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Ugandan pop star turned politician Bobi Wine was arrested along with his entourage on January 6 as he tried to hold a rally to unseat current President Yoweri Museveni. Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse supporters of Wine’s People Power Freedom movement gathered in the country’s capital, Kampala.
Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, known by his stage name Bobi Wine, is a popular opposition figure in Uganda and is the parliamentary representative for the Kyadondo East constituency.
His supporters were accused of holding an illegal assembly. According to police commander Edson Muhangi, Wine was attempting to hold his meeting in an open area when he had only been allowed to meet supporters in an enclosed area such as a conference hall.
Wine aimed to start his first day of a series of consultations with supporters to outline plans to run for president in the 2021 elections. Under Uganda’s 2000 election law, presidential candidates may carry out “nationwide consultation” in the 12 months prior to their official nomination as candidates.
Wine was released from police custody at Naggalama Police Station in the early hours of January 7. “As usual, these cowards have released us in the deep of the night. These illegal injustices only make us stronger, but most importantly reveal to us how scared the regime is of WE THE PEOPLE. Stronger. THANK YOU ALL FOR STANDING. Aluta continua,” tweeted Wine.
Fears for safety
Seen as a threat to President Museveni’s long-time rule of the African nation since 1986, Wine has expressed concerns for his own safety as well as his supporters’ lives. His driver, Yasin Kawuma was shot dead in Wine’s vehicle in Arua, a city where Wine and several other opposition members of parliament (MPs) had pitched camp during a by-election campaign in August 2018.
One of his supporters, an entertainer Michael Karinda who is known as Zigy Wyne, reportedly died from injuries sustained after being tortured by unknown abductors. Wyne’s body was reportedly found dumped outside a hospital in Kampala. According to a spokesperson for People Power, the incident is not isolated and members of the movement have been targeted before.
Wine’s attorney, Robert Amsterdam who is a Canadian international lawyer of the law firm Amsterdam & Partners, has condemned the arrests and blames Museveni’s regime for attacks on Ugandan civilians and on political activities. “The Museveni regime’s repressive conduct and attacks on Ugandan civilians must be denounced more forcefully by the intl community. They are violating rights by forcing any/all political activities indoors only to disrupt with teargas, even with children present,” Amsterdam tweeted.