Ugandan judge orders Bobi Wine to be freed from house arrest

The judge said authorities should criminally charge him if he threatens public order.

Bobi Wine
Bobi Wine

A judge has ruled that Ugandan security forces cannot detain presidential challenger Bobi Wine inside his home, and rebuked authorities for holding the candidate under house arrest following a disputed election result.

Mr Wine, whose real name is Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, has been unable to leave his home since January 14, when Ugandans voted in an election in which the singer-turned-politician was the main challenger to President Yoweri Museveni.

Ugandan authorities have said Mr Wine can only leave his home on the outskirts of the capital, Kampala, under military escort, because they fear his presence in public could incite rioting.

But the judge said in his ruling that Mr Wine’s home is not a proper detention facility and noted that authorities should criminally charge him if he threatens public order.

Bobi Wine
Mr Wine disputes the results of the election (AP/Jerome Delay, File)

Mr Wine’s associates welcomed the courtroom victory, but it remains to be seen if authorities will respect the judge’s order in the East African country, where similar orders have been ignored in many cases.

Mr Museveni won the election with 58% of the vote while Mr Wine had 34%, according to official results.

Mr Wine insists he won and has said he can prove that the military was stuffing ballot boxes, casting ballots for people and chasing voters away from polling stations.

The presidential challenger has accused Mr Museveni of staging a “coup” in last week’s election and is urging his supporters to protest his loss through non-violent means.

But he suggested in a statement Friday that he might not go to court to challenge the official results because of concerns a possible loss there would validate Mr Museveni’s win.

He said he would announce a decision “in a few days”.

Mr Museveni has dismissed allegations of vote-rigging, calling the election “the most cheating-free” since independence from Britain in 1962.

Uganda’s election was marred by violence ahead of polling day as well as an internet shutdown that remained in force until four days after the election. Social media sites remain restricted.

The country has never witnessed a peaceful transfer of power – one reason why even some within the ruling party publicly have urged Mr Museveni to preside over an orderly transition.

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