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Uganda Accuses US of Meddling After Ambassador Tries to Visit Opposition Candidate

FILE - Ugandan police officers order journalists to leave a road leading to the home of Ugandan opposition presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine, in Kampala, Uganda, Jan. 16, 2021.

Uganda has accused the United States of meddling in its internal politics and supporting the opposition National Unity Platform (NUP) party. The comments came after security forces blocked the U.S. ambassador's attempt to visit detained NUP leader Bobi Wine, who has been under de facto house arrest since last week’s election gave President Yoweri Museveni a sixth term.

Since election day January 14, police and soldiers have kept NUP leader Robert Kyagulanyi, better known as Bobi Wine, confined to his house on the outskirts of Kampala.

The U.S. ambassador to Uganda, Natalie Brown, attempted to meet with the musician-turned-politician on Monday but was turned away.

According to a statement by the U.S. embassy, the ambassador had gone to check on the health and welfare of Wine given that he has been unable to leave his home.

U.S. embassy spokesperson Tony Kujawa said the visit to Wine’s home was part of U.S. diplomatic engagements with different actors across Uganda’s political spectrum.

“Uganda’s election campaigns were marred by the harassment of opposition candidates, campaign staff and supporters, suppression of the media and civil society activities. And a nationwide internet shut down, before, during and after the voting day. These unlawful actions and the effective house arrest of a presidential candidate continue a worrying trend on the course of Uganda’s democracy,” Kujawa said.

But government spokesman Ofwono Opondo said the ambassador is neither a social worker nor health care provider and does not qualify to check on anybody’s health or welfare.

He said Brown is an accredited diplomat in Uganda, and if there’s any place she wants to visit she must seek clearance from Ugandan foreign affairs ministry, which she didn’t.

Opondo also accused of the U.S. of supporting the NUP.

“Obviously we all know that Ambassador Natalie [Brown] and the American system here, USAID and so on has been funding Bobi Wine and other outfits in clear disregard of diplomatic norms, with the main objective to destabilize the government of Uganda and cause regime change outside the constitutional framework. We are watching her back, you can tell her that,” Opondo said.

Mathias Mpuuga, the NUP’s vice president, denied the party is getting money from the U.S. government.

“What is true is that so many Ugandans in the diaspora have been contributing to our struggle. And they continue to do so. That we can’t deny. I can tell you, even an insane person at this stage would be concerned about the welfare of the Honorable Kyagulanyi and his family,” Mpuuga said.

Bobi Wine and his wife filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Uganda’s attorney general, chief of defense forces and the inspector general of police.

The couple say they have been held incommunicado since the election, with no access to visitors, lawyers or family members.

They are asking the court to order security forces to pull back from their house, or for police to present charges against them in a court of law.