Free Wine!

Free Wine, or rather, ‘Free Bobi Wine‘ was the slogan of the protest. I have to confess that I’d not before been aware of Bobi Wine, a Ugandan business man, musician and more recently Ugandan MP. Bobi Wine his stage name, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu grew up in a slum in Uganda’s capital Kampala and is noted for his humanitarian work and promoting practical projects to improve conditions for the poor. He was elected as an MP in a by-election in April 2017.

President Museveni has been in power since 1986, bringing in legislation that although it allowed political parties to exist, banned them from campaigning in elections. In 2005 this ban was ended by a constitutional referendum. When elections were held the following year, Museveni was re-elected and the Ugandan Supreme Court upheld the result despite finding evidence of “ intimidation, violence, voter disenfranchisement, and other irregularities.” He won further elections in 2011 and 2016.

International organisations rate the Ugandan government as among the most corrupt in the world, and the country has a terrible human rights record. Laws still limit many normal political activities and many opposition politicians, including main opposition leader Kizza Besigye have been arrested. So the arrest of Bobi Wine in August was hardly surprising, although it led to riots calling for his release with arrests and shooting by police and army and widespread calls in Uganda and internationally calling for his release.

Winee was tortured after arrest and in jail and was in a poor condition when brought first to a military court and then to a civilian court on the day of this protest. The charges against him were dropped, but before he left the courts he was rearrested and charged with treason. Released on bail the following month he went to the USA for medical treatment. In October the case against him and 34 co-defendants was adjourned and is expected to return to court on December 3rd.

Gatherings on his return to Uganda were forbidden, but he now appears to be getting on fairly normally with his life, and was recently in Ghana for the AFRIMA awards business summit.

It was a crowded and emotional event, with some very enthusiastic shouting and dancing as well as speeches. After a rally outside Ugandan House in Trafalgar Square they mmoved down to protest further in Whitehall opposite Downing St. When I left they were debating whether to return to the embassy.

Free Bobi Wine – Ugandans protest


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