Kampala – Ugandan police on Monday detained Bobi Wine, a pop star turned MP who became a high-profile government critic, after shutting down one of his concerts and firing tear gas at his fans.
The local music sensation, a potential challenger to veteran President Yoweri Museveni, was pulled out of his car by baton-wielding police as he tried to make his way to the concert venue in southern Kampala. He was later released, with police dropping him at his home.
“I was arrested like a terrorist. They broke my hand and pushed me in a vehicle,” Wine, wearing his trademark red beret, told a crowd of cheering supporters, according to local television footage.
“Stand firm, we are winning this war. Each day that passes helps our resolve to end dictatorship,” he exhorted.
A police spokesman for Kampala, Patrick Onyango, is quoted to have said that, Wine was apprehended then driven home “to enable us to talk to him… so that he and his team learn to respect the law.”
Wine’s much-anticipated show at his private club on the shores of Lake Victoria was cancelled Sunday by police, who cited safety concerns and sealed off roads to the venue.
Wine tried to reach the location Monday but clashes broke out as his supporters threw stones and police responded with tear gas and water cannon.
Wine’s wife Barbie Itungo Kyagulanyi said Wine was arrested in Busabala, a Kampala suburb, where he was to address the media on the cancellation of his concert by the police.
Concert promoter and Wine supporter Moses Mugwanya said that the singer had been taken away with other political opposition figures.
“Police have broken into the car he was in and forcefully removed him, and put him in a police van and have driven him away,” he said, adding that “suffocating” tear gas was used around the vehicle.
– Government critic –
The 36-year-old popular singer, who entered parliament in 2017 and has emerged as a leading critic of President Museveni, has struck a chord with young Ugandans with his songs about social justice.
Authorities have repeatedly blocked him from performing publicly.
One of Wine’s songs contains the lyric “freedom fighters become dictators,” while others hint that Museveni has stayed in power too long.
The country’s Supreme Court last week upheld a decision to remove an age cap of 75 for presidential contenders, paving the way for the 74 year old Museveni to run again in 2021.
Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, was charged with treason in August last year along with more than 30 opposition politicians over the alleged stoning of Museveni’s convoy after a campaign rally in the north-western town of Arua.
Wine accused the security forces of torturing and beating him while in custody which allegations the security personnel have since denied.