KAMPALA – Ugandan police on Tuesday again arrested Bobi Wine, a popular singer and opposition presidential hopeful, shortly after he was successfully certified as a candidate in next year's election.
Wine, who is bidding to unseat Uganda’s long-time leader, was dragged from his car by police. The local NBS Television, reporting from the scene, said the singer, whose real name is Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, was put into a police van amid violent scuffles between police and his supporters.
He was returned to his house later Tuesday on the outskirts of Kampala, the capital.
“The authority I have is the same authority you have,” he told a cheering crowd of his supporters. “Don't give up. Those who have cameras, use them. Those who have lips, use them. Those who have hands, use them. Those who have legs, use them."
Earlier, the dusty area outside his home was the scene of skirmishes between his supporters and police who fired tear gas into the compound, according to Joel Ssenyonyi, a spokesman for Wine’s People Power movement.
“There are running battles,” Ssenyonyi said from the scene. "It’s quite chaotic.”
Ugandan police said in a statement that Wine was forcibly removed from his vehicle because authorities feared he had “plans of holding illegal processions” into Kampala following his certification. Another presidential candidate, Patrick Amuriat of the opposition Forum for Democratic Change, was similarly arrested.
“Plans have been put in place to effectively address groups that decide to act unlawfully,” the police statement said.
At least three security personnel and four civilians were injured in clashes, and 49 people were arrested over their alleged roles in violence, it said.
Authorities frequently accuse Wine of planning rallies that could disrupt public order, which he denies.
Critics say President Yoweri Museveni, in power since 1986, increasingly depends on the armed forces to assert his authority.
Museveni, who was nominated as a candidate on Monday, said afterward that his government would not tolerate the activities of enemies he did not name who are allegedly plotting chaos.
“There's nobody who is going to disturb here. Whoever tries will regret. Because for us, we don't play," the president said. “The (ruling party) fought to bring peace in this country. Nobody has more guns than us. But we don't scare people.”
Wine, 38, has captured the imagination of many Ugandans with his persistent calls for the 76-year-old Museveni to retire. He is especially popular with poor people in urban areas.
“We now enter the most critical phase of our liberation struggle!” Wine tweeted after having his candidacy certified.
The election is expected to be a two-horse race between Wine and Museveni. The electoral commission has not fixed a date for the polls.
Wine and other opposition leaders have been frequently arrested in recent years, sometimes detained within their own homes by police citing a need to prevent crimes from being committed.
Those actions have reinforced a view among some Ugandans that the police serve at the behest of Museveni, who has rebuffed repeated calls to retire peacefully.
This East African country has never witnessed a peaceful transfer of power since independence from British colonial rule in 1962.