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No, Kizza Besigye is not the most arrested man in the world

By Hillary Orinde | January 23rd 2020

Kizza Besigye (in blue cap) gestures his party sign before being arrested for holding a rally in Kampala, Uganda in 2015. [File, Standard]

On Monday, January 20, Uganda’s opposition figurehead Kizza Besigye was detained at Nalufenya Police Station after being arrested in Jinja.

He was set to address the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) loyalists as the party marked 15 years since inception.

A long-standing opponent of President Yoweri Museveni, Besigye has been frequently jailed, put under house arrest, accused of both treason and rape, tear-gassed, beaten and hospitalised over the years.

News of his recent dramatic arrest spread widely with claims that he was now the most arrested man in the world arose. 

News outlets across East Africa including a leading Kenyan television station said Kizza Besigye was recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as the ‘most arrested man in the world’ with the Monday arrest being his 50th.

The Guinness Book of Records is a reference book synonymous with world records both of human achievement and extremes in the natural world.

Started in 1955, it has grown to become the ultimate authority on recording the world’s most amazing accomplishments.

We made a press inquiry on Kizza Besigye’s alleged record and the agency said it was fake, noting that it had been widely misreported.

Guinness World Records PR Executive Jessica Spillane told the Standard Fact Chek desk that the world’s most arrested man was Tommy Johns. He was arrested nearly 3,000 times for being drunk and disorderly.

The booze-guzzling man reportedly died from a brain tumour in 1988.

“Although the record is not actively open for applications and we do not encourage people to strive to break the record,” Spillane advised.

It is, however, worthy to note that Besigye told a campaign rally in November 2015 that he had been arrested 43 times since the year 2000.

The news outlets which shared the fake record also falsely claimed Kizza Besigye was arrested 15 times in 2016 during the election period.

While it is true Besigye, who was contesting the presidency against Yoweri Museveni, was arrested during the election, including thrice in a week, his arrests did not total 15.

It is also false that Kizza Besigye had never been sentenced.

Who is Kizza Besigye?

Born in 1956, he is a medical doctor married to an aeronautical engineer Winnie Byanyima.

He was Museveni's personal doctor during a war that brought him to power in the 1980s and has since run against him in four elections.

He joined Museveni's movement in 1979 and was imprisoned for two months in the Nile Hotel in 1981, accused of working with the rebels, and tortured.

At 29 years old, he was appointed the state minister of internal affairs and national political commissar.

He lost to Museveni in 2001 and fled into exile. Stayed in Nairobi between 2001 and 2005.

In 2006 he was charged with treason and rape before the general election - later acquitted on both counts.

In 2011, he told BBC he had not spoken to President Museveni in more than 10 years.

He has been arrested twice this week.

This is part of an initiative of the Standard Group Plc to combat fake news, misinformation and disinformation.  If you have something you want us to fact-check you can reach us on [email protected]

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