Police arrest Ugandan pop artist-turned-politician to break up rally


Ugandan MP and pop star Bobi Wine, real name Robert Kyagulanyi, has been arrested by the police accusing him of trying to stage an illegal rally. Police also fired tear gas to disperse crowds who are supporting him in his presidential bid.

Wine and his People Power pressure group had aimed to start a programme of consultations with supporters on his plans to challenge Yoweri Museveni, 75, who has ruled Uganda since 1986.

Police said Wine, was trying to stage an assembly in an open area when he had only been allowed to meet supporters in an enclosed area such as a conference hall.

“This one is not an enclosed place, we cannot even allow them to be here,” said Edson Muhangi, a police commander. “We are reliably informed that their aim is to engage us so that they can be seen exchanging words, fighting with the police and tarnishing the image of Uganda.”

Colleagues of Wine were also arrested before the planned event at a school in Gayaza, in the central district of Wakiso. Gunfire was heard but it was not clear if live rounds or rubber bullets were fired.

Security personnel in Uganda routinely break up opposition rallies with teargas, beatings and detentions. Human rights activists have accused the police and army of rights violations.

Since he became a legislator in 2017, Wine has rattled Ugandan authorities, who see him as a threat to Museveni. There are growing concerns that the election campaign could turn violent as security forces restrict opposition activists’ interactions with supporters.

The singer and activist have called on Museveni to retire, saying young people must prepare to take over leadership of the east African nation. Museveni, who has indicated he will run again for president, has accused Wine of trying to incite his supporters into rioting.

Wine came to political prominence nationally in 2017 when, as an independent candidate, he won election as a lawmaker representing a constituency near Kampala. He has since successfully campaigned for other opposition candidates, raising his profile and attracting encouragement to run for president. He is a controversial figure, and has faced repeated accusations of homophobia.

Robert Ssempala, the head of the Human Rights Network for Journalists – Uganda, told Reuters two local reporters had been briefly detained as they covered the confrontation. He condemned the police response as “high-handed and unlawful”. (Source: The Guardian)