Police have used tear gas and live bullets to disperse youths in Mukono who were protesting against the continued incarceration of Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi, popularly known as Bobi Wine.
Bobi was violently arrested alongside three other legislators and about 30 of their supporters following clashes between rival groups in a hotly contested parliamentary race in Arua.
Bobi, who is said to have been tortured, was separately charged in a military court in Gulu with illegal possession of firearms and ammunition and remanded to Makindye military prison until August 23. The other suspects who are accused of pelting President Yoweri Museveni’s motorcade with stones were arraigned in Gulu Magistrate’s court and charged with treason and remanded to Gulu main prison until August 30.
Bobi connects with a lot of youth in the country and is being considered as the latest political threat to president Museveni’s long grip on power. With reports emerging that the legislator was tortured according to his wife Barbie Kyagulanyi, lawyer Erias Lukwago and Uganda Human Rights Commission, his supporters are up in arms.
After two straight days of low-scale protests in Kamwokya and Gayaza on Thursday, today Bobi’s supporters in Mukono also joined the protest wave, bringing business to a standstill in the township.
Dressed in red outfits, the colour symbol of ‘People Power’, Bobi’s pressure group, the youths chanted pro-Bobi slogans, sung his songs and burnt old tyres in the middle of the road to Kayunga bringing traffic flow to a standstill for several hours.
The youth claimed the government is slapping trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms against their ‘ghetto president’. They said all they want is freedom for Kyagulanyi.
Pressure is increasingly mounting for government over the arrest and alleged torture of the Arua suspects with the foreign diplomats and embassies, Buganda kingdom all issuing statements calling for respect of the suspects’ humans rights including access to medical care.
Several prominent Ugandan DJs have also resolved to play Bobi Wine’s songs for at least 15 minutes at the top of the hour on TVs and radios until the legislator is freed. Pressure to free the suspects is not only within Uganda, with Kenyan, Zimbabwean, British, American media extensively covering the post-arrest events.
Also, Ugandans living in South Africa and USA have held their own protests, demanding for the freedom of Bobi. Ugandans in Massachusetts, USA, staged a protest calling for the unconditional release of the suspects arrested in Arua.
The protest held in the city of Medford, brought together a number of Ugandans who denounced what they said was government’s clear acts of torture, abuse of human rights and illegal detention of suspects.
The protesters carried placards with inscriptions calling for Bobi’s release. Free Bobi Wine, free our people, was a key call made by the protestors who also carried placards with some of Kyagulanyi’s popular slogans, “People Power, Our Power”, “we are fighting for you, we are not fighting you” among others.
The protesters approached passersby and told them the reason for their protest and also asked them to join in protesting the arrests. Martin Byakuleka, the president of the Common League of the Ugandan Diaspora (CLOUD) who is the brain behind the demonstration says Ugandans abroad are saddened that Ugandans are being treated brutally by the regime.
He says the demonstration is meant to show their dissatisfaction on the fictitious charges, torture and intimidation that Ugandans have endured under the leadership of Yoweri Museveni.
The group is also calling for a sit-down and stay-home campaign to stand in solidarity with the arrested Ugandans. But President Museveni earlier warned in a statement that charges against Bobi Wine and his allies will continue for bringing violence and intimidation into elections.