Ugandan pop star opposition MP placed under house arrest

Tuesday April 23 2019

Bobi wine

Ugandan musician turned politician, Robert Kyagulanyi, (centre), speaks to the press outside his home, in Kampala, on April 23, 2019. Ugandan police have placed the MP Bobi Wine under "preventive arrest". PHOTO |ISAAC KASAMANI | AFP 

More by this Author

Ugandan police said Tuesday it had placed pop star MP Bobi Wine under "preventive arrest" as the fiery government critic warned his opposition movement would not be cowed into silence.

Wine's confinement under house arrest in Kampala came as the United States rebuked the government for its heavy-handed crackdown on the political opposition and urged it respect democratic rights.

In recent days, police cancelled one of Wine's concerts and fired tear gas at fans who rallied behind the colourful singer-turned-MP, who has emerged a potential challenger to veteran President Yoweri Museveni.

Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, tried to leave his home in the capital Tuesday only to come face-to-face with riot police encircling his leafy residence.

The singer, eschewing his trademark red beret for a dark suit and red tie, said he was "under siege" but would still urge supporters to exercise their right to demonstrate.

"This is our country", the 36-year-old local music sensation told reporters at the gates of his home.


'Plan to disrupt public order'

Police spokesman Fred Enanga told AFP that Wine "planned to disrupt public order" and officers would stay put outside his home until further notice.

"The preventive arrest policy works when someone is about to commit a crime, and officers stop him from committing that crime," Enanga said.

Wine's charisma and music steeped in anti-government messaging has attracted a muscular response from Kampala, which has charged him with treason and repeatedly shut down his rowdy concerts that double as political rallies.

The cancellation of a much-hyped performance Monday sparked clashes between opposition supporters and baton-wielding police.

The US embassy in Kampala rebuked the government for resorting to heavy-handed tactics.

"Strong leaders and states do not stifle speech -- they allow their citizens to participate fully and without fear in a vibrant multi-party democracy," the statement said.

Museveni seized power in 1986 at the head of a rebel army and has ruled Uganda ever since.

The Supreme Court last week upheld the constitutional validity of removing age caps for presidents, clearing the way for 74-year-old Museveni to run again.

But he faces a fight in Wine, who has rallied Uganda's youth behind his defiant music and provocative challenges to a leader twice his age.

Wine warned that the toppling of long-serving autocrats in Algeria and Sudan recently under the weight of popular protest had not gone unnoticed in Uganda.

"This is what we are left with—to call on all Ugandans to protest peacefully until Museveni leaves power," Wine told AFP.

"Museveni should be aware the people are fed up and the earlier the better, he will be swept out of power."