Bobi Wine’s lawyer Anthony Wameli said his client was seized on Wednesday at the Kampala offices of his opposition party, the National Unity Platform (NUP).
(African Stand) — Security forces in Uganda have raided the offices of Bobi Wine, the reggae star and prominent opposition leader, as tensions rise in the east African country months ahead of presidential elections in January.
Soldiers and police officers invaded the headquarters of the National Unity Platform (NUP) in Kamwokya, a suburb of Kampala, the capital, in the late morning on Wednesday. They seized cash, posters, banners, and quantities of red berets – Wine’s signature headgear and a “symbol of resistance” which the government says is illegal.
Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, has accused the country’s president, Yoweri Museveni, of seeking to block his candidacy for next year’s elections through a series of “trumped-up” legal challenges and a campaign of intimidation.
“Hundreds of police and soldiers came and broke into our offices. They said they were looking for berets but that was just a pretext,” Wine, 38, told the Africa Stand.
“I’m telling our supporters in Uganda and all over the world that this is the sign of a crumbling dictatorship. All dictators behave like this before they fall. We are strong. We are not giving up. We know that history is on our side.”
Since he won election as a lawmaker representing a constituency near Kampala in 2017, Wine has been assaulted and arrested or detained many times, including over a treason charge that he denies.
He is one of a new generation of politicians across Africa who are challenging long-time leaders, hoping to harness deep dissatisfaction among younger, more educated, and often urban voters.
However, analysts say incumbent leaders such as Museveni, 76, benefit from powerful patronage networks, long-established political machines, control of the media, and links to big business, as well as support from the military or other security forces.
Museveni has accused Wine of trying to incite rioting – a charge he also denies.
Fred Enanga, Uganda’s police spokesperson, said the operation at Wine’s offices was aimed at seizing red berets.
A law was introduced last year to ban wearing or possession of any clothing which resembles the army uniform, with a potential penalty of imprisonment for life.
“We are targeting all locations illegally manufacturing, supplying, distributing, selling and using uniforms and accouterments whose ownership and patented designs was gazetted and an exclusive preserve of the armed forces,” Enanga said.
Uganda’s military spokeswoman, Brig Flavia Byekwaso, said the “joint operation” was aimed at stopping the “illegal use of military and police stores and another military/police patented designs”.
“All in possession of such items are encouraged to voluntarily return them,” Byekwaso said in a tweet.
Joel Ssenyonyi, a spokesperson for the NUP, said 20 party workers had been arrested and forms carrying hundreds of signatures necessary to support Wine’s presidential nomination seized.
Earlier this week Wine told the African Stand he was calling on people all over the world to “keep their eyes” on Uganda because international attention was the only way to “stop human rights abuses and impunity in Uganda today”.