Uganda star Wine's arrest sparks clashes

Henry Wasswa and Kristin Palitza
·2-min read

Violent protests have broken out in several Ugandan towns after police arrested leading opposition figure and pop star Bobi Wine on the campaign trail for the 2021 election.

A yet unknown number of people were killed and injured in the capital Kampala after demonstrators clashed with police officers, who fired live rounds and tear gas at opposition protesters, a Uganda Red Cross spokeswoman Irene Nakasiita said.

"There is a lot of panic and people are (running) in different directions. We are taking the injured to hospital. The situation is still volatile," Nakasiita added.

Joel Ssenyonyi, the spokesman of Wine's National Unity Platform (NUP) party placed the death toll at five demonstrators.

The protests started shortly after Wine was arrested during a campaign rally in the eastern town of Luuka earlier on Wednesday.

"Bobi has been arrested this morning in Luuka town but we do not know his whereabouts right now," Wine's brother, opposition activist Fred Nyanzi, told DPA.

The east African country is scheduled to hold general elections in January next year, in which Wine, a lawmaker and singer whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, is to run for president.

Local broadcaster NTV reported Wine is being detained in the town of Jinja for breaching a COVID-19 ban on gatherings of more than 200 people.

But police did not comment on the detention and the reasons for it remained unconfirmed on Wednesday.

Wine has been arrested multiple times since announcing his political ambitions.

Since the start of the electoral campaign on November 9, security forces have almost daily clashed with Wine's supporters, who have been turning out at his rallies in huge numbers.

"We are under police and military attack in Luuka. Live bullets and tear gas have been fired directly to the people by men in uniform," the NUP wrote on Twitter.

Wine, 38, who is known for his trademark red beret and political lyrics, is to run against President Yoweri Museveni - who has been in power for more than 30 years - and nine other presidential candidates.

Wine is the most credible challenger to Museveni, one of Africa's longest ruling leaders, and has drawn huge support among the young.