Police in Uganda apologized Thursday for the “regrettable” killing of 50 protesters during a demonstration against the arrest of presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, a pop star better known as Bobi Wine.
Multiple protests broke out in recent weeks following the arrest of Wine, a 37-year-old pop star turned politician, last month. Over the course of the protests, police killed 50 civilians with live bullets, sparking further anger among the population.
In his apology over the killings, the director of police in charge of operations, Edward Ochom, admitted that tear gas should have been used to disperse the crowds.
“The circumstances under which we lost those lives is really regrettable and it would have been avoided if our officers had used tear gas to disperse the protesters,” he said. “However, there is a scientific investigation going on to establish which guns fired the live bullets and I can assure you those officers who did will be individually held accountable.”
Wine, an elected lawmaker, was arrested in eastern Uganda on the morning of November 18 on charges of violating electoral guidelines requiring presidential candidates not to hold rallies of more than 200 people to prevent the spread of the Chinese coronavirus.
His supporters argue the arrest was politically motivated on behalf of President Yoweri Museveni, whom they accuse of being a dictator. The 76-year-old, who has been in power for 34 years, has had the country’s constitution amended on two occasions to allow him to continue his time in office. He is running for a sixth term in January’s presidential election.
On Wednesday, Wine announced the suspension of his campaign after members of his entourage were among those injured during the clashes.
“With effect from today, I am suspending my campaign until further notice,” he told reporters in a press conference outside the capital, Kampala. “We are going to the electoral commission headquarters to inquire why we are being tortured by security institutions … our campaign is affected by police brutality.”
It is not the first time that demonstrations in support of Wine have ended in deadly clashes. In 2018, the Ugandan military was forced to apologize after soldiers were filmed beating up a journalist covering a demonstration in support of Wine, who had been arrested alongside several other MP’s on similarly dubious charges of unlawful possession of firearms and incitement to violence.