September 13, 2001. Front page.
Shock in U.S. over Byanyima detention
By Carl Bialik
U.S. government officials, Ugandan emissaries in the U.S., and NGO representatives reacted with shock when told by The Monitor that Winnie Byanyima, MP for Mbarara Municipality, had been arrested by government security personnel on Monday.
"It's very surprising; she's a really powerful person," said Marc Mealy, legislative aide to Congressman Gregory Meeks of New York, who sits on the House subcommittee on Africa. Mealy advises Meeks on Africa affairs and was in Uganda during the June parliamentary elections. "Obviously, she is strong enough politically to be elected in a district where it didn't appear she had the support of the Movement."
Despite his surprise, Mealy expressed doubt that the arrest would affect U.S. policy toward Uganda. "The U.S. interests in the region are for stability, curtailing the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the region, fighting terrorism, and the economic integration of Africa into the global economy," Mealy told The Monitor. "All those areas can be pursued effectively without having a multiparty system, as we see right now."
Mealy added, "If there's a big reaction among her constituents, that wouldn't be a good thing, but even in that worst-case scenario, would that undermine the stability of the country? I doubt it."
Geeta Rao Gupta, president of the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) in Washington, D.C., also had not heard of the arrest. "I'm stunned, and I hope it's not true," she told The Monitor. Byanyima was elected to the ICRW board of directors at the end of last year, but she has not yet been able to contribute to the group's work. She was prevented from attending the ICRW board meeting in April because the Ugandan government had charged her with sedition and confiscated her passport.
The Ugandan embassy in Washington, D.C., meanwhile, had not yet heard of Byanyima's arrest when contacted Monday afternoon. "Sometimes, it takes us time to get news," said Ahmed Ssenyomo, counselor at the embassy. "Maybe by tomorrow we'll be aware."
The U.S. State Department and other Congressional offices and NGOs either could not be reached for comment or would not comment until they independently verified Byanyima's arrest.
Copyright © 2002 Carl Bialik
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