Police and the army have raided offices of Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine’s political party offices in Kamwokya, Kampala taking away all political promotional material and valuable office items.
Security operatives stormed Bobi Wine’s offices at around 11am on Wednesday October 14, 2020 and sealed off the premises.
“The military, police and other security agencies have laid siege on the National Unity Platform Platform offices in Kamwokya. Several of our staff and leaders have been arrested. They are breaking into the different offices, taking all documents and other valuables,” Bobi Wine posted on his facebook page.
He also tweeted via @HEBobiwine, “The military and police just raided our head office in Kamwokya. They have broken into offices and taken away valuable documents and other items. Some comrades have been injured. The partisanship of security agencies ahead of the election is stinking.”
The National Unity Platform (NUP) headquarters in Kamwokya were sealed off by officers from the Uganda People’s Defence Forces and the Uganda Police Force. The NUP board executive had earlier on hosted a meeting with their youth leaders before the raid.
Later after security operatives left Bobi Wine informed the public via social media that he had been informed that most of their forms with signatures for nominations had been taken away. According to Bobi Wine the operatives also took 23 million shillings, part of which was nomination fees for the NUP parliamentary candidates.
“They have also taken so many of our branding materials including posters, banners, berets, t-shirts, pens, notebooks, etc. Our CCTV cameras have been vandalised and equipment taken away. Some comrades have been arrested and are being held at Kira Road police station. I have also been informed that so many of our people who are selling NUP branding materials in town are being arrested with reckless abandon,” Bobi Wine further revealed.
The raid on Bobi Wine offices came as the presidential aspirant announced he would traverse the country and open party offices. Bobi Wine is set to officially inaugurate 34 sub-regional offices across the country.
According to Daily Monitor, NUP has mapped out 17 centres across the country, which will have operating offices, some of which were opened by the deputy presidents of the party and the flag bearers at constituency level. Each sub-region will host at least two offices while the other offices at district and constituency level will remain running under the care of the MPs, who had opened them.
The main offices at the regional level include central office in Mengo in Kampala led by Mr Medard Sseggona, eastern office in Mbale District led by the Manjiya MP, Mr John Baptist Nambeshe, western regional office in Kabale overseen by Ms Jolly Mugisha, the deputy president for the western region, and the northern regional office in Gulu District overseen by Dr Lina Zedriga, the deputy president for the northern region.
The sub-regions are West Nile, Acholi, Karamoja, Lango, Teso, Ankole, Kigezi, Sebei, Bugisu, Busoga, and Bukedi. Others are Rwenzori, Kampala Metropolitan, Greater Luweero, Greater Mpigi, Greater Masaka and Mabira stretch.
Bobi Wine has previously decried the closure of some of their regional party offices by security officers. He said the party office located in Kakooge Village, Kakiri Sub-county in Wakiso District, and another in Kitgum District were raided by security officials and closed.
“We call upon the Electoral Commission to rein in on this situation if they are really non-partisan like they have always claimed. We have suffered all kinds of injustices but the authorities have remained quiet, and we challenge them to act,” Bobi Wine told journalists last August.
Police are yet to comment on the matter but several roads leading to and from the offices have been sealed off and there was a noticeable deployment at the venue by press time.
Since early this year, the youthful legislator has also been blocked from consulting on his presidential bid as required by law. In January, Bobi Wine attempted to carry out nationwide consultations after his declaration to run for president but police and other security agencies blocked the meetings in various parts of the country saying he had not notified them. Police continuously blocked Bobi Wine despite being cleared by the Electoral Commission to consult the electorates on his presidential bid.
On January 6, police arrested Bobi Wine as he attempted to hold his first consultative meeting in Kasangati that was deemed unlawful for not fulfilling all the required conditions under the Public Order Management Act.
Again on January 7, police sealed off the premises of Da Covenant in Gulu Municipality where the leader of People Power movement had planned to hold his presidential consultation meeting. The venue was in an open space and the organizers had assured compliance with Covid 19 guidelines.
On February 24, 2020 Bobi Wine was forced to cancel his consultative meeting scheduled to take place at Pope Paul Memorial Hotel in Ndeeba, Kampala, after police surrounded it and blocked any entrants.
Bobi Wine told the media at his party headquarters in Kamwokya on Tuesday, a day, before his offices were raided, that the process of officially opening their offices countrywide would begin next week but he was not specific on which region he would start with.
“We have moved a step, including unveiling of the flag bearers across the country. We now have to go ahead and introduce these candidates before the people. They will be reporting during our activities,” he said.
NUP said they had named 427 flag bearers for the party in a phased regional process.
Bobi Wine, the popular reggae star and prominent opposition leader in Uganda, has accused the country’s president, Yoweri Museveni, of seeking to block his candidature at next year’s elections through a series of “trumped up” legal challenges and a campaign of intimidation.
Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, said he was calling on people all over the world to “keep their eyes” on Uganda because international attention was the only way to “stop human rights abuses and impunity in Uganda today”.
“We have masses and masses of people with us. We have a whole sidelined, excluded generation. If we are defeated in Uganda, that is a defeat for justice, democracy and constitutionalism everywhere. If we win in Uganda, it is a win for freedom,” Wine said in an interview.
Since he became a legislator in 2017, Wine has rattled the Ugandan authorities. The 38-year-old has been assaulted and arrested or detained many times, including over a treason charge that he denies.
He is one of a new generation of politicians across Africa who are challenging long-time leaders, hoping to harness deep dissatisfaction among younger, more educated and often urban voters. He came to political prominence nationally in 2017 when, as an independent candidate, he won election as a lawmaker representing a constituency near Kampala.
However, analysts say incumbent leaders such as Museveni benefit from powerful patronage networks, long-established political machines, control of the media and links to big business, as well as support from the military or other security forces.
Museveni has accused Wine of trying to incite rioting – a charge he also denies.
The legal challenge to Wine’s leadership of the National Unity Platform has been launched by two members who allege electoral law was not followed when the former singer was appointed earlier this year. If judges decide that rules were broken, Wine may not be able to stand in the elections.
Bobi Wine has previously faced challenges to his candidature based on alleged failures to correctly declare his age and educational qualifications.
“I fear for my life every day but I try as much as possible not to think about what could happen to me if I stand firm. I worry about what will happen to coming generations if I do not stand up,” he said.
Political campaigning in Uganda has been hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, with rallies banned. Government made drastic measures to restrict movements in March when it had only a handful of coronavirus cases, imposing one of the earliest lockdowns and border closures on the continent.
Campaigns are being conducted on radio and television, in newspapers and on the internet. Savvy and youthful candidates like Bobi Wine have adapted to use of social media to amplify their voices by posting clips of political incidents and events on the internet, where their supporters then access them on mobile phones.
When Bobi Wine attempted to use traditional media he was also blocked. Police besieged NBS radio when Bobi Wine was hosted. Security tried to break into the radio’s studios in Jinja but did not succeed. Their demands to the station managers to give access to the studios were rejected as illegal.
The battle lines are hence defined.
But President Museveni has had a head start travelling the country opening development projects and handing out start-up capital.
He is often captured keeping the required social distance and wearing a mask as he waves at crowds. His excursions are covered by the presidential press unit which broadcasts on Uganda Broadcasting Corporation.
These images are then distributed to other networks. Most government ministers have their own press coverage which mimic the presidential press unit with reportage of their official and unofficial activities mainly on the national broadcaster.
Attempts therefore at Uganda’s scientific elections, unless judiciously regulated, will only propagate the usual refrain of electoral malpractices.
However, the country has gradually eased some lockdown measures, despite a rising number of new infections, and reopened to international visitors bearing a negative Covid test certificate in September.
As a pop star Bobi Wine, 37, blended lyrics on social justice and poverty with catchy Afrobeat rhythms, earning him committed fans among Uganda’s often poor urban youth.
He took on the nickname of “His Excellency the Ghetto President”. Bobi Wine entered parliament in 2017, and has emerged as a leading critic of Museveni, 74, in a country where the median age is less than 16.
One of Wine’s songs contains the lyrics “freedom fighters become dictators,” while others hint that Museveni has stayed in power too long.
He has faced repeated arrests while authorities have frustrated his efforts to perform.
He accused security forces of torturing and beating him while in custody — which authorities denied.
“I know the danger I am going to face to challenge Museveni but I have been encouraged by Ugandans that am the leader they want… and I have accepted that challenge and I have offered my candidature,” Wine told AFP after the event Wednesday.
“Come the presidential elections I will be on the ballot as a presidential candidate and with the massive support we have as People Power, victory is ours.”
Bobi Wine said he had put together a team that would “traverse the country to deliver a message of change”.
Uganda’s opposition has for two decades been dominated by 62-year-old Kizza Besigye, Museveni’s former friend and personal physician, who has lost four successive elections and also been arrested countless times.
Earlier this year Uganda’s Supreme Court upheld a decision to remove an age cap of 75 for presidential contenders, paving the way for Museveni to run again in 2021.
In his address launching his campaign team, Bobi Wine urged supporters to “remember that this country is bigger than all of us”.
“Uganda was here before the coming of colonialism, Uganda was there after colonialism. Uganda was there before dictatorship, yes, Uganda will be there after dictatorship. Like we always sing, we are the country, we are the future, we are the change we badly need.”