Demonstrators and police in Kampala, Uganda faced off in a day full of protests against the detention of Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, aka Bobi Wine.
Crowds demanded Wine’s release and chanted his trade mark slogans; “People Power, Our People” and “Time is Now” as they burnt tires and logs on Kampala Road junction.
However, police spokesperson Emilian Kayima said officers quickly moved to break up the demonstrators, saying dozens of suspects had been arrested and detained at different police stations.
“Fortunately, police with sister security agencies stopped the protests. We want to ask Ugandans, mostly people in Kampala, to desist from these acts,” Mr Kayima said. “Protests are criminal. We ask you to express your emotions in a manner that does not contravene the law.”
Ssentamu was charged last week with unlawful possession of firearms. Three of his colleagues, also in detention, face treason charges. A fifth lawmaker, Francis Zaake, has been hospitalized with injuries he sustained during detention.
The lawmakers were arrested over their alleged roles in an incident on August 13 in which the president’s motorcade was pelted with stones in the northwestern town of Arua, where they had all been campaigning for an election to choose a member of parliament for the area.
Critics say the detention of Ssentamu, who denies any wrongdoing and says he has been “severely tortured,” is an example of the government’s alleged authoritarian hand. Ssentamu’s driver was shot and killed in Arua on Monday, allegedly by the security forces, and the singer was the only one charged in a military court. Authorities say he possessed illegal weapons at the time of his arrest, but his wife and others say the evidence was planted.
Mr. Ssentamu has emerged as an influential figure in local politics after winning a seat in parliament last year. In multiple by-elections recently he campaigned for opposition candidates who have emerged victorious, in the process defeating both the ruling party and established opposition parties. Some of followers are urging him to run for president.