Leading personalities in the global community have widely condemned the brutal abuse of Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, a.k.a. Bobi Wine, Uganda’s popular Member of Parliament and leading musician at the hands of Gen. Yoweri Museveni.
The 76-year old seems frightened by the recent developments in other African countries where “People Power” streets protests brought out millions to the streets and drove from power Abdelaziz Bouteflika in Algeria and Omar Bashir in Sudan.
Reactions to his arrest and continued detention have come from around the world.
“Very distressing to see Uganda opposition MP and popular musician Bobi Wine detained again,” Helen Clerk, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and former UNDP Administrator who is passionate about human rights and sustainable development world-wide said on Twitter calling on the global community to keep an eye on the Uganda government’s behavior. “Last year in detention he was beaten and tortured. International solidarity is vital to protect Bobi’s health and life.”
Bobi Wine was arrested again this morning two days after his first violent arrest. After that first arrest he had been returned to his beach property in South west Kampala on the shores of Lake Victoria. He had later eluded police to escape from his home detention embarrassing Museveni and suggesting that some officers have divided loyalties as they also see events in Algeria and Sudan.
This time Bobi Wine was arrested while on his way to police CID headquarters in Kibuli; he was responding to a request by police that he reports to them.
“We are aware of this incident and continue to monitor developments closely and raise concerns regarding Kyagulanyi’s treatment with the Ugandan government,” the British Foreign Office said in a statement, following the intervention of Dr. Paul Williams, MP for Stockton South, who has in the past vociferously condemned the regime’s brutality. He was also instrumental in convening the historic debate on the floors of the British Parliament of Museveni’s human rights abuses earlier this year.
The British statement today added: “UK supports freedom of expression as a fundamental human right and maintains that it is an essential quality of any functioning democracy.”
Boom in the U.S., the Senior New Jersey Senator, Bob Menendez, tweeted: “Persecuting political opponents won’t make the government in Uganda more popular.” He went on to add, “eroding civil liberties, attacking fundamental freedoms, and closing political space is a sign of weakness—NOT strength.” He concluded his statement by demanding that “Mr. Wine must be released immediately.”
Congresswoman Karen Bass, who is the Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, deplored the arrest of Bobi Wine, saying: “It is troubling that a Member of Parliament would be detained for exercising his right to freedom of speech and assembly while protesting peacefully in Uganda. Mr. Wine has captured the voice of young people in Uganda and should not be detained because of his political or social beliefs. It is unacceptable to assault, harass, or teargas any citizen because of their views. I encourage the government of Uganda to adhere to the rule of law and treat all its citizens justly regardless of political affiliations.”
Meanwhile, Member of Congress Brad Sherman, who represents California’s San Fernando Valley said: “I am deeply troubled to learn that Uganda has arrested Bobi Wine again for holding an unauthorized protest. I’ve met Bobi and his family several times. The government of Uganda should release him immediately.”
The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, a bipartisan caucus of the House of Representatives, issued a statement calling for the immediate release of Bobi Wine. The Commission urged “the government of Uganda to respect Bobi Wine’s right to freedom of expression and release him immediately.”
In truth the regime fears the increasing numbers of young people who have been emulating his actions. His defiance of Gen. Museveni and his actions have inspired Uganda’s youth to also challenge the regime’s abominable taxation of the impoverished population.
Before he was whisked away into the dungeons, Bobi Wine took advantage of 58 good seconds when he was brought before a judge. This is what the young Ugandan lawmaker, who at 36 is less than half the aged Museveni’s age:
“Your honor thank you for this opportunity. I’m confident because indeed it’s not me on trial; it’s the court itself on trial. I have not committed any crime. I’m only here because I disagree with the political leadership of this country and in particular President Museveni. But my spirit is confident because I’m here not because I’ve stolen public funds or killed somebody. I’m glad that I’m here because I’m fighting for them, you and everybody in this country. I’m here for protesting against unfair taxation and against injustice. So if I’m to go through this oppression and pain for the betterment of my country so be it. At least I know that history will absolve me. Thank you.”
Meanwhile, Police spokesman Fred Enanga claims Bobi Wine committed a crime in Kampala in July 2018, when he led a protest without police authorization. “He is with the police and investigations are on,” Enanga said. Uganda has a Stalinist-style law; whenever there is a meeting of two or more people, the police have to be informed.
Enanga’s bogus claim was contradicted by Uganda’s Attorney General, Mwesigwa Rukutuna, who while speaking to television news stations said the law only requires that the police be informed; not for the groups holding the gatherings to seek permission and he said that the police don’t have powers to stop gatherings.
Enanga last week first claimed Bobi Wine had been arrested as a “preventive” measure which is carried out when the authorities believe someone is about to commit a crime.