Residents are ordered out of a building with their hands in the air as security forces pursue protesters in Kampala, Uganda, Aug. 20, 2018.
Residents are ordered out of a building with their hands in the air as security forces pursue protesters in Kampala, Uganda, Aug. 20, 2018.

NAIROBI, KENYA - Rights activists in Kenya are demanding officials in neighboring Uganda release Robert Kyagulanyi, a Ugandan politician and musician popularly known as Bobi Wine. 

Kyagulanyi has been held by Ugandan authorities since his August 14 arrest in the northwestern town of Arua, where campaigning was taking place for the municipality parliamentary by-election. Kyagulanyi, who represents the Kyadondo East political region, had been campaigning for an opposition candidate. 

In the violence, Uganda’s presidential motorcade was attacked and Kyagulanyi’s driver was shot dead. Kyagulanyi was charged with illegal possession of firearms and ammunition at a military court in Gulu, Uganda. 

FILE - Ugandan pop star Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, bette
FILE - Ugandan pop star Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, better known as Bobi Wine, center, leaves shortly after being sworn in as a member of parliament in Kampala, Uganda, July 11, 2017. The 36-year-old urges his countrymen to stand up against what he calls a failing government but was charged, Aug. 16, 2018, in a military court over his alleged role in clashes in the northwestern town of Arua where both he and President Yoweri Museveni were campaigning.

His arrest and detention at a military camp at Makindye, on the outskirts of Uganda’s capital, Kampala, has caused outrage across East Africa.

Tuesday in Nairobi, the Law Society of Kenya advocacy group held a news conference demanding the politician’s release.

“We hereby call on the government of the Republic of Uganda to launch a thorough independent and impartial (investigation) including appropriate forensic investigations into how Yassin Kawuma was killed with a shot to his head. There must be accountability for this death. (There must be) an immediate and unconditional release of Kyagulanyi, otherwise known as Bobi Wine, from military incarceration,” said Charles Kanjama of the Law Society of Kenya.

After the attack on the presidential motorcade, Kyagulanyi’s driver was shot dead as police fired live rounds to disperse crowds.

Thirty-three other people were arrested the same day and were arraigned in court and charged with treason.

Before his arrest, Kyagulanyi suggested on Twitter that the killing was a case of mistaken identity, and that he was the target.

The Law Society of Kenya called on its members to wear red ribbons in a weeklong campaign for solidarity with those in Uganda subjected to human rights violations.

“We urge the government of the Republic of Uganda to respect the rule of law and recognize that all power belongs to the people,” Kanjama said. “The people of Uganda want peace and stability and the ongoing crackdown on opposition dissidents will do nothing but worsen the situation.”


WATCH: Pressure Builds on Uganda Government to Release 'Bobi Wine'

Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, is one of Africa’s longest serving leaders, having ascended to power in 1986 after the ouster of Idi Amin Dada. He was elected to a fifth term in February 2016 amid allegations of fraud.

The Ugandan parliament passed a bill in July that removed the presidential age limit. Previous laws required presidential contenders to be younger than 75 and would have prevented Museveni from running in the next general election in 2021.

Kyagulanyi was a leading critic of the ruling party’s move to scrap the presidential age limit. The Afro beats music star has in the past used his music to critique the Ugandan government on issues of corruption and injustice.

At Nairobi’s Pawa 254 organization, musicians, artists and right activists turned up for a free concert to support the detained politician.

Al Amin Kimathi is part of the organizing team.

“We did not know the turnout would be this big,” Kithmathi said. “We didn’t know the kind of traction that it would gain around the country. We are happy that it is gathering that traction around the country and we hope that the message is getting home that Yoweri Kaguta Museveni is getting the message from the young people of Kenya.”

Rights activists, together with the Law Society of Kenya have planned a march to the Ugandan Embassy in Nairobi Thursday to demand the politician’s release