Ugandan pop star opposition MP Bobi Wine arrested again

Musician-turned-politician charged with leading a protest in Kampala last year without prior approval, police say.

    Authorities have recently stepped in to prevent Kyagulanyi from giving concerts [Newton Nambwaya/Reuters]
    Authorities have recently stepped in to prevent Kyagulanyi from giving concerts [Newton Nambwaya/Reuters]

    Ugandan police arrested celebrity musician-turned-politician Bobi Wine after he was charged over his role in a street protest last year against a tax on social media.

    Bobi Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, was charged with holding an illegal public assembly and detained on Monday at Naggalama police station, about 30km east of the capital, according to a police statement.

    Police spokesman Fred Enanga said Kyagulanyi led the protest in Kampala in July 2018 without prior police authorisation.

    "He is with the police and investigations are on," he told AFP news agency. 

    Asuman Basalirwa, one of Kyagulanyi's lawyers, said his client was arrested after he answered a summons to the Criminal Investigations Directorate. 

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    "This time we have not been informed why he has been detained," he added.

    Kyagulanyi, who entered parliament in 2017, had been under house arrest in Kampala since Easter Monday when police officers blocked his way when he tried to leave for a concert at his nightclub.

    Last week, police spokesman Enanga described the situation as a "preventive arrest" imposed when the authorities decide someone is about to commit a crime.

    The cancellation by the authorities of one his performances last week led to clashes between opposition supporters and baton-wielding police who also fired tear gas.

    The 37-year-old opposition MP, who has said he plans to run for president in elections in 2021, has since called for mass protests.

    Vocal presence

    Kyagulanyi has built a large youth following through his criticism of Uganda's long-time leader President Yoweri Museveni - who has been in power for 32 years - both in parliament and through his music.

    The rapper made international headlines after an arrest last year and alleged torture by Ugandan security forces in detention. The government denies the accusations. 

    On August 14, Kyagulanyi was arrested and charged with treason for allegedly throwing stones at Museveni's presidential motorcade during a by-election campaign.

    After being released on bail nearly two weeks later, Kyagulanyi was re-arrested in September while trying to leave the country to seek medical treatment in the United States for his injuries.

    Eventually, Kyagulanyi was released and allowed to travel to Washington, DC, to be treated in hospital.

    Kyagulanyi is the figurehead of a new generation who grew up under Museveni but want to see change. His anti-government songs have helped win him a significant following.

    In an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera last year - his first for television since leaving hospital - Kyagulanyi said: "We've always wanted a free Uganda, but that Uganda should not come at the cost of torture. It should not come at the cost of murder or illegal executions, it should be got freely because our generation feels like the price has already been paid."

    Several times in recent months, the authorities have stepped in to prevent Kyagulanyi giving concerts, and his house arrest last week was part of those efforts to keep him offstage.

    Exclusive interview: Bobi Wine: Defiant after 'torture'

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    Exclusive interview: Bobi Wine: Defiant after 'torture'

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies