Uganda party says leader Bobi Wine detained; police say escorted him home

The opposition leader is longtime President Yoweri Museveni’s strongest political challenger.

Bobi Wine
Ugandan opposition leader Bobi Wine [File: Abubaker Lubowa/Reuters]

Uganda’s main opposition party has said leader Bobi Wine was detained upon returning to the country from a trip abroad, but police later said they had accompanied him to his residence.

The singer-turned-politician arrived at Entebbe International Airport on Thursday morning after a tour of several countries, including South Africa.

“Our President [Bobi Wine] picked up by regime operatives as soon as he landed at the airport,” David Lewis Rubongoya, the general secretary of the National Unity Platform (NUP) party, said on X, formerly Twitter.

The post was accompanied by a photo appearing to show two men seizing him by the arms on the tarmac.

Later on Thursday, police said Bobi Wine “was successfully escorted by our security team from Entebbe to his home in Magere. He reached his home around 11.20am, and is with his family and friends. Disregard rumors of his arrest by propagandists.”

Bobi Wine’s supporters had planned to accompany him en masse to his home north of the capital, Kampala, to welcome him back, but police had said such gatherings were illegal.

“Such a procession has the potential to disrupt the normal flow of traffic, the movement of individuals, and the operations of businesses along the Entebbe – Gayaza highway. It may also attract criminal activities, posing risks to bystanders, motorists, passengers, and businesses through acts of theft or other criminal activities,” Kampala police spokesperson Patrick Onyango said on Wednesday.

Last month, Ugandan police announced they were banning rallies being organised by the NUP across the country because of public order issues.

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.

Bobi Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, is a prominent critic of President Yoweri Museveni’s government and has faced numerous arrests and alleged human rights abuses in the past.

He made a failed bid for the presidency in 2021 against Museveni, who is serving a sixth term in power.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies