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Ugandan Authorities: Wine Detention Is for His Protection; Lawyer Argues Otherwise

Merdad Segona, center, lawyer for former Ugandan presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, speaks during a civil court hearing in Kampala, Jan. 21, 2021, to seek an end to house arrest for Kyagulanyi and his wife.

Lawyers representing Ugandan opposition leader Robert Kyagulanyi, known as Bobi Wine, have asked a court to order his release from a weeklong de facto house arrest.

State security has prevented anyone from entering or leaving Wine's home since he alleged fraud in last week's re-election of President Yoweri Museveni.

State prosecutors on Thursday presented a court in Kampala with a sworn affidavit from the inspector general of police, alleging crimes committed or yet to be committed by Kyagulanyi.

Citing protests on November 18 and November 19 in which 56 people were killed, authorities said they wanted to avoid a similar scenario if and when Wine is allowed to move around freely.

According to prosecutors, the National Unity Platform party leaders have been training supporters in the art of sustaining riots in the event Wine is not announced as the winner of the January 14 elections.

A patrol car of the Ugandan police is seen stationed outside the compound of Ugandan opposition leader Bobi WIne on Jan. 20, 2021.
A patrol car of the Ugandan police is seen stationed outside the compound of Ugandan opposition leader Bobi WIne on Jan. 20, 2021.

Since the election, Wine and wife Barbara Itungo have been denied access to family, lawyers, donors and U.S. Ambassador Natalie Brown, who was blocked Monday from seeing them.

The state argues that if Wine is allowed to go free, lives will be put at risk and his actions will be intended to destabilize the peace. The government maintains that Wine’s detention is for his protection and aimed at preventing violence nationally.

Martin Mwambusya, the state attorney, asked the court to set stringent conditions to ensure standard operating procedures are followed to avoid the spread of COVID-19 if Wine is allowed to leave home.

“That the applicant has been flouting COVID rules, he has declared violence. He should denounce those kinds of things and abide by the law,” Mwambusya said.

Wine was runner-up in the election that saw Museveni win a sixth term.

Wine’s lawyer, Medard Segona, said a bail application for his client had nothing to do with the police and did not need their permission. He said Wine was under illegal detention and that the family should be allowed to move about freely.

“These riots took place when Kyagulanyi was in detention," Segona said. "So, even the criminality, if at all, of the riots committed while the man was in prison is attributed to him, as if he arrested and detained himself. My Lord, this application is dealing with the legality of incarceration. Whether the detention is lawful or not. We submitted that it’s unlawful.”

In a statement, Amnesty International is demanding that the Ugandan authorities immediately lift the police and military siege of Wine’s home and release him and his wife.

Roland Ebole, Amnesty’s regional researcher, called on the Ugandan government to cease and desist from what Ebole called the abusive practice of arbitrarily detaining opposition leaders without charge.

“It is neither a crime to stand for president nor to want to challenge the election results in court," Ebole said. "This continued confinement is politically motivated and a blatant violation of their human rights. It must be lifted immediately.”

A ruling on the matter has been set for January 25.