Ugandan police on Monday arrested singer-turned-politician Bobi Wine and sprayed teargas to disperse his supporters as he sought to kick off public meetings ahead of presidential elections next year in a report by AFP.
Wine, a popular figure among young Ugandans, announced last year he would challenge President Yoweri Museveni in the 2021 elections, and on Monday was scheduled to begin a week-long series of consultations ahead of the vote.
However, the first event at a Catholic Church in his constituency in Kampala could not proceed as police deployed before dawn to the site, prompting protests by his supporters, an AFP reporter saw.
Protesters set alight car tires and blocked roads, while police backed by firefighters, armored cars and water cannon used teargas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.
Police spokesman Fred Enanga confirmed that Wine and members of his entourage had been arrested.
“We are temporarily holding them in our police station in Kasangati. We shall have to release them at some later stage but we are looking at charges of holding an unlawful assembly and disobedience of lawful orders.”
According to the police spokesman, the reason for his arrest was because he went early to conduct campaigns, this is against the Ugandan law.
Under Uganda’s 2000 election law presidential “aspirants” may carry out “nationwide consultation” in the 12 months ahead of their official nomination as candidates.
The law requires aspirants to “introduce” themselves to the Electoral Commission (EC) and notify local authorities of events planned in their area.
On December 3 Wine sent a letter to the EC officially introducing himself and outlining his plans, which he published on social media.
Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, has already been detained a number of times. He has had numerous attempts to hold concerts blocked since he was elected as an MP in 2017.
Human Rights Watch has criticized that law as granting the police “wide discretionary powers over the content and management of public meetings.”
Wine has built a sizeable following among Uganda’s booming urban youth population, many of whom say they are tired of Museveni’s long rule.
Museveni seized power at the head of a rebel army in 1986 and many observers say they doubt he will ever give up power through democratic elections.
The authorities have charged both opposition leaders with various criminal offenses which are entangled in Uganda’s judicial system.
Kyagulanyi began his music career in 1999 and adopted the stage name Bobi Wine. His first singles “Akagoma”, “Funtula”, and “Sunda” (featuring Ziggy D) brought him success in the East African music scene.
His music has been characterized as reggae, dancehall, and afrobeat, often with a socially conscious message.
In April 2017, Kyagulanyi announced his candidacy for parliament in an upcoming by-election for the Kyaddondo East Constituency.
His door-to-door walking campaign attracted attention both in Uganda and abroad. He won the contest by a wide margin.