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Bobi Wine arrives in Uganda from US, whisked home by police

Eric Baradat, AFP | File photo of Bobi Wine at a press conference on Sept. 6, 2018 in Washington, DC.

Ugandan security forces on Thursday whisked Bobi Wine away from the airport, where his supporters were not allowed to greet the ragga star-cum-opposition lawmaker, after his arrival from the US where he underwent medical treatment.


The singer, who has emerged as a popular voice against Uganda’s longtime President Yoweri Museveni, one of Africa's longest-serving leaders, was "unlawfully detained by military officers", his US-based lawyer Robert Amsterdam initially announced on Twitter.

National police chief Okoth Ochola, however, said he was taken to his home but was not under arrest.

In a later tweet, Amsterdam clarified that: “Latest is that Bobi is home. His illegal detention was based on the fear of the power of the people.”

Bobi Wine, whose real name is Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, had sought treatment in the US for injuries allegedly sustained during torture by members of the presidential guard, which Uganda's government denies.

The opposition firebrand was charged with treason along with more than 30 others after Museveni's motorcade was stoned by opposition supporters last month. Wine and the other opposition leaders deny the charges.

<<Read more: Ugandan ragga star's songs of oppression play out in real life

Ugandan police escorted the 36-year-old pop star to his residence outside the capital, Kampala, where hundreds of his supporters cheered and chanted as he climbed on top of a car and raised his fist.

Ahead of his return, security forces set up barriers near the airport and elsewhere around the capital amid heavy security. Police detained the singer's brother and at least two other people who were driving to the airport, without explanation, lawyer Asuman Basalirwa said.

Police also surrounded the home of Kampala's mayor, Erias Lukwago, and he was unable to leave, said another of the singer's lawyers, opposition legislator Medard Sseggona.

Photographs on Twitter showed Wine addressing his supporters from the top of a vehicle outside his home. Another photograph showed the popular star at home with his young children.

‘Blockaded at home till further notice’

Longtime opposition leader Kizza Besigye, who has been arrested many times over the years, said on Twitter that it is likely that Wine "will now be blockaded at home till further notice".

Wine’s next court appearance is set for October 1.

The 36-year-old firebrand politician says he is fighting for freedom from oppression and wants Museveni, in power since 1986, to retire. Museveni in turn has accused opposition figures of trying to lure Uganda's youth into rioting.

He has a big following among the poor and unemployed in urban areas. His arrest last month sparked riots by demonstrators demanding his release and security forces violently put down protests in the capital.

Dozens of global musicians have condemned the treatment of the singer, and the European Union parliament and some US senators have urged Ugandan authorities to respect basic human rights.

Museveni, a key US ally on regional security, took power by force and has since been elected five times. Although he has campaigned on his record of establishing peace and stability, some worry those gains are being eroded the longer he stays in power.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

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