A Ugandan court has accused popular musician and prominent opposition leader Bobi Wine of violating Covid regulations, after two days of spontaneous protests in which between 28 and 35 people are believed to have died.
Wine’s arrest in eastern Uganda on Wednesday sparked the worst unrest seen in Uganda in many years. The army was deployed on the streets of many cities and live ammunition was used against unarmed protesters.
The magistrates granted Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, a 1 million shillings (£ 203) bail and told the 38-year-old politician to limit rallies to a maximum of 200 people and avoid any “processions to or from the place of the campaign “.
Wine told the court that Yoweri Museveni, Uganda’s veteran leader seeking a sixth term in office, should be in the dock, not him.
“In my opinion, this case should not be Uganda versus Kyagulanyi. This case should be Uganda v. Museveni, ”Wine said.
“I am not here because I committed a crime. I am here because I offered to lead Ugandans to end 35 years of dictatorship, ”Wine said. Let Museveni know that we are not slaves and we will not accept being slaves. We’ll be free “.
The wine has drawn massive crowds and his campaign has shaken the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM).
Museveni, 76, said at a rally in the Karamoja region on Thursday that the protesters were “being used by outsiders… homosexuals and others who do not like the stability and independence of Uganda. But they will discover what they are looking for. We will not tolerate confused people. They are playing with fire. “
Earlier this month, police temporarily blinded Wine when he was arrested moments after he was successfully certified as a candidate in next year’s election.
Security forces have frequently fired tear gas at their demonstrations and detained and beaten their supporters.
Known to supporters as “the president of the ghetto,” Wine is part of a new generation of African politicians who are challenging veteran leaders, hoping to tap into deep dissatisfaction among younger, more educated and often older voters. urban.
He broke into formal politics in 2017 when he won a seat in Uganda’s national assembly, and has since been badly assaulted and detained numerous times.
Ugandan police spokesman Fred Enanga said the death toll in the riots had reached 28. Other estimates put the total.
A total of 577 suspects were arrested and police seized bows and arrows, piles of tires, bottles, fuel drums and evidence of mobile money transactions that financed the rioters, Enanga said.
“As you all know, the joint working group respects the freedom of assembly and the democratic rights of the people, but will not allow violent protesters and criminal opportunists to disturb the peaceful environment that we have had over the years,” he said.
Enanga said that the police would try to avoid the use of “indiscriminate” tear gas in favor of the “use of batons, which are more specific.”
Deo Akiiki, Uganda’s deputy military spokesman, said the troops would “respond quickly and effectively to any crime incident at all levels.”
“Surveillance mechanisms have been put in place to nip all the evil plans of already identified groups and individuals in the bud. [on bringing] chaos for Ugandans, ”said Akiiki.
Museveni is eligible to seek another term next year after lawmakers removed constitutional age limits for the presidency. The former rebel leader’s party insists he remains its most popular member.
Uganda has never witnessed a peaceful transfer of power since independence in 1962.
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