Militay Government To Release Some Political Prisoners
KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) _ Uganda’s new military rulers plan to release an unspecified number of political prisoners who had been detained by the government of ousted president Milton Obote, state-run television said Thursday.
The network quoted an Internal Affairs Ministry statement as saying the prisoners would be released in a public ceremony Saturday morning at a main square in Kampala, the capital. It did not say how many prisoners would be freed.
Paul Ssemogerere, internal affairs minister in the military government, told The Associated Press earlier this week that the Obote government had detained about 1,000 political prisoners at the Luzira maximum security prison outside Kampala. He said their release was a top priority of the new government, which took power in a July 27 coup.
Among the prominent detainees expected to be freed was Yoweri Kyesimira, a minister in one of the transitional governments between the military’s ouster of dictator Idi Amin in 1979 and Obote’s election in late 1980.
Kyesimira served in Parliament under Obote but was arrested and charged with treason for allegedly supporting anti-government guerrillas. He was acquitted and the high court ordered his release, but he remained in detention.
Also expected to be freed is Balaki Kirya, another former minister and a political leader of the Uganda Freedom Movement guerrillas. He was tried last year for treason, after reportedly being abducted from Nairobi, Kenya. Prosecutors withdrew charges against him, but he, too, remained in detention.
Earlier Thursday, a political party leader urged the military government to grant amnesty to political prisoners and to anti-Obote guerrillas as a show of good will prior to proposed reconciliation talks.
J.S. Mayanja-Nkangi, who heads the small Conservative Party, also asked the government to stop appointing Cabinet ministers until after negotiations with guerrillas and political leaders.
The military leaders have appointed a prime minister and four other Cabinet members so far.
Mayanja-Nkangi endorsed the call by the interim head of state, Lt. Gen. Tito Okello, for peace talks with anti-Obote guerrilla groups.
But he said in a letter to the new government that ″appointment of a full- fledged administration is an undoubted psychological and political impediment to the peace move.″
He said an amnesty should be declared immediately to encourage the guerrillas to join the proposed talks.
Mayanja-Nkangi’s call for release of political prisoners was echoed in London, where the Uganda Group for Human Rights issued a statement saying Ugandans detained without trialunder Obote should be freed.