Kampala – Ugandan rapper-turned-MP Bobi Wine was released from prison Thursday, his lawyer said, just days after the outspoken government critic was detained on charges his supporters said were politically motivated.
A magistrate in Kampala granted bail to the 37-year-old opposition star, who told a courtroom packed with supporters he would remain in prison if it meant “standing for what is right”.
“It is not we on trial, but the court. My business is the truth,” Wine said via video link — a first for Uganda — from a maximum security prison in the capital.
“If standing for what is right is going to keep me in prison, then be it so.”
His supporters — who clashed with security forces when Wine was arrested Monday — celebrated in the streets of Kampala where police and the military kept close guard.
Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, was arrested for allegedly staging an illegal protest in 2018 — charges fellow opposition MPs decried as ridiculous.
The popular singer is the figurehead of a new generation who grew up under President Yoweri Museveni but want to see change and his anti-government songs have helped win him a big following.
He has emerged a real challenger to the veteran president, who intends to run for a sixth term in 2021.
Ugandan authorities have frustrated Wine’s efforts to hold concerts at his private club, and have detained him repeatedly for procedural misdemeanours.
“This is a journey Hon. Kyagulanyi (Wine) started on, and he is aware of the dangers he faces daily,” Asuman Basalirwa, one of Wine’s lawyers, told AFP.
The ongoing crackdown against the opposition drew censure last week from the United States, which urged Ugandan authorities to respect democratic freedoms.
Meanwhile the Uganda Communication Commission has ordered 13 radio and TV stations to suspend their news editors, producers and heads of programming over their coverage of Wine’s arrest, according to Amnesty International.
The media houses were ordered to submit “recordings of all live programmes and news bulletins aired” on the day of his arrest.
“This order from Uganda’s communications commission represents a blatant attack on press freedom and a lamentable tendency towards state censorship,” Amnesty said in a statement.
“The Ugandan authorities must immediately rescind this decision and end the harassment and intimidation of journalists and media houses. Journalists must be allowed to freely do their job.”