By Hassan Isilow
JOHANNESBURG (AA) – Unrest continued for a second straight day in Uganda on Thursday following the arrest of presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, popularly known as Bobi Wine.
There were reports of sporadic gunfire and police using tear gas to disperse the pop star-turned-politician’s supporters in the capital Kampala.
The 38-year-old was arrested in eastern Uganda a day earlier while campaigning for the upcoming Jan. 14 elections, allegedly for violating coronavirus rules that prohibit political gatherings of more than 200 people.
His arrest sparked protests in the capital Kampala and other urban centers across the country, with demonstrators blocking roads and burning tires.
According to Fred Enanga, a police spokesperson, the death toll in the violence has risen from three to seven, with at least 45 more people injured.
“We are scared for our lives. We have been hearing gunshots in our neighborhood since the morning,” Mukulu Mohamadi, a resident of Bukesa, an area in the capital, told Anadolu Agency over the phone.
Joel Ssenyonyi, spokesman for Kyagulanyi’s National Unity Platform (NUP) party, said a standoff was ongoing at the Nalufenya police station, about 70 kilometers (over 43 miles) from Kampala, where the politician is being held.
“Since yesterday, police & the army have denied us access to our Presidential candidate, saying they await orders. There’s no word about whether or not he'll be taken to court & we don't know the state he is in,” he said on Twitter.
Videos circulating on social media showed armed men dressed in civilian clothes shooting in public places in downtown Kampala.
One of the videos shows women trapped in a car as two men fire indiscriminately nearby.
“I am very scared. Mum, tear gas! These guys are shooting in front of us,” a woman can be heard saying.
- Rivals in solidarity
Other politicians have also voiced concern over Kyagulanyi’s arrest and called for his immediate release.
In a social media post, former presidential candidate Kizza Besigye condemned the arrest of Kyagulanyi and Patrick Oboi Amuriat, another presidential candidate who was arrested and released on Wednesday.
Mugisha Muntu, who is also in the run for the presidency, announced late Wednesday that he was pausing his campaign activities until all other candidates “are released and their freedom to campaign guaranteed.”
“We call upon [the] government to recognize that this isn't business as usual,” Muntu, an army commander-turned-politician said in a video posted online.
Henry Tumukunde, another of the 11 presidential candidates, posted a similar message, saying that he was suspending all campaign events “in solidarity with other leaders & parties.”