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Ugandan pop star-turned-politician freed on bail

August 27, 2018

After two weeks in detention on charges of possessing illegal weapons and then treason, Bobi Wine has been freed. Some of the rapper-turned lawmaker's young supporters want to see him run for the presidency in 2021.

Singer-turned-politician Bobi Wine released on bail by a Gulu courtroom
Image: Getty Images/AFP

Ugandan pop star-turned-politician Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, better known as Bobi Wine, has been released on bail after being arrested earlier this month.

Ssentamu had been in detention since August 14. He was initially charged before a military court for illegal possession of firearms and ammunition, but this was dropped on August 23, just moments before a civilian court charged him with treason.

The 36-year-old lawmaker was freed alongside others who faced similar charges over their alleged participation in an incident that saw the presidential motorcade pelted with stones.

Ssentamu was seen leaving the court house in the northern Ugandan town of Gulu on crutches, amid claims he was severely beaten by authorities while in custody. The lawmaker was then lifted into an ambulance headed for a private hospital in the capital of Kampala.

Ssentamu captures Uganda's youth

Authorities had been under pressure to free Ssentamu, who has become popular among Uganda's mostly young population — some of whom want him to run against long-time President Yoweri Museveni in the 2021 elections.

Ssentamu won a seat in parliament last year and has been an outspoken critic of Museveni.

Bobi Wine supporters hold up a photo of him during demonstrations
Bobi Wine has found support in Uganda's mostly young populationImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo/R. Kabuubi

However, his treason case could drag on for several years, potentially hampering his hopes of standing for the highest office.

The young politician's imprisonment had drawn street protests in Uganda, particularly since he said he was tortured and beaten while in custody. The government denies the allegations.

A hundred musicians, artists, activists and politicians had signed an open letter condemning the treatment of Ssentamu,  with names such as Coldplay singer Chris Martin, The Pretenders singer Chrissie Hynde, Damon Albarn of Blur and Angelique Kidjo among the signees.

Bobi Wine: The Ghetto President

dm, law/rt (AP, Reuters)

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