5 African leaders who have been placed under house arrest

African leaders like Muhammadu Buhari, Kizza Besigye, Abram Fisher, Patrice Lumumba and Riek Machar.

South Sudan's rebel leader Riek Machar

According to media reports, a well-connected regional political consultant In South Africa said Machar was being held “basically under house arrest” near Pretoria with his movements restricted and his phone calls monitored and controlled.

“If he wants to go to the toilet he has to hand over his phone and a guy stands outside the cubicle,” the source said.

Fresh attacks broke out mid this year, After President Salva Kiir’s forces and Machar forces fought again in an ethnic cleansing inspired civil war.

Machar himself was wounded and after fleeing to Congo went to Sudan, a long-term supporter of his rebel faction, for medical treatment. He then turned up in South Africa in October for more treatment.

In law, house arrest also known as home confinement, home detention, or electronic monitoring is a measure by which a person is confined by the authorities to a certain residence.

Once under house arrest, communication is monitored and controlled and movements is restricted.

In rare cases if allowed at all following pressure or ill health, House arrest is an alternative to prison time or juvenile-detention time.

House arrest goes as far as human civilization, Judges have imposed sentences of home confinement, as an alternative to parole, as far back as the 1900s. Galileo was confined to his villa following his infamous trial in the 1600s.

However it did not become a widespread alternative to imprisonment until electronic monitoring devices made it inexpensive and easy to manage. The first-ever court sentence of house arrest with an electronic bracelet was in 1983.

Machar joins a list of some prominent Africans who have also been forced by the state to basically convert their homes to prison.

Kizza Besigye

This Ugandan opposition leader is synonymous with house arrests, the guy has been arrested so many times he has lost count of it.

Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) presidential candidate, Kizza Besigye early this year during the Uganda general elections was placed under house arrest, as the country’s Electoral Commission announced the hotly contested presidential results.

Heavily armed police officers were deployed at Besigye’s home to restrain his movements and keep off the media.

Besigye proceeded to enjoy over 40 days of home confinement before being released, apart from that he is also facing numerous charges brought against him by the state, so a future home confinement is not completely off the card for him.

Muhammadu Buhari

The Nigerian president may be enjoying all the instruments of power now, absolute power to even decide to either set a prisoner free or not through the presidential pardon.

However he too at one point was a guest of the state. In August 1985, Major General Buhari was overthrown in a coup led by General Ibrahim Babangida and other members of the ruling Supreme Military Council (SMC).

Buhari was then detained and spent three years of detention in a small guarded bungalow in Benin until 1988. while on house arrest he had access to only two television channels and members of his family were allowed to visit him on the authorization of Babangida.

Abram Fisher

Abram Fischer, commonly known as Bram Fischer, was a South African lawyer of Afrikaner descent.

He is well remembered for his anti-apartheid activism and the legal defence of anti-apartheid figures.

Fischer played an integral role on the defense team in the Treason Trial of 1956 – 1961 where Mandela and many other anti-apartheid activists were acquitted on 29 March 1961.

Fischer led Nelson Mandela's  legal defense team at the Rivonia Trial of 1963 – 1964 which saved the apartheid icon from the gallows and instead commuted him to life sentence. Following the trial Fisher was himself put on trial accused of furthering communism. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, and diagnosed with cancer while in prison.

International and local pressure calling for his release due to ill health, forced the apartheid government to place him under house arrest at his brother's home in Bloemfontein in April 1975. He died a few weeks later, having served eleven years.

Patrice Lumumba

Democratic Republic of Congo first prime minister, on 14 September 1960 was placed under house arrest at the prime minister’s residence following a coup organized by Colonel Mobutu Sese Seko.

United Nations troops were stationed around the residence to protect him from Mobuto forces.

Nevertheless Lumumba managed to escape the hawk eyed security forces, by being smuggled out by his supporters one night and escaped to Stanleyville where he attempted to set up his own government to no avail.

He was eventually assassinated by a firing squad in January 1961.


Eyewitness? Submit your stories now via social or:

Email: news@pulselive.co.ke