Uganda: Police Charge Singer-Turned-Politician with ‘Annoying the President’

Ugandan pop star turned opposition MP Robert Kyagulanyi, popularly known by pop name Bobi Wine, listens to presentation at the PAWA 254 offices in October 12, 2018, Nairobi, where he met the youth and spoke on several issues affecting the youth in East Africa. (Photo by SIMON MAINA / AFP) …
SIMON MAINA/AFP/Getty

Police in Uganda this week charged a musician turned Member of Parliament (MP) and political opposition leader Bobi Wine with trying “to annoy, alarm, or ridicule” the African country’s President Yoweri Museveni, BBC reported.

The new accusations are in addition to treason charges leveled against Wine in 2018.

Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, is currently out on bail. He is facing a maximum sentence of up to life in prison if convicted of all the charges against him.

This week, Wine told the Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency:

This government of President Museveni is in panic mode. At first, it was treason, and now it is annoying President Museveni. Who on earth can’t be annoyed? It is a ridiculous charge, and [I] am ready to challenge it in court.

The charges come after the 37-year-old MP announced that he would run against President Museveni in the 2021 elections.

BBC reports, “The musician-turned-MP, who has become an opposition force against President Yoweri Museveni’s three-decade rule, recently announced that he will stand for president in the 2021 election.”

Wine’s lawyer Asuman Basalirwa told AFP that the “annoy” charge stems from an August 2018 stoning incident that resulted in the treason charge.

The MP also “faces charges of inciting violence and encouraging people to harm the president,” Fox News reports, adding:

Wine, 37, took up politics in 2017 and has recently announced he will run against Museveni in the country’s 2021 presidential elections. He has more than 1 million followers on Facebook and 341,000 on Twitter and is leading what he calls the “People Power Movement,” whose agenda is to end oppression and corruption in the country.

In a September 2018 Facebook post, Wine accused Ugandan security forces of torturing him and his colleagues in detention, stressing that they spared “no part of my body.

Referring to the MP, All Africa notes, “He is still facing charges in another court, for meeting with his fans to protest against the introduction of the new social media tax of U.S.$0.054 daily, as well as mobile money tax.”

Under President Museveni, authorities have also charged the lawmaker with breaking the law by holding a public meeting at City Square in Kampala District in July 2018 without giving proper notice.

Moreover, authorities under Museveni recently sentenced a prominent Ugandan activist, Stella Nyanzi, to 18 months in prison for posting a poem on Facebook that criticized the president.

Ugandan authorities reportedly found her guilty of “cyber harassment.

Wine spoke out against the ruling on Facebook, saying:

The Magistrate also found it convenient to condemn Dr. Stella Nyanzi for using immoral words! The same courts which have protected the corrupt, shielded murderers and defended land grabbers are now castigating a poet for being immoral.

In 2016, Ugandans elected 74-year-old President Museveni for his fifth five-year term. He has ruled Uganda for more than three decades, since 1986, and is expected to run again.

Referring to Museveni’s elections, a U.S. State Department report on human rights notes:

The elections fell short of international standards and were marred by allegations of disenfranchisement and voter intimidation, harassment of the opposition, closure of social media websites, and lack of transparency and independence in the Electoral Commission (EC). The periods before, during, and after the elections were marked by a closing of political space, intimidation of journalists, and widespread use of torture by the security agencies.

Human rights issues included reports of unlawful or arbitrary killings; forced disappearance; torture; arbitrary detention; political prisoners; violence and intimidation against journalists, censorship, criminalization of libel, and restricted access to the internet; substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association; restrictions on political participation; corruption; criminalization of same-sex consensual sexual conduct; and security force harassment and detention of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons.

The president claims Wine and other opposition figures are trying to incite a riot against his rule.

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