In a victory for the beleagured judiciary in Uganda, a magistrate has acquitted Kizza Besigye of all remaining charges arising from his leadership in peaceful protests against the government of Yoweri Museveni. Besigye has repeatedly lost to Museveni in national elections, yet he remains the most potent symbol of opposition to a leader who frequently acts in an autocratic manner. The decision by Magistrate George Wetyekere provides a reminder — which the judge made explicit — that Ugandans have the right to publicly demonstrate against the government.
To be sure, Museveni’s animus towards Besigye has reached epic proportions, so that his harassment of Besigye is unlikely to end. But the ruling offers a hopeful message to ordinary Ugandans that their president cannot act with impunity against his critics.