Uganda’s security minister, Elly Tumwine, has told protesters in the East African country that “Police have a right to shoot you and kill you if you reach a certain level of violence. Police have a right to shoot you and you die for nothing…do it at your own risk.” The minister made the statement following the mass protests that greeted the police arrest of Robert Kyagulanyi, popularly known as Bob Wine, the BBC reports.
Bob Wine is a former musician who is now contesting for presidency in Uganda. Police arrested the former pop star and charged him with spreading COVID-19 at a campaign rally. Following his arrest, thousands of his supporters took to the streets in Kampala and other cities to demand his release, burning tires and barricading the streets with refuse and other debris.
Law enforcement responded by firing tear-gas and live bullets which killed 28 people; about 11 security personnel were also wounded in the unrest. Although government officials reported that 28 people died in the protests, independent sources said about 37 bodies were counted on Friday. Human Rights Watch and other foreign bodies have accused the government Uganda of suppressing opposition and using coronavirus restrictions as a ploy to put down the opposition before the coming January elections.
During Bob Wine’s two days detention in police custody, his lawyers said they were not allowed access to him until nearly his arraignment in court. He was charged with violation of the public health act – an offense that could put anyone in prison for seven years. The former pop star and presidential candidate remained mute in court while his charges were read out to him, but his lawyers were able to secure his bail. The court premises had been heavily guarded by armed security personnel who kept protesters at bay.
President Yoweri Museveni has been Uganda’s president since 1986, and 11 presidential hopefuls are currently challenging him in the coming elections.