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Uganda police arrest opposition figure Bobi Wine

January 6, 2020

Bobi Wine had sought to start the first day of consultations with supporters ahead of the 2021 presidential election. The young politician threatens aging President Yoweri Museveni's nearly three decades of rule.

Bobi Wine arrested in Uganda
Image: Getty Images/AFP/Stringer

Police in Uganda on Monday arrested singer-turned-politician Bobi Wine, who sought to hold his first public meeting with supporters ahead of next year's presidential election.

Wine's arrest alongside two other lawmakers highlights the hurdles he faces in a bid to unseat longtime President Yoweri Museveni.

Read moreUganda bans red beret synonymous with Bobi Wine's movement

Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse supporters of his People Power movement gathered outside the capital, Kampala, accusing them of holding an illegal assembly.

Wine, whose real name is Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, aimed to start the first day of a weeklong series of consultations with supporters to outline plans to run for president in the 2021 elections.

Ugandan musicians in politics

The Election Committee had approved the consultations, but police later claimed that Wine's supporters hadn't kept to the terms. Edson Muhangi, a police commander, said that Wine was attempting to hold a rally outside instead of in an enclosed place. He also said the 37-year-old had failed to provide a "traffic assembly plan," a sufficient number of toilets and "clearly identified name tags."

Read moreUganda: Bobi Wine threatens Museveni's three-decade rule

Police accused Wine of "going early and conducting campaigns" instead of "consultations." Under Uganda's election law, "nationwide consultation" is allowed 12 months ahead of the official nomination of candidates.

Throwing up hurdles 

Earlier, a first event at a Catholic Church in his constituency in Kampala could not proceed because police deployed outside before dawn. Angry protesters then set car tires on fire and blocked roads, prompting police to use tear gas and rubber bullets against the crowd.

"Despite complying with all lawful requirements, the police and military have blocked the first consultative meeting for the 2021 Presidential election," an administrator of Wine's Twitter account wrote.

Robert Amsterdam, a lawyer for the politician, wrote on Twitter that Wine and others had been arrested in a "violation of basic rights."

Since becoming a legislator in 2017, Wine has repeatedly faced harassment and detention by security forces. In recent months, authorities have prevented him from holding rallies or even giving concerts, saying that the events are a danger to the public.

Read moreUganda's opposition fights to be heard amid clampdown on dissent

Wine has also been charged with various criminal offences. A conviction would prevent him from running for president of the East African country. 

Wine is especially popular among young Ugandans tired of the 75-year-old Museveni.

Museveni seized power at the head of a rebel army in 1986. His critics accuse him of using legal maneuvering and authoritarian tactics to maintain power.

cw/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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