Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Uganda: 37 Dead amid Protests over Pop Star Opposition Candidate's Arrest

At least 37 people in Uganda have died since opposition leader Bobi Wine’s arrest on Wednesday caused mass protests and unrest in the capital, Kampala, and other areas, police in the East African nation confirmed on Friday.

“Thirty-seven bodies have been counted so far,” Kampala Police pathologist Moses Byaruhanga said on Friday, according to Sky News.

“The death toll is likely to rise,” Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesman Patrick Onyango added.

According to Onyango, police have arrested and detained 350 people in the capital since the unrest started on Wednesday.

“What we have seen in the last few days, that is violence, vandalism, looting, intimidation, and threats, are crimes that were being committed (against) people who are not pro-NUP [National Unity Platform],” Uganda National Police spokesman Fred Enanga said on Friday. The NUP is the Ugandan opposition party led by Bobi Wine.

Ugandan Army spokeswoman Brigadier Flavia Byekwaso explained to the press on Friday that the nation’s military was now involved in quelling the unrest because the situation on the ground in many cities now resembles a “war-like situation” that police forces are not equipped to handle on their own.

“You can see what is going on – people are being stoned, people are being killed, vehicles are being vandalized, tires [are on fire] everywhere,” Byekwaso revealed.

“These things are spontaneous on all streets, so police cannot handle such a situation,” she added.

The unrest began after supporters of Ugandan opposition leader Bobi Wine — a pop star turned politician — protested his detention by authorities on Wednesday. Police in the eastern town of Luuka arrested Wine after government authorities accused him of violating Uganda’s anti-coronavirus measures by holding mass political rallies in recent weeks. Wine is currently campaigning to unseat Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in an upcoming presidential election slated for January 2021. Museveni, 76, has been president of Uganda for the past 34 years and is seeking a sixth consecutive term in office.

Since Wine’s arrest on Wednesday, “[y]ouths have been burning tires and blockading streets in the capital, Kampala, and in other areas,” demanding the opposition leader’s release from jail, Sky News reported. “Police and soldiers have been using live bullets, water cannons, and tear gas to disperse the protests.”

Ugandan government authorities have accused the protesters of “damaging vehicles, looting properties, and throwing stones at security personnel,” according to the report.

Authorities released Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, on bail on Friday. Shortly after his release, Wine shared a video via his official Twitter account that allegedly depicted “men in plain clothes shooting people in broad daylight.”

Scenes like this are very difficult to watch! The dictatorship is in panic. We cannot have men in plain clothes shooting people in broad daylight!

— BOBI WINE (@HEBobiwine) November 19, 2020

Gabrielle Reyes

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