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Uganda protests: 37 dead in protests over Bobi Wines’ arrest

It was unclear who was responsible for the deaths. Most of the 37 dead suffered gunshot wounds and traumatic injuries, Uganda Police Chief Pathologist Moses Byaruhanga said.

Wine, who has emerged as the strongest challenger to Uganda’s longtime leader Yoweri Museveni in elections set for early next year, was released on bail on Friday, his lawyer Nicholas Opiyo said.

Opiyo said wine was arrested for coronavirus violation. But, he said, “the real reason is really that it̵

7;s part of the broader attempt to stifle opposition campaigns.” He noted that Museveni also held political rallies without police intervention.

Opposition candidates have argued that if the government feared an escalation of coronavirus cases, it should have delayed the presidential election.

Tensions have risen ahead of the vote on January 14, when Museveni, 76, who has been in power since 1986, is seeking a sixth term. Last year, he was approved to run again after the country’s Supreme Court upheld a decision to scrape the president’s age limit, which had previously been set at 75.

Scores of Wines supporters were injured and at least 577 arrested in protests that erupted across the country after police arrested Vin in Luuka, east of Kampala, on Wednesday. Wine, 38, has a strong following among Uganda’s young and poor living in urban areas. He has often called on Museveni to resign.

“The rising level of violence so early in the campaign season does not bode well in the weeks leading up to the election,” said Oryem Nyeko, an expert on Africa at Human Rights Watch. “Authorities can curb further violence by ending the harassment of journalists and opposition candidates and their supporters and the violent disruption of their campaign rallies.”

Another opposition candidate, Patrick Oboi Amuriat, of the Forum for Democratic Change, was also arrested Thursday but released hours later.

Museveni said in a statement that Uganda was losing people to coronavirus and warned that he would not tolerate any violations of coronavirus-related measures during campaigns. As of Friday, Uganda had registered more than 17,000 cases of coronavirus and more than 150 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

This is the second time Wine has been arrested this month. On November 3, TV footage showed him being pulled out of his car by police shortly after he registered as a candidate.

Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, would likely go back on the campaign track, Opiyo said. But he expressed concern for Wines’ safety.

“They are unlikely to kill him, but he is in serious danger of being injured, shot or wounded,” Opiyo said.

In 2018, Wine sought medical treatment in the United States after he said he was tortured by the Ugandan military while in custody after a fight at a political rally in which his driver was shot dead.

Wroughton reported from Cape Town.

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