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Ugandan military ‘still surrounding’ Bobi Wine’s house despite court ruling

A Ugandan court has ordered the military and police to leave the home of opposition politician Bobi Wine.

He has not left his house in the outskirts of the capital Kampala since voting in the presidential election 11 days ago, in which he was declared runner-up to President Yoweri Museveni.

Monday’s ruling by the High Court in Kampala comes after a petition by Bobi Wine’s lawyers.

The state argued it needed to prevent him organising protests.

But the High Court has now ruled that Bobi Wine’s detention was unlawful, with Justice Micheal Elubu telling the court it was also an “an infringement on his personal liberties”.

The court said if Bobi Wine had committed any offence, he should be taken to an authorised detention centre. The army said it would respect the ruling, but has yet to withdraw its troops or nearby road blocks.

Dozens of people were killed during campaigning – many were shot by security forces.

 

Bobi Wine alleges that the election, in which he won 35% of the vote as National Unity Platform leader, was rigged.

Uganda’s Electoral Commission said the vote was peaceful, but the EU, United Nations and several rights groups have raised concerns. Aside from an African Union mission, no major international group monitored the vote.

In a phone interview with the BBC World Service days after the poll, Bobi Wine, a popular singer, 38, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, said he was “worried about my life and the life of my wife”.

The BBC’s Patience Atuhaire in Kampala says armed police and soldiers have been stationed outside the musician-turned-politician’s residence, not allowing anyone in or out.

Several more have been patrolling the neighbourhood.

Security forces in Uganda are yet to withdraw from around the home of presidential challenger Bobi Wine, despite a ruling by a judge on Monday rebuking authorities for holding the candidate under house arrest 11 days after a disputed election.

Ugandan authorities have said Wine can only leave his home on the outskirts of the capital, Kampala, under military escort because they fear his presence in public could incite rioting.

However, Justice Michael Elubu said in his ruling that Wine’s home was not a proper detention facility and noted that authorities should criminally charge him if he threatened public order.

“It is my finding that the continued indefinite restriction and confinement of the applicant to his home is unlawful. [As a] result … his right to personal liberty has been infringed … Consequently, an order for the restoration of the personal liberty of the applicant [is] hereby issued,” the judge said.

Wine’s associates and supporters welcomed the courtroom victory, but similar orders have been ignored by authorities in many previous cases.

“The High Court ruled this morning that my continued house arrest … is illegal & unconstitutional. Several hours later, the military still surrounds my home, blocking access to all! Perhaps (as always) waiting for Gen. Museveni’s orders on the next course of action,” Wine tweeted in the early afternoon.

Both the police and military said they would comply with the order.

Brig Flavia Byekwaso, Uganda’s military spokeswoman, said the armed forces were “not above the law”.

“We are law-abiding institutions. So we shall have to go with what the court has really ruled and put to us,” she said.

Fred Enanga, Uganda’s police spokesperson, told reporters that as “a law-abiding institution and one which respects and upholds the law, we are going to abide by the ruling”.

The police would, however, “maintain surveillance to ensure [Wine] doesn’t break the law during this period”.

Museveni won the election with 58% of the ballots cast while Wine had 34%, according to official results. Wine insists he was the winner and claims the military was stuffing ballot boxes, casting ballots for people and chasing voters away from polling stations.

Authorities moved to restrict Wine’s campaign, though say their actions were entirely lawful.

On one occasion, police confronted the presidential candidate Bobi Wine during an online press conference where he announced a petition to the international criminal court to investigate rights abuses in the country.

Wine is urging his supporters to protest against his loss through non-violent means but suggested in a statement on Friday that he might not launch a court challenge to the official results because of concerns a defeat would validate Museveni’s win. He said he would announce a decision “in a few days”.

Museveni has dismissed allegations of vote-rigging, calling the election “the most cheating-free” since independence from Britain in 1962.

Last week, security forces cordoned off the officers of Wine’s National Unity Platform (NUP) party in the capital. The move was aimed at complicating its efforts to collect evidence of poll irregularities. Uganda then accused the US of trying to subvert the presidential elections after the US ambassador attempted to visit Wine at his home.

The election was marred by violence in the run-up to polling day with dozens shot in protests.

There has never been a peaceful transfer of power in the country – one reason why even some within the ruling party publicly urge Museveni to preside over an orderly transition.

 

What next for Bobi Wine?

If the security forces withdraw immediately, Bobi Wine still has at least four days to file a court petition challenging the result of the vote.

If he takes that route, the court must hear and rule on the petition within 45 days.

National Unity Platform officials had told the BBC that a way forward had not been mapped, as they were unable to access their party president.

In a Facebook Live address on Friday, Bobi Wine said that Ugandans had a right to protest if they so wished, though he did not outright call on his supporters to take to the streets.

He is not the first Ugandan opposition leader to be kept under home confinement. Kizza Besigye was kept under house arrest for more than two months after the 2016 election.

Following the 2011 election, Dr Besigye launched a series of walk-to-work protests, rather than challenge the poll result in court. They were all violently broken up by the security forces.

 
 

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Written by The Editor

warrior dedicated to the cause of fighting the takeover of our culture.

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