Images of a popular reggae music star in a wheel chair holding crutches have raised questions of whether Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni ordered the arrest and torture of the star-turned-parliamentarian, Bobi Wine, who attended a recent rally of the opposition in the town of Arua.
Museveni was forced to release the star for treatment in the U.S. after an outcry by Wine’s supporters.
Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, known professionally as Bobi Wine, arrived Sunday in Boston. Initially blocked from boarding his flight, he was briefly held in a government-owned hospital before finally being released.
Spokesmen for the President dismissed Wine’s torture claims as “fake news” and said that Wine will be charged with treason for allegedly trying to stone a Presidential convoy during the Arua rally.
Museveni had long left Arua when rioting broke out and rocks began to fly. Special forces responded with tanks, firing live bullets, raiding hotels, and violently arresting legislators, hotel guests and bystanders.
Parliamentarian Francis Zaake was so grievously injured at the August 15 event that he was reportedly placed on life support.
Efforts to transfer Zaake to India for treatment have been put on hold pending an exam by Ugandan doctors.
Kassiano Wadri, a candidate for office who trounced the official candidate according to election returns, was arrested and remains in detention.
Some 33 opposition figures have been charged with treason following the Arua clashes.
Kyagulanyi, raised in one of Kampala’s slums, styles himself the “ghetto president”. He was elected to parliament last year and has a large youth and international following. His supporters cite his success in helping candidates from the opposition win elections and have urged him to run for president in 2021.
Museveni, who has held power since 1986, may be losing ground with voters, many of them under 30 who have never known another president. A controversial hydropower dam supported by the President is now called a “big mistake” since making electricity in Uganda unaffordable for many citizens. U.S. investors, the Blackstone Group, however, reaped a huge return, doubling their $120 million investment after selling their stake to a Norwegian company, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Meanwhile, against a background of hundreds of Bobi Wine fans, a CNN reporter observed: “In a battle between the people and the President, the people have chosen their side.”