Ugandan pop star opposition MP arrested over 2018 protest

29 April 2019 - 19:18 By AFP
Ugandan musician turned politician, Robert Kyagulanyi also known as Bobi Wine.
Ugandan musician turned politician, Robert Kyagulanyi also known as Bobi Wine.
Image: REUTERS/Newton Nambwaya

Ugandan police arrested pop star turned MP Bobi Wine on Monday, barely two days after lifting the house arrest of a potential challenger to veteran President Yoweri Museveni, and placed him in custody over a protest he organised last year, his lawyer said.

Wine, at 37, is the figurehead of a new generation who grew up under Museveni but want to see change and his anti-government songs have helped win him a big following.

Police arrested him after he answered a summons to the Criminal Investigations Directorate on Monday morning, said one of his lawyers, Asuman Basalirwa.

"Bobi Wine and four others including his brother and his bodyguard have been remanded to prison until May 2," Basalirwa told AFP.

"The state claims my clients in July 2018, held a demonstration against the social media tax without notifying the police contrary to the provisions of Public Order Management Act," he said.

"The state further claims the accused refused to cooperate with police to ensure participants in the alleged demonstration were unarmed and peaceful. All the claims have been denied by him (Wine) and the others," he added.

Wine and other activists had held a demonstration in Kampala against a two shilling fee for cellular phone users to pay for access to social media links.

Wine entered parliament in 2017. One of his songs contains the lyric "freedom fighters become dictators," while others hint that Museveni has stayed in power too long.

The 74-year-old leader has ruled Uganda since seizing power at the head of a rebel army in 1986 but intends to contest a sixth term in office.

Wine was being held at a police station 30 kilometres (20 miles) east of the capital Kampala, said Basalirwa.

'Ridiculous' move 

Police spokesman Fred Enanga confirmed the arrest, which was immediately denounced by the opposition.

"This is ridiculous. How can they bring a case of 2018 now? This is a state campaign to ensure Bobi Wine fails in his political agenda" opposition lawmaker, Moses Kasibante, said.

From Tuesday to Saturday last week, Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, found himself under house arrest at his Kampala home as police officers blocked his way when he tried to leave for a concert at his nightclub.

Last week, Enanga described that as a "preventive arrest" imposed when the authorities decide someone is about to commit a crime.

The authorities' cancellation of one his performances last week led to clashes between opposition supporters and baton-wielding police who also fired tear gas.

Several times in recent months authorities have prevented Wine giving concerts and his house arrest last week was part of those efforts to keep him offstage.

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