KAMPALA, UGANDA - Ugandan opposition lawmaker Robert Kyagulanyi, better known as the singer Bobi Wine, was arrested Monday and charged with unlawful assembly.
Wine was taken to a maximum security prison in Kampala, and later appeared at the Buganda Road Magistrates Court, where the state alleged that on July 11, 2018, Wine and several others still at large disobeyed sections 5 and 10 of the Public Order Management Act by holding a public meeting without adhering to the required criteria.
Wine's lawyer, Benjamin Katana, said he was charged with unlawful assembly related to a protest that took place in 2018 against taxes on mobile money transfers and internet access.
Wine told the court that he did not commit any crime.
"I am only here because I disagree with the political leadership of this country and in particular President Museveni," he said. "But my spirit is confident, your Honor, because I am here, not because I have stolen public funds or I have killed somebody. I am glad that I am here because I am fighting for them, for you, your Honor, for everybody in this country. I am here protesting against unfair taxation and against injustice."
The Public Order Management Act requires anyone intending to carry out a protest to inform the police beforehand. However, many meetings and peaceful protests by members of the opposition have been blocked by police who insist the protesters must seek advance permission — something the law does not require.
Opposition political parties have started a process to review the act.
Earlier Monday, police used tear gas and warning shots to disperse dozens of Wine's supporters, who were escorting him to appear before the Criminal Investigations Department.
Along the way, officers took Wine out of his car and into a waiting police van.
Kifampa Siraj was among the crowd demanding that Wine be freed.
"Many Ugandans are going through a lot of hardships and this is what Bobi Wine is singing about," he said. "Why should they deploy all this heavy machinery and whatever, blocking him from speaking to his people? So, the fact government knows what he is doing, why should government block him from singing?"
Wine makes his next court appearance Thursday, according to his lawyer.