Uganda: Bobi Wine Regains Freedom After Court Order

A court in Uganda has ordered security forces to cease surrounding the home of opposition leader Bobi Wine, who has been under house arrest since the January 14 presidential election.

Troops have blocked the 38-year-old pop star-turned-politician from leaving his house in a suburb of the capital Kampala since he voted in the January 14 election where he ran against long-serving incumbent President Yoweri Museveni.

“The judge ordered that the state and its agencies should immediately vacate his property and his right to personal liberty should immediately be reinstated,” lawyer George Musisi said on Monday.

Uganda’s military was aware of the court ruling and would comply, said military spokeswoman Brigadier Flavia Byekwaso, without specifying when soldiers would depart.

Barricades were still up by early afternoon.

Pressure has been mounting on the government to free Wine, including from the United States and rights group Amnesty International which called his incarceration arbitrary and politically motivated.

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Joel Ssenyonyi, spokesman for Wine’s National Unity Platform (NUP), said lawyers were moving to serve the court order to security agencies. “Their continued presence there is illegal,” he said.

Museveni, 76, who has been in power since 1986, was declared winner of the poll with 59 percent of votes versus 35 percent for Bobi Wine, who had for years denounced corruption and nepotism in his songs.

Bobi Wine rejected the result, alleging fraud which the government denies.

Wine has accused Museveni of staging a “coup” in last week’s election and is urging his supporters to protest his loss through nonviolent means. But he suggested in a statement Friday he might not go to court to challenge the official results because of concerns a possible loss there would validate Museveni’s win.

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

Museveni, 76, has dismissed allegations of vote-rigging, calling the election “the most cheating-free” since independence from Britain in 1962.

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

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

Police spokesman Patrick Onyango said he had no immediate comment as the ruling had not been received. There was no immediate reaction from the government or confirmation from the court.