Freed Ugandan Opposition Leader Pledges to Continue Fight

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Freed Ugandan Opposition Leader Pledges to Continue Fight

KAMPALA, Uganda—Ugandan rapper-turned-opposition leader Bobi Wine pledged to continue his fight to oust longtime President Yoweri Museveni, after soldiers released him from nearly two weeks of home detention following January’s disputed election.

Dozens of chanting supporters, waving the brightly colored flags of Mr. Wine’s National Unity Platform party, thronged his residence outside Kampala, a day after a court ruled that his detention was unlawful. Mr. Wine, whose bid to unseat Mr. Museveni after nearly 35 years in power struck a chord with many young voters, called on them to peacefully march against the outcome of the Jan. 14 vote.

“Museveni is using the military and the police in a partisan manner to oppress his opponents and to suppress our rights,” said Mr. Wine. “We are standing for what is moral and what is just.”

Soldiers confined Mr. Wine and his wife at their home a day after the election, which took place amid a total internet blackout and heavy security. According to the official results, which Mr. Wine says were rigged, he won 35% of the vote, compared with 59% for Mr. Museveni. Mr. Wine’s party has until Feb. 5 to challenge the outcome in court.

U.S. officials have said the results were fundamentally flawed and, along with other governments, urged an investigation into the deadly violence that preceded the vote. On polling day, police arrested 30 election observers, hours after the U.S. called off its own monitoring mission when many of its observers were denied accreditation.

Mr. Wine’s supporters have shared several videos that appear to show security personnel stuffing ballot boxes and ticking off ballots in favor of Mr. Museveni. Uganda’s Electoral Commission said it was investigating the videos.

Despite their condemnation of the heavy security surrounding the elections and violence against Mr. Wine and his supporters, many observers expect the West to continue working with Mr. Museveni, who has been a major ally in the fight against the al Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab in Somalia.

In 2019, the most recent year for which data is available, the U.S. sent $936 million in aid to Uganda, primarily to finance health programs as well as training and equipping the country’s security forces.

“Museveni is still a key asset to the West in this volatile region,” said Nicholas Sengoba, a Ugandan political analyst. “Concerns from donors about the excesses of Museveni’s regime will not be sustained for long.”

Ugandan police accused Mr. Wine of planning to incite violence in an attempt to plunge the coffee- and oil-producing nation into disorder. A police spokesman said that despite the court ruling, police would continue to surveil Mr. Wine’s movements.

“We want to ensure that he doesn’t break the law, we have to ensure that the security situation is maintained,” the spokesman said.

In November, a separate arrest of Mr. Wine triggered protests in which 54 people were killed as police battled to contain demonstrators.

The arrest of Ugandan presidential candidate Bobi Wine sparked protests in Kampala. (Originally published Nov. 19, 2020)

Write to Nicholas Bariyo at

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