A bodyguard for Ugandan opposition leader Bobi Wine was killed and two journalists injured on Sunday amid violent confrontations between security forces and followers of the singer and lawmaker who is challenging the country’s longtime leader.
A tearful Bobi Wine, whose real name is Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, said his bodyguard had died of his injuries after being allegedly run over by a truck belonging to the military police.
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The victim, Francis Senteza, was attacked while helping to transport a journalist injured during an earlier confrontation between the police and a group of Bobi Wine’s supporters, he said.
Authorities did not immediately respond to the allegation that Senteza’s death was a deliberate killing.
Bobi Wine was campaigning on Sunday in parts of central Uganda where he has considerable support. As his convoy tried to proceed from one rally to the next, police fired tear gas into the crowd, injuring at least two journalists.
Cameraman Ashraf Kasirye, a member of a TV crew that follows Bobi Wine wherever he goes, suffered a serious head injury.
“We are hoping against hope that he will live,” Bobi Wine said of Kasirye on Twitter.
Another journalist, Ali Mivule of local broadcaster NTV, was injured after a tear gas canister hit his leg, according to his employer. His condition was said to be stable.
Police said in a statement that while trying to quell confrontations with Bobi Wine’s supporters, “journalists were regrettably caught up during the process of dispersing the violent group”.
Kasirye is in a critical condition after being apparently hit by a tear gas canister, it said.
The three casualties are the latest victims of the election-related violence as Uganda’s security forces are accused of trying to stop Bobi Wine from holding raucous public rallies.
Uganda faces growing pressure from the international community and rights watchdogs to respect human rights ahead of polls scheduled for January 14.
The last week’s arrest of a prominent rights lawyer, Nicholas Opiyo, over criminal charges has added to what some critics see as a campaign of repression targeting civic leaders, activists, journalists and perceived political opponents.
President Yoweri Museveni, who has held power since 1986, faces the strong challenge from Bobi Wine, who appeals to young people wishing to see a change of government.
Museveni’s government is frequently criticised by the opposition for corruption as well as widespread joblessness in the urban centres. Bobi Wine has repeatedly urged Museveni to retire, saying he would guarantee his safety.
Bobi Wine’s campaign events have become increasingly affected by violent confrontations with authorities and he has been arrested many times by police who accuse him of trying to disrupt public order.
Electoral authorities on Saturday banned campaign events in some urban areas, including the capital Kampala, citing an urgent need to control the spread of the coronavirus.
That decision has been criticised by some who see it as a ploy to prevent opposition figures from displaying their support in areas where the governing party is not so popular.
Museveni is able to seek more time in office after lawmakers removed the last constitutional obstacle – age limits – to a possible life presidency for the 76-year-old leader.
Uganda has never seen a peaceful transfer of power since independence from Britain in 1962.