martial.

A few months before the election, he emerged as a presidential candidate.

Having lost to Mr Museveni, he went to court and challenged the result on the grounds that the state had used force, intimidation and violence.

Exile

He lost the case on a split decision and then fled the country.

On his return in 2005 he said: "I left in order to continue to be politically active rather than being behind bars or six feet under as had been threatened."

The government says Dr Besigye has connections with a rebel group, and this accusation led to charges. He has denied any rebel link, although he has said he wouldn't rule out going to the bush to overthrow the government if the constitution were overthrown and needed to be reinstated.

His critics see him as power hungry. But others praise him for standing up to authority.

Dr Besigye himself says his mission is "to work with millions of other Ugandans in bringing about a stable democratic and peaceful Uganda".

However, he is likely to be back in court a lot more in the coming months.

As well as defending himself on charges of treason, he is now planning to go to court of his own volition both to challenge his February 2006 election defeat and to sue the government over false arrest for a rape he was cleared of.




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