Ugandan presidential candidate Bobi Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulani, was released on bail from detention Friday after being charged with violating the government’s COVID-19 rules by holding political rallies. Wine’s arrest Wednesday sparked a series of violent protests that claimed the lives of 37 people.
Following the news of Wine’s arrest on Wednesday, large-scale protests in the major Ugandan cities of Kampala, Jinja and Masaka erupted. Videos shared by demonstrators and Wine on social media show protesters burning tires, vandalizing, lighting fires and setting up roadblock†s on the streets. Joint security forces, including Ugandan military and police, were deployed throughout the major cities to disperse the gathering protesters, using tear gas, water cannons and live bullets. Along with 37 fatalities, the Ugandan police have reported at least 65 people wounded and 300 people arrested.
The arrest of Wine, leader of the Ugandan National Unity Party, comes two months before Uganda is set to hold their general elections on January 14. Ugandan’s presidential office is currently occupied by Yoweri Museveni, who has held the position since 1986. As recently as 2017, Museveni endorsed legislation that removed the age limit for a presidential candidate, ensuring that at 76 years old, he could hold his office for another term.
While Museveni is the longest-serving leader in the East African region, his time in office has been marked by an intolerance for political opposition. Wine’s political campaign, which has propagated ideals of equality and openly condemned Museveni’s government, has been shrouded with violent beatings in police custody and frequent raids of his private offices. Wine is not the only political opposition leader to have been arrested in the lead-up to Uganda’s general elections. Another presidential candidate, Patrick Amuriat, has been arrested twice on charges of “negligent conduct, incitement to violence and holding unauthorized assemblies.” Many other political opposition leaders have accused the current government of manipulating elections to extend their time in power.