‘Tortured’ Bobi Wine charged in army court as Wadri tried for treason
Low levels of riots broke out in the Kamwokya ghetto in the Ugandan capital Kampala as residents demanded the immediate release of jailed MP and musician Robert Sentamu Kyagulanyi, known as Bobi Wine.
Mr Kyagulanyi began his music career in the slum before rising to stardom and has been nicknamed the “Ghetto President”.
Uganda police quickly suppressed the riot though running battles with the protesters continued most of the afternoon.
Meanwhile, some 34 people who had been arrested on the same day as Mr Kyagulanyi in the northwestern town of Arua following a chaotic close of poll campaigns on Monday were arraigned on Thursday.
They were charged with treason for their alleged role in the smashing of a rear window of a vehicle in President Yoweri Museveni’s motorcade.
Mr Kyagulanyi’s driver, Yasin Kawuma, was also shot dead in the violence.
Those charged include the winner of the Arua Municipality MP seat Mr Kassiano Wadri, lawmakers Gerald Karuhanga, Paul Mwiri and Michael Mabbike. They were brought before the magistrate’s court in the northern town of Gulu, some 150km east of Arua.
They did not enter plea since treason cases can only be heard at higher courts. They were remanded until August 30.
MP Francis Zaake was not presented in court though his name was on the charge sheet. He had been hospitalised after he sustained injuries suspected to have been inflicted through torture by the authorities. Pictures of the MP brutally assaulted later circulated on social media.
Meanwhile, President Museveni’s most critical opponent Mr Kizza Besigye accused the government of using heavy-handed tactics to suppress opposition.
“I have been charged with treason twice. I have been charged with rape, with illegal possession of guns. My wife was charged with having a pistol in our home in Luzira where I used to live. These trumped up charges are the rules in how NRM [the ruling party] addresses opponents,” Dr Besigye told journalists in Kampala.
He demanded “unconditional” release of all persons detained, adding that “no person should be charged and attempted to be tried in the military courts.”
“These courts are not only formed by Mr Museveni, but are also subordinate to him. They have no independence. You cannot try your opponents in your courts,” he added.
Mr Kyagulanyi was later in the day charged with illegal possession of firearms and ammunition at the military court in Gulu.
He was the only one court martialled.
The army spokesman Brig Richard Karemire said he had been “found possessing arms and ammunition which are ordinarily a monopoly of the Defence Forces.”
Since his arrest on Monday, the authorities had denied his lawyers and family access leading to speculations that he had been tortured and that the government was embarrassed to present him.
He was charged in the presence of only two of his lawyers, who are also MPs, Mr Asuman Basalirwa and Mr Medard Sseggona.
The lawyers said later that Mr Kyagulanyi had been brutally assaulted by the soldiers and his health is in dire state.
“He is in great pain. He can’t talk, he can’t walk, he sits with a lot of difficulty, his face is swollen and cannot see because of the torture by soldiers.
“He couldn’t speak when the charges were read to him and I believe he didn’t know what was going on or understood the charges read to him,” Mr Sseggona told journalists.
Mr Basalirwa said Mr Kyagulanyi was airlifted to Kampala but it is not clear whether the MP, who had campaigned for Mr Wadri, was taken to a hospital or a military facility.
The military court said he will be remanded until August 23.