By Kasirye Samuel | August 2018
For the past week, much of the national focus in Uganda has been towards the brutal arrest and detention of several opposition Members of Parliament following the recently concluded parliamentary bi-election in the North Western town of Arua. Most popular among the detainees is youthful reggae singer cum legislator Honourable Robert Kyagulanyi, popularly known as Bobi Wine who shot to political prominence after his successful attempt at parliament in July 2017.The 36 year old self-proclaimed ghetto president under the “People Power” movement has quickly risen to become the new face of opposition politics in Uganda creating what commentators are describing as a third force, besides the ruling National Resistance Movement and opposition political parties.
For over a week now, a severely injured Bobi Wine has been detained in a military barracks in Kampala, charged with what many have labeled trumped up charges of illegally possessing fire arms. Others incarcerated with him are Honourable Kasiano Wadri, the eventual winner of the Arua Municipality seat, Honourable Gerald Karuhanga, Honourable Paul Mwiru, Honourable Mike Mabiike and Honourable Francis Zaake, who still lies in a vegetative state in hospital are all accused of treason after purportedly mobilising crowds to pelt President Yoweri Museveni’s convoy with stones.
Ever since the news of the callous commandeering by the president’s Special Forces Command, what began as small pockets of clashes between youth and police in and around Kampala have turned into major riots which have left scores dead and hundreds injured. There has been widespread condemnation of the events in Arua town and the subsequent actions by government to quell the protests. Political actors, civil society, religious leaders, western embassies, the EU delegation in Kampala, Ugandans in the diaspora have all issued strong statements calling for restraint and the immediate and unconditional release of the Members of Parliament.
As criticism of the disturbing events in Uganda continues, at the regional level, Honourable Zitto Kabwe, leader of the Left ACT Wazalendo Party in Tanzania penned a missive urging President Yoweri Museveni to free detained Members of Parliament and; to adhere to human rights principles, tolerance of other political viewpoints and uphold the highest levels democratic governance given his revolutionary credentials. In solidarity with the detained legislators, Honourable Zitto Kabwe is aiming to forge a coalition of Members of Parliament across the region to comprehensively engage on deepening and strengthening democratic governance.