Uganda: Could Bobi Wine’s arrest be the start of a civil uprising?

By Morris Kiruga
Posted on Thursday, 19 November 2020 13:39

Uganda Bobi WIne
A person prepares to throw a rock during clashes between security forces and protesters supporting opposition presidential candidate Bobi Wine, in downtown Kampala, Uganda Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020. (AP Photo)

At least seven are dead and 34 injured after protests broke out in several towns across Uganda on Wednesday.

The protests erupted after the East African nation’s police arrested opposition presidential candidate Kyagulyanyi Ssentamu Robert, and musician, popularly known as Bobi Wine. In a statement made by police spokesman CP Fred Enanga, Ssentamu and his National Unity Party (NUP) are accused of flouting electoral laws and health guidelines.

“The two were actively involved in the massive mobilization of unauthorised assemblies and processions amidst the threat of COVID-19 in Uganda. The majority of the participants had no safeguards of facemasks, physical distancing and proper hygiene,” said Enanga in the statement.

His arrest on 18 November is already the second time this month that Ssentamu has been detained by the police. In early November, he was arrested, held, and tortured for three hours after turning in his nomination papers.

A thorn in Museveni’s side

Since joining politics in 2017, Wine has been a thorn in the Museveni administration, and has cobbled up a support base from young voters disenfranchised with President Museveni’s strongman rule.

READ MORE Is Bobi Wine shaking up Ugandan politics?

In a tweet sent from his official account shortly after his arrest, Wine said that: “Resistance against tyranny is not only a right. It is a DUTY for oppressed people to carry out!”

Another tweet from today, 19 November says: “If Museveni wants to be a sole candidate, he must state so. Otherwise, we must have a level playing field for all candidates.”

Another opposition candidate, Gen Mugisha Muntu of The Alliance for National Transformation (ANT), announced the suspension of his campaign shortly after Wine’s arrest.

“The regime should know that we are dealing with a very delicate situation in this country. You can do one thing and then it sparks something larger than what you expect,” Gen Muntu said in a statement.

‘Civil uprising’?

Muntu’s alluding to a civil uprising was mirrored in the police spokesman’s statement where he claimed that the acts committed by the opposition’s on Wednesday were preliminary steps “to prepare their adherents into inciting violence and further accelerate their goal of a civil uprising like they have always threatened.”

Since joining politics in 2017, Wine has been arrested and detained several times. His first major arrest was in August 2018 when the government accused him and his supporters of obstructing and stoning Museveni’s motorcade during a campaign stop.

Ugandan presidential hopeful and political activist Bobi Wine, whose real name is Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, raises his fist in the air to gathered supporters as he leaves after meeting with the Electoral Commission, in Kampala, Uganda Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Ronald Kabuubi)

He was arrested again in April 2019, released shortly after, and then detained again and charged with holding an illegal demonstration the year before.

President Yoweri Museveni, who will be running for a sixth term in the 14 January elections, has been in power since 1986.

READ MORE The rise of Africa’s new ‘old men’

In 2017, the 76 year-old changed the law to remove age limits which would have barred him from the 2021 elections. He also reintroduced presidential term limits and extended the parliamentary term to seven years.

Known for cracking down hard on the opposition especially during election campaigns, Museveni’s most formidable challenger from 2000 to 2016 was his former comrade-in-arms and personal physician, Kizza Besigye.

READ MORE Museveni: The opposition are opportunists, they have no ideology

Besigye opted out of the 2021 elections, leaving the 38 year-old Wine as the most visible opposition figure in the race. Other than Museveni, Wine, and former army commander Mugisha Muntu, the presidential candidate’s list includes Nancy Linda Kalembe, the only female on the ballot, and John Katumba, a 24-year-old.

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