Uganda’s Bobi Wine is launched on bail because the variety of protests rises to 37

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© Reuters. People ride motorcycles while smoke rises from burning objects on a street in Kampala

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By Elias Biryabarema

KAMPALA (Reuters) – Ugandan pop star and presidential candidate Bobi Wine, whose arrest this week sparked protests that resulted in at least 37 deaths, was released on bail on Friday after being charged with rallies that could spread the coronavirus.

Authorities have deployed the military in the capital, Kampala, and the surrounding areas to help police forces disperse the protesters. They used live bullets, tear gas, and water cannons and arrested hundreds.

Wine, real name Robert Kyagulanyi, was arrested Wednesday while fighting in eastern Uganda over alleged mass rallies in violation of gathering restrictions to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

“It is Museveni who is said to be in this dock for killing innocent citizens,” Wine said after being accused in a television appearance in court, referring to incumbent President Yoweri Museveni.

Police said Friday the death toll from the protests rose to 37.

“So far, 37 bodies have been counted,” police pathologist Moses Byaruhanga told Reuters.

Police spokesman Fred Enanga said detained protesters were involved in violence, including targeting members of the public who do not support the Wine National Unity Platform (NUP) party.

“What we have seen in the past few days, namely violence, vandalism, looting, intimidation and threats, are crimes committed (against) people who are not for the NUP,” he said. “We can’t tolerate that.”

Uganda, a nation of 42 million people, will hold presidential and parliamentary elections on January 14th. Wine becomes a serious threat to 76-year-old veteran Museveni looking to expand his rule.

Wine has amassed a large following among Ugandan youth, drawn to its bold criticism of the government, often in its texts.

Wine has said that when he was “born hectic and born to hectic parents, raised in the ghettos” he could understand the struggles of ordinary, impoverished Ugandans, and he has repeatedly urged Museveni to withdraw.

His arrest sparked immediate protests in Kampala and other major cities in the East African country. Teenagers burned tires and other materials on the streets, erected barriers to block traffic, and requested his release.

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