Reuters . Wed, November 18, 2020, 4:19 PM GMT+1
Ugandan police fired tear gas and rubber bullets on Wednesday at large crowds of protesters supporting popular presidential candidate Bobi Wine, who was earlier arrested while campaigning.
Kampala police commander Moses Kafeero said that the pop star-turned-MP had been arrested for violating coronavirus measures at his rallies.
It is the latest in a string of arrests of the singer, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, as he has become a thorn in the side of President Yoweri Museveni, who will be running for a sixth term in government.
“Bobi Wine has continuously violated electoral guidelines on Covid-19, holding rallies, processions and hosting more than the recommended 200 people per campaign venue,” said Kafeero.
He said Wine had been taken in for questioning.
“As law enforcement, we can’t stand and watch as politicians put the lives of Ugandans at stake by encouraging processions and huge rallies, which fuel Covid-19 transmission,” he said.
The arrest sparked protests in the capital Kampala and other major towns, where Wine’s supporters lit fires in the middle of roads and lobbed rocks at police, and were dispersed with tear gas and rubber bullets.
Uganda’s police chief Martin Okoth Ochola on Wednesday warned officers were taking “a tougher approach to preserve the integrity of the electoral process.”
Wine was most recently arrested on November 3 after registering his candidacy for the January 14 presidential election, over accusations he was planning an illegal rally.
Wine, nicknamed the “Ghetto President”, has faced escalating police harassment since announcing his intention to challenge Museveni, who seized power at the head of a rebel army in 1986.
His concerts are routinely banned and public rallies broken up with tear gas, and Wine himself is frequently detained.
His catchy pop songs about social justice, poverty and corruption have shaken the ruling party and its ageing patriarch Museveni, who at 76 is the only president most Ugandans have ever known.