Ugandan Presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, has defended the decision to ship out his children after his critics questioned the move saying it was a sign of cowardice.
Mr Kyagulanyi, who is the National Unity Platform presidential candidate in next week’s presidential election, said he was forced to take his children out of the country after he received credible information that there was a plan by his opponents in the ruling party to kidnap them as part of a scheme to coerce him out of the race.
“I received credible information of pending physical attacks on my wife and [the] kidnap of our children,” he said, revealing that friends living out of the country had reached out and offered to host his children until the situation returned to normal.
“My family has been a target since I declared my intention to take on President Museveni three years ago. I decided to yield to the requests from my friends abroad and ship my children out of this danger zone because they are minors and not voters,” he said, while challenging the regime in Kampala to engage him and not his children.
“My focus is to ensure they don't kidnap the minors and try to use them to coerce me into subjugation!”
He dismissed claims that by taking his children out, he was unpatriotic and a coward, or that the act was a crime, arguing that Mr Museveni also shipped his family to Sweden when the civil war that catapulted him to power was intense.
“Leave my children out of this... they are minors. Come for me and my wife, we are the adults. I am the candidate. I am here to face you.”
Mr Kyagulanyi’s music rival Mr Moses Ssali alias Bebe Cool was one of the first people to share the photos of the children on social media as they travelled out of the country, attracting condemnation from Ugandans on Twitter for exploiting the minor’s helplessness for political reasons.
“I feel bad for Eddie Mutwe and Nubian Li’s children as in who will protect them while their parents are in jail. Anyway safe travels travellers,” Bebe Cool tweeted.
Twitter later deleted the tweet for violating its rules.
Bobi Wine has emerged as President Yoweri Museveni's fiercest opponent in the parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for Thursday next week in which the veteran leader will be seeking to extend his 34-year rule since he seized power in 1986 after a five-year Bush war.
Museveni's long reign
President Museveni has ruled the country with an iron grip ever since, and a total of 10 candidates will be on the ballot in the presidential election as they seek to end his rule.
President Museveni goes to the next week’s poll with his party, National Resistance Movement (NRM), having formed an alliance with Uganda Peoples’ Congress (UPC).
UPC was founded by Milton Obote and is one of the political parties that founded the modern Uganda state alongside the Democratic Party and Kabaka Yekka. UPC is currently led by Obote's son Jimmy Akena.
Mr Museveni seized power after he waged a gruelling five-year guerrilla war against the UPC regime.
For the first time, Dr Kizza Besigye, who has come to symbolise opposition against Mr Museveni and the brutality of his regime in previous elections, declined to participate in the presidential election, arguing that it was an exercise in futility.
Instead, Mr Peter Amuriat was nominated to carry the Forum for Democratic Change ticket in the race.
Mr Amuriat had his convoy shot at by police in Kitagwenda District on Wednesday. Witness accounts suggest that a police officer aimed his gun at his speeding car but the bullet missed, hitting the escort vehicle instead. It shattered the windscreen, but nobody was injured.
The head of Mr Amuriat’s security team arrested the police officer and took him to Mahyoro Police Station where he was detained.
Others in the race are former President Museveni’s Security Minister Henry Tumukunde, who is running as an independent, former Army Commander Mugisha Muntu, who is the flag bearer of the Alliance of National Transformation, and Norbert Mao of the Democratic Party.
Others are 24-year-old John Katumba (Independent), Willy Mayambala (Independent), Fred Mwesigye, journalist Joseph Kabuleta (Independent) and Nancy Kalembe who is the only woman in the race.
In his New Year’s message, President Museveni promised Ugandans that the elections would be credible and warned against those planning to disrupt the process.
“I have received intelligence that some people are planning to rig the elections and that some election officials have been bribed,” he said, claiming some opposition political actors plan to use violence to alter the election outcome.
"I would like to appeal to everybody, please, be patriotic for once. Do not seek to distort the wishes of the people of Uganda. Elections are a periodic medicine and that is why elections shouldn't be interfered with by anybody," said Museveni.
"I want to warn all those involved in this, do not miscalculate. Please stop because I know and I will act. I have been elected by my political party and the people of Uganda repeatedly. I can't allow their affairs to be messed up by criminals and traitors," he added.