After news of Kyadondo East MP Bobi Wine’s arrest initially broke, global observers in Africa and beyond have turned their attention toward Uganda for fear of the People Power leader’s wellbeing at the hands of security forces.
Among the distressed international observers is Human Rights Watch (HRW), a New York-based NGO that recently published its interpretation of the popular MP, Robert Kyagulanyi’s umpteenth arrest and continued harassment by state security forces in the early days of 2020.
“Uganda’s constitution guarantees the right to freedom of assembly but just over a year away from the general election, these clampdowns do not bode well for how it will be conducted.”
The Human Rights Watch Researcher Mr. Oryem Nyeko described how Bobi Wine’s latest arrest fits within a larger pattern of brutal and often unpunished conduct of Ugandan police at various political opposition rallies and events.
Mr. Nyeko also explained how the Public Order Management Act is “overly-broad,” and has frequently been used to justify blocking, restricting and dispersing peaceful meetings and demonstrations by opposition groups.
“Ugandan authorities have stepped up their repression recently by blocking all “political” meetings – even those held in private homes – and arresting opposition figures and journalists,” Mr. Nyeko wrote.
Mr. Nyeko went ahead to note that the arrest of Uganda’s most high-profile opposition member, Bobi Wine, sets a worrying new precedent ahead of the 2021 general elections.
Last year, the Electoral Commission authorized the People Power Movement group, led by Bobi Wine to hold consultation meetings as part of his 2021 presidential bid.
However, police blocked the first of these public meetings in Gayaza, just outside the capital Kampala, saying Kyagulanyi had not met all the requirements of the Public Order Management Act and went ahead to arrest him and his team as well as firing live bullets and teargas to disperse supporters who had gathered.
“Last year, authorities used the law to clamp down on opposition members, blocking Forum for Democratic Change rallies in Lira, Kasese, and Mbale, as well as blocking Kyagulanyi from hosting concerts. On Monday, a police spokesperson said the law would now also be used to block “political meetings” held in private homes”