South Africa

Uganda opposition leader Bobi Wine says under house arrest

Bobi Wine

Ugandan opposition leader Bobi Wine said Thursday he was under house arrest after being seized by security officials on his return home from a trip abroad.

Wine, a popstar-turned-politician who ran against veteran President Yoweri Museveni in Uganda’s last election in 2021, has been arrested numerous times.

“They picked me illegally like you saw and as we speak right now I’m under house arrest. Soldiers and police are all over,” Wine told journalists at his home north of the capital Kampala.

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“As soon as I landed goons grabbed me, dragged me, twisted my hands and bundled me into a waiting private car. They drove me to the old airport where they pulled me out and put me in a military car with many soldiers and police officers.

“It was very humiliating,” said Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi.

He also said that 300 of his supporters had been arrested, but did not give details and AFP was not able to independently confirm his claim.

Police deny Wine’s arrest

Police denied Wine had been arrested, saying they had “escorted” the 41-year-old from Uganda’s Entebbe International Airport to his home.

“We wish to inform the public that the NUP president, Hon. Kyagulanyi Robert was successfully escorted by our security team from Entebbe to his home in Magere,” the Uganda Police Force said on X, formally Twitter.

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“He reached his home around 11:20 am, and is with his family and friends. Disregard rumours of his arrest by propagandists.”

A video posted by Wine’s National Unity Platform (NUP) showed him being grabbed by security agents as soon as he stepped off the plane as a man shouted repeatedly: “Where are you taking him, where are you taking him.”

Wine’s supporters had planned to accompany him en masse to his home, but police had said such a gathering was illegal.

Rallies banned

Ugandan authorities have a long history of using so-called “preventative arrest” to detain opposition leaders, often holding them for several hours before returning them to their homes so as to stymie mass demonstrations.

Last month, Ugandan police announced they were banning rallies being organised by the National Unity Platform across the country because of public order issues.

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Wine made a failed bid for the presidency in 2021 in a tense election against Museveni, who has ruled over Uganda with an iron fist since 1986.

The election campaign was marked by a crackdown on the opposition and at least 54 people were killed during anti-government demonstrations.

Wine flew in from South Africa via the Rwandan capital Kigali after a tour to promote a documentary about him by National Geographic TV entitled “Bobi Wine: The People’s President.”

His return was eagerly anticipated by his supporters, many of whom view him as a symbol of change in a country ruled for so long by one man.

Ugandan soldiers and other security forces had been deployed on roads leading to Entebbe airport since early Thursday morning, as well as outside NUP offices and in Kampala’s central business district.

Police had warned organisers not to go ahead with the planned procession and for people not to join the gathering, with police spokesman Patrick Onyango describing it as an “illegality”.

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Once hailed for his commitment to good governance, former rebel leader Museveni has crushed any opposition and tweaked the constitution to allow himself to run again and again.

The next presidential ballot is due in 2026. Museveni, 79, has yet to say if he will stand.