Bobi Wine arrested at campaign stop, forced to go home

Ugandan police said Thursday they prevented popular singer Bobi Wine, one of the frontrunners in the January 14 presidential election, from gathering his supporters, citing health regulations regarding Covid-19, but denied arresting him.

“Please disregard false claims” that Robert Kyagulanyi – whose artist’s name is Bobi Wine – “was arrested while campaigning” in the Lake Victoria area, the Ugandan police said in a statement.

However, the police said he is “currently being transferred to his home” in Kampala, about 100 km away, after being “prevented from continuing to organize mass rallies, against the backdrop of increased threats from the coronavirus and in total disregard of health guidelines.

Several members of his team were arrested after being filmed “deflating the tires of police vehicles, inciting violence, blocking police officers on duty, violating health protocols and committing several traffic violations,” according to the police.

The election campaign is taking place in a climate of violence and repression.

Mr. Wine has been arrested several times. An umpteenth arrest in mid-November sparked violent clashes between his supporters and police, resulting in at least 54 deaths, according to President Yoweri Museveni, who is seeking re-election.

Wine was charged with breaching Covid-19 prevention guidelines for addressing mass rallies before being released on bail.

Wine’s supporters noted that Museveni was able to campaign in front of large crowds under the guise of official travel, without police reaction.

On Wednesday, Mr. Wine’s lawyer, Nicholas Opiyo, a respected human rights defender, was released on bail, one week after being arrested and charged with money laundering, a charge widely seen as “political”.

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