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Violent clashes in Uganda after pop star politician detained

Security forces clash with supporters of Bobi Wine after he was held for breaching Covid-19 rules before rally

A supporter of Bobi Wine carries his poster as they protest against his arrest. Photograph: Badru Katumba/AFP/Getty Images

Security forces in Uganda have fought running battles with supporters of the popular Ugandan reggae singer and opposition presidential hopeful Bobi Wine after the 38-year-old was arrested for breaching Covid-19 regulations shortly before a rally.

Police arrested Wine, who is hoping to unseat Uganda’s long-time leader, Yoweri Museveni, in the eastern town of Luuka.

Supporters immediately took to the streets in the centre of Kampala, the capital, building barricades and lighting tyres. Protests were reported to be spreading to other cities and towns on Wednesday evening.

In violent clashes, dozens were reported to have been hit by live rounds fired by police and as many as eight killed.

Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, said police had violently broken into his vehicle and taken him into custody.

“The price of freedom is high but we shall certainly overcome …. Resistance against tyranny is not only a right. It is a DUTY for oppressed people to carry out!” Wine said in a series of tweets following his arrest.

Ugandan presidential candidate Bobi Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, inside a police van after his arrest. Photograph: Abubaker Lubowa/Reuters

Wine has been attracting massive crowds and his campaign has rattled the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM).

Earlier this month, he was temporarily blinded by police when he was arrested moments after being successfully certified as a candidate in next year’s election.

Security forces have frequently fired teargas at his rallies and detained and beaten his supporters.

In a statement issued before Wine’s detention on Wednesday, police had warned that presidential candidates would be arrested if they flouted guidelines limiting attendance at rallies to 200 people during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Moses Kafeero, the Kampala police commander, said Wine had “continuously violated electoral guidelines on Covid-19” and had been taken in for questioning.

“As law enforcement, we can’t stand and watch as politicians put the lives of Ugandans at stake by encouraging processions and huge rallies, which fuel Covid-19 transmission,” Kafeero said.

Known by supporters as “the ghetto president”, Wine is one of a new generation of politicians across Africa who are challenging long-time leaders, hoping to harness deep dissatisfaction among younger, more educated and often urban voters.

He broke into formal politics in 2017 when he won a seat in Uganda’s national assembly, and has been since been badly assaulted and detained many times.

David Lewis Rubongoya, secretary general of Wine’s National Unity Platform party, said the arrest of Wine was unfair as Museveni and his supporters had been holding mass rallies.

“It’s not about Covid-19. It’s about repression … People are very angry and they are very right to be angry. People are tired of the double standards; they are tired of the oppression and dictatorship that has caused all these problems in the country,” Rubongoya said.

Museveni, 76, is eligible to seek another term next year after lawmakers removed constitutional age limits on the presidency. The former rebel leader’s party insists he remains its most popular member.

Uganda has never witnessed a peaceful transfer of power since independence in 1962.

This article was published by The Guardian.


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