June 19, 2024

Ugandan opposition leader Bobi Wine has said he was “grabbed” by “goons” and put under house arrest on his return from abroad.

The singer-turned-politician is the strongest challenger to President Yoweri Museveni, who has held office for almost 40 years.

He has been arrested numerous times and has faced several charges, including treason.

Police denied Wine’s arrest, stating instead that he was accompanied home.

Wine, a former pop star whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, made a failed bid for the presidency in 2021 in a tense election against President Museveni, 79.

The election campaign was marked by a crackdown on the opposition and at least 54 people were killed during anti-government demonstrations.

Wine said that as soon as he landed at Entebbe International Airport, “goons grabbed me and dragged me, twisted my hands and bundled me into a waiting private car”.

He later said from his home that he was under house arrest.

A video posted by Wine’s National Unity Platform (NUP) on X, formerly Twitter, showed the leader being led away after disembarking from a plane in Entebbe. One of his associates was heard on the video saying “Where are you taking him?”

“The cowardly regime has arrested our President upon arrival at Entebbe Airport. We set out to receive him today, but the panicky regime security could not even allow him into immigration,” said Mathias Mpuuga, the NUP leader in parliament.

Wine’s return was eagerly anticipated by his supporters, many of whom view him as a symbol of change in a country ruled for decades by one man.

Last month, police announced they were banning rallies being organised by Wine’s National Unity Platform across the country because of public order issues.

Ugandan soldiers and other security forces had been deployed on roads leading to Entebbe airport since early on Thursday morning, as well as outside the offices of Win’s party, the NUP, and in Kampala’s central business district.

Police had warned organisers not to go ahead with the planned procession and for people not to join the gathering, with police spokesman Patrick Onyango describing it as an “illegality”.

Mr Onyango said security agencies accompanied Wine to his residence in Magere, Kasangati.

Ugandan authorities have a long history of using so-called “preventative arrest” to detain opposition leaders, often holding them for several hours before returning them to their homes so as to stymie mass demonstrations.

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