Opposition leader’s arrest sparks tension in Uganda


Ugandan opposition leader and singer Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, known as Bobi Wine. Photo by REUTERS/Abubaker Lubowa

from HASSAN ONYANGO in Kampala, Uganda
Uganda Bureau
KAMPALA, (CAJ News) – UGANDA is tense following the latest arrest of the main opposition leader, Robert Kyagulanyi.

The National Unity Platform (NUP) party politician (aged 41), who is also a musician, was apprehended at the Entebbe International Airport on Thursday upon arrival from outside the country.

Also known as Bobi Wine, he revealed he is under house arrest at his home in central Uganda.

“Our home is still surrounded by the police and military,” Kyagulanyi said late Thursday.

“They have blocked most of our people from entering to greet us. Earlier, they were firing teargas and live bullets to disperse them (supporters). I am effectively under house arrest. A criminal regime (is) in panic.”

The opposition leader condemned what he termed the brutal treatment of journalists from different media houses by state operatives.

It is alleged media personnel were beaten, pepper sprayed and their gadgets confiscated before many were arrested and taken to the local police station.

“They were targeted for covering some of the abductions, violent arrests and the manner in which I was arrested at the airport,” Kyagulanyi said.

“Like we constantly say, under a criminal regime, everyone is a victim. We must work collectively to redeem the motherland from this mess!”

In a strange turn of events, the Uganda Police Force (UPF) denied Kyagulanyi was arrested.

It said he was “successfully escorted” by the force’s security team from Entebbe International Airport to his home in Magere and reached his home around 11h20, and was with his family and friends.

“Disregard rumours of his (Bobi Wine) arrest by propagandists. Meanwhile, business activities and movements along Entebbe road, within Kampala and Gayaza, are flowing smoothly,” police stated.

Despite outrage at the reported arrest, police said the security situation in the Kampala Metropolitan area remained stable and peaceful, with citizens carrying on their daily activities without disruptions.

“Unfortunately, during the operation, 14 journalists were arrested due to challenges in identification from the crowd,” police added.

The force said the journalists were briefly taken to Entebbe Police Station but upon identification, they were released immediately.

“None of the journalists were held in our cells. While they were at the police station, no journalists initially reported any assaults.”

However, the police force said it had received reports indicating that some of them might have been subjected to physical harm.

“We are committed to identifying the affected journalists and conducting thorough investigations into these incidents,” UPF stated.

The United States expressed concern, although it came under criticism online for apparently interfering in Uganda’s internal matters.

It confirmed reports that opposition supporters were also detained.

“Respect for freedom of assembly and allowing political parties to operate freely are fundamental values of democratic societies,” the US Embassy stated.

Crisis24, the security think-tank, projected protests nationwide in the coming days, notably in the opposition leader’s homeland of Wakiso.

“Authorities will likely deploy to disperse any opposition demonstration that materialises nationwide,” it stated.

The potential for clashes with security forces is elevated and security forces are known to employ heavy-handed tactics.

“Clashes with rival activists are also possible. Localized transport and business disruptions are likely near all gatherings,” Crisis24 added.

Kyagulanyi is the main rival of President Yoweri Museveni, one of Africa’s longest serving presidents.

The 79-year-old former military general has been in power since 1986, six years after he lost elections and began the Uganda Bush War that ousted Militon Obote.

Kyagulanyi has been at odds with the Museveni administration since he entered politics in 2017.

Polls are scheduled for 2026.

Wine is projected to contest but Museveni’s National Resistance Movement (NRM) party is divided if Museveni or his flamboyant son, Muhoozi Kainerugaba (49) must be the candidate.

In 2022, Museveni fired his son as commander of the country’s infantry forces after a series of provocative tweets angering Uganda’s neighbours.

There have been reports that strongman Museveni is grooming his wife, Janet, the current Minister of Education and Sports, to succeed him.

– CAJ News

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