Pop star and Ugandan presidential candidate Bobi Wine was released on bail on Friday, November 20, two days after his arrest. The arrest of Wine on Wednesday had led to massive protests during which repression by state forces led to the death of at least 37 people.
As on Friday, the third day of protests, scores of others were injured and at least 600 people were arrested by the security forces on charges ranging from rioting to arson. On Wednesday and Thursday, soldiers moving in armored vehicles across the capital city of Kampala and other cities used teargas, water cannons and live bullets against protesters. Some social media posts showed police firing indiscriminately on people standing in their balconies overlooking the protests.
Bobi Wine was arrested when he was campaigning in the eastern part of the country. He was arrested for allegedly violating “coronavirus guidelines” against holding mass rallies. However, several rights groups allege that the coronavirus restrictions are being used as a tool to repress the opposition in Uganda.
For many hours, Wine’s whereabouts were not disclosed by the Ugandan police. Later, his spokesperson disclosed to the public that Wine was kept in a high security police facility in the eastern city of Jinja. Immediately after his arrest, the National Unity Platform, Bobi Wine’s party, alleged that he had been denied access to lawyers. Appearing in the court, Wine blamed the incumbent government for the killing of people.
Returned from prison to find over 37 citizens shot dead in two days. Gen. Museveni is ready to kill thousands to keep in power like he did on the way in. The hunger for freedom is sweeping over Uganda. He may kill us, but he will NOT stop the people's yearning for #Freedom. pic.twitter.com/7Xus8zISIB
— BOBI WINE (@HEBobiwine) November 21, 2020
Bobi Wine, 38, whose real name is Robert Kyagulaniyi, has emerged as the strongest contender against the long-term president Yoweri Museveni and his National Resistance Movement which has been in power since 1986. Wine was arrested earlier this month as well, immediately after he was certified as the candidate for the presidential elections.
Several other candidates contesting the presidential elections, such as Kizza-Besigye and Mugisha Muntu, went public in opposing Bobi Wine’s arrest and had called his arrest as politically motivated.
•Free Hon Robert Kyagulanyi (Bobi Wine) NOW.
•Free Ugandans NOW!
•Ugandans: remain firm &take actions to end captivity NOW.
•@IntlCrimCourt Please process petition of Ugandans; more generous crimes underway!
•Those funding the Rogue NRM/M7 Junta must stop. STOP ODIOUS DEBTS. pic.twitter.com/aM527At2D1
— Kifefe Kizza-Besigye (@kizzabesigye1) November 19, 2020
In an official statement, president Museveni had accused Bobi’s supporters, “outsiders and homosexuals and others” of indulging in violence and not respecting the laws and guidelines devised to save the lives of people. Museveni (76 years old) has been allowed to contest the upcoming election after a constitutional amendment was passed that waived the age limit for candidates.
The elections for the president and for the country’s legislature is scheduled to be held on January 14.