UGANDA DECIDES

Bobi Wine says military raided his home as election nears

Says soldiers raided his home and arrested his guards, two days before elections.

In Summary

• On Thursday Ugandans will vote in a general election after a campaign marked by violence which has killed dozens of people.

• Wine is seen as the biggest challenge to Mr Museveni's rule and has mobilised many young people who have not previously been involved in politics.

Ugandan opposition presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine (C), is escorted by policemen during his arrest in Kalangala in central Uganda December 30, 2020. REUTERS/Stringer
Ugandan opposition presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine (C), is escorted by policemen during his arrest in Kalangala in central Uganda December 30, 2020. REUTERS/Stringer

Ugandan opposition presidential candidate Bobi Wine said on Tuesday that soldiers raided his home and arrested his security guards, two days before elections.

"The army has this morning raided my home, arrested all my security guards and anyone they could see around my premises," Wine, who is the opposition frontrunner, said on Twitter.

"No reason for the arrest was given," he added.

On Thursday Ugandans will vote in a general election after a campaign marked by violence which has killed dozens of people.

President Yoweri Museveni is seeking his sixth elected term in office after 35 years in power.

The 76-year-old faces 10 challengers, most notably the pop star-turned-politician Bobi Wine.

Human rights groups have accused security forces of using excessive force to break up opposition rallies during the campaign.

But the government says the strong measures are necessary to ensure people comply with a ban on large crowds imposed to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

Wine is seen as the biggest challenge to Mr Museveni's rule and has mobilised many young people who have not previously been involved in politics.

He has sharply criticised the president in the past and accused him of "fearing the people".

The president has not taken this challenge lightly. He has accused Bobi Wine of being a foreign agent of those "who don't like the stability and independence of Uganda" and said that opposition figures are misleading young people to get involved in violence on the campaign trail.

Ugandan riot policemen detain a supporter of presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine, in Luuka district, eastern Uganda November 18, 2020.
Ugandan riot policemen detain a supporter of presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine, in Luuka district, eastern Uganda November 18, 2020.
Image: REUTERS

Bobi Wine has been arrested several times since he became involved in politics. He has spoken of a "revolution" against Mr Museveni. He has posted on Twitter using the hashtag "WeAreRemovingADictator".

Part of Bobi Wine's popularity comes down to his age. At 38, he is just half as old as President Museveni, in one of the youngest nations on earth.

According to the CIA World Factbook Uganda has the second-lowest median age worldwide, of just 15.7 - only Niger is younger.

The "ghetto president" grew up in a slum in the capital, Kampala. His background and his efforts to promote social justice in his country through his music and as a politician have endeared him to this younger, more urban generation.

But Bobi Wine has also surprised authorities by drawing big crowds of supporters in rural areas - thought to be a bastion of support for President Museveni.

Tensions are high, and the campaign has been marred by serious violence, which has left dozens killed and hundreds more arrested.

Officials have cited measures brought in to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic for their efforts to break up political gatherings. But Human Rights Watch has alleged that security forces are using these regulations "as a pretext to violate rights and clamp down on the opposition and the media".

Bobi Wine himself was arrested last November for allegedly breaching Covid measures. His detention sparked protest which led to a wave of arrests and left dozens dead, mostly allegedly shot by the security forces.

Afterwards, Security Minister Elly Tumwine pointed to the fact that 11 security personnel had been injured and said: "police have a right to shoot you and kill you if you reach a certain level of violence".

"Can I repeat? Police have a right to shoot you and you die for nothing.... do it at your own risk."

Bobi Wine has since taken to wearing a bullet-proof vest and helmet on the campaign trail.

At the end of last year, he halted his campaign after a number of his team were injured as security forces dispersed one of his political rallies. He later told broadcaster CNN he had survived several assassination attempts.

(Reporting by Nairobi newsroom; Writing by Maggie Fick; Editing by Clarence Fernandez )