KAMPALA, UGANDA – A police helicopter hovered over the National Unity Platform (NUP) party headquarters in Kampala Tuesday morning. Outside the offices, several police trucks were parked, supported by military police.
Over the noise, musician turned politician Robert Kyagulanyi, better known as Bobi Wine, called on Ugandans to take to the streets to protest January’s election results and what he calls the oppressive government of President Yoweri Museveni.
Wine started by highlighting human rights violations and election irregularities before, during and after the January 14 vote.
He said these include arrests and detention of NUP members, torture and brutality used against arrested Ugandans, and the refusal by the Supreme Court to accept over 200 affidavits which Wine says contained critical evidence to prove election fraud against Museveni.
It is for these reasons that Wine called on Ugandans to come out and protest.
“I call upon you to rise up peacefully, unarmed and demonstrate against a regime that has oppressed us,” he said to applause. “They’ve oppressed us, exploited us and turned into slaves in our own country. The women, whose sons are missing, the Ugandans who voted and your results were short-changed, come out and peacefully demonstrate against that impunity,” he said.
Next to Wine, as he addressed the media, were stacks of files he says were declaration forms proving he won the election. According to Wine, the forms show the NUP won the election with 54% of the vote, compared to the 35% allocated to him by the Electoral Commission.
In addition to the alleged election fraud, Wine said the protests will be premised on three key demands.
“We demand that General Museveni immediately puts an end to the abduction and kidnap of our people who are taken away every day. We demand that General Museveni releases all political prisoners with immediate effect. And finally, we are demanding that General Museveni immediately stops trying civilians in military courts,” Wine said.
In response to the call for protests, police have put all officers on standby telling them to enhance their visibility, enforce an ongoing curfew and set up checkpoints to monitor people’s movements, especially the youth.
Lucas Owoyesigire, the Kampala Metropolitan police spokesperson, said the gatherings would be illegal and that its participants would be dealt with appropriately.
“The organizers of these illegal demonstrations are mobilizing the public using social media and leaflets with wordings that read, “Time is now, join the nationwide protests.” We will not at any time hesitate to arrest and charge in courts of law anyone who will be found participating in these illegal activities,” Owoyesigire said.
Political analyst Godber Tumushabe says Wine’s call is the right way to go, given that supporters of Museveni are, in his view, rationalizing the criminality being perpetuated by the government.
“I find it outrageous that you can have a regime kidnapping people, torturing people, killing people and then all of us Ugandans are quiet. We are only sending out more less like silent voices of approval,” Tumushabe said.
Last week, Museveni said he would consider the release of 50 suspects out of the 177 in detention. However, the NUP says 423 of their members are still missing and only 89 are acknowledged by the government to be in its custody.