Amnesty International joins push to free Bobi Wine

Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine
Opposition leader Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine

Kampala, Uganda |  URN | “The Ugandan authorities must immediately lift the police and military siege of opposition leader Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine’s home and release him and his wife Barbara Itungo,” Amnesty International said as the post-election blockade entered its 8th day.

Robert Kyagulanyi, popularly known as Bobi Wine was declared runner-up by the Electoral Commission [EC] in last week’s presidential election, with 34.8 per cent of the vote, behind President Yoweri Museveni, who got 58.6 per cent.

But security has since deployed at his home in Magere, Wakiso district to allegedly prevent unrest in the country. Police Spokesperson Fred Enanga said earlier that Robert Kyagulanyi was placed under “preventive arrest” because he planned to disrupt public order since he and his party, the National Unity Platform [NUP] have alleged fraud in polls held a week ago.  

Security personnel are also preventing people from accessing Bobi Wine despite him having reported that his family has run out of basic needs, including food.

On January, 18 the security personnel stationed outside his house prevented the US Ambassador Natalie Brown from visiting Bobi Wine’s residence, where she had gone to check on his health and safety, according to a statement issued by the US Embassy in Uganda on 18 January.    

Government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo later faulted her for disregarding the defined diplomatic protocol and norms to follow when she chose to visit Bobi Wine without informing the Ministry of foreign affairs about her concerns or intended visit.   

“She didn’t do that but arrogantly believed she was a law unto herself in Uganda to visit someone under the protective security of the police. Kyagulanyi is being protected for his own good and safety and we can tell what the Ambassador’s intentions all through from her conduct, she’s looking more as if she’s a local political activist,” Opondo said.     

But Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East and Southern Africa said in a statement issued this evening that it is neither a crime to stand for president nor to want to challenge the election results in court.

“This continued confinement is politically motivated and a blatant violation of their human rights. It must be lifted immediately and without any conditions,” he added.   

According to Muchena, holding Kyagulanyi  and his wife is also having an impact on his ability to challenge the presidential election results, in what appears to be a ploy to prevent the NUP from going to court in time     

According to the Presidential Elections Act, aggrieved presidential candidates must lodge their petitions in the Supreme Court registry within 10 days of the declaration of the election results. This means Bobi Wine and the NUP party have until January 26 to file an election petition.   

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“The Ugandan government must immediately end the arbitrary detention of Robert Kyagulanyi and his wife. They must also desist from the abusive practice of arbitrarily detaining opposition leaders without charge, which has become routine, especially during elections,” said Deprose Muchena.    

Amnesty International stresses that this is not the first time the Ugandan government has used arrests and detention to undermine opposition leaders’ plans to legally challenge presidential election results.

During the 2016 election, the leading opposition presidential candidate at the time, Dr. Kizza Besigye, was barricaded in his home without charge the day after polls closed.