KAMPALA: Seven people died in violent protests that erupted in Kampala on Wednesday after Ugandan presidential candidate Bobi Wine was arrested, police said. Security forces clashed with supporters of the pop star-turned-opposition leader who is President Yoweri Museveni’s main opponent in presidential elections on January 14. “So far the dead are seven, as from late last evening. Those injured are 45,” police spokesman Fred Enanga told AFP on Tuesday.
The singer, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, remained in police custody yesterday for allegedly violating coronavirus measures at his rallies. Enanga said calm had returned to the capital “even after there were attempts by some gangs this morning to block roads by burning tyres and setting up barricades, which police stopped.”
The Red Cross said late Wednesday it had treated more than 30 people following “scuffles involving the police and the rioting masses”, including 11 people for gunshot wounds. Wine, 38, has long been a thorn in Museveni’s side, netting a widespread following through catchy pop songs about social justice and corruption. Many young Ugandans see him as their champion in a country mired in poverty and youth unemployment.
Museveni, a 76-year-old former rebel who seized power in 1986, is one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders. Wine has been repeatedly arrested-most recently on November 3 after he filed his candidacy for the elections-his concerts are routinely banned and his public rallies broken up with teargas.
The situation in Kampala remained tense early yesterday, with a constant military and police presence. Rocks, burned tyres and other debris littered many streets in the city center. A group of Wine supporters remained camped outside Nalufenya prison in eastern Uganda where he was being detained. A leading supporter, Muhammad Ssegirinya, who is also an an opposition parliamentary candidate, was detained after posted an audio message saying Kyagulanyi collapsed in detention over night and was to be flown out of the country for treatment. The US embassy published a tweet saying it deplored the violence and extended its sympathy to the victims and their families.
“We urge all parties to renounce violence, undertake good-faith measures to reduce tensions, and respect fundamental freedoms,” it said. Patrick Oboi Amuriat, the candidate with the Forum for Democratic Change, was also detained on Wednesday but has been released. Two other presidential candidates, Henry Tumukunde and Gregory Mugisha Muntu, have called off their campaigns until Uganda’s electoral body prevailed over what they called police brutality against opposition candidates. Museveni made no immediate comment on the protests. – AFP