Following a siege on a City Hotel in Jinja where musician turned opposition politician, Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine was resting ahead of a music show by security yesterday, U.S Congressmen have come out to condemn the act, saying the government of Uganda ought to uphold freedom of speech in the country.
California Democratic Representative, Karen Bass, was the first to take to Twitter and highlighted the need to allow descenting voices.
“Reports are coming out that Bobi Wine may be in danger in Uganda. Stifling freedom of speech and expression and arbitrary arrests have no place in a democracy,” she tweeted.
On his part, U.S Congressman, Brad Sherman said in a tweet Sunday morning that government must commit to allowing freedom of speech.
“Earlier this year (September 2018), I met with Bobi Wine after he was brutally beaten and detained by Ugandan security forces for speaking out against corruption,” he noted.
“Today they have reportedly surrounded him and his team. The Ugandan government must commit to the essential principle of freedom of speech,” Sherman added.
Eliot L Engel, a member in the U.S House of Representatives which is the lower chamber of the U.S Congress, said it was time to end what he called persecution of opposition in Uganda.
“Once again, President Museveni is hunting down Bobi Wine who was arrested and brutally tortured along with other opposition politicians in August. It is time to put a stop to the persecution of the political opposition in Uganda,” Engel said.
Former New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark, urged government to grant opposition space.
“Disturbing reports from Uganda where Opposition MP Bobi Wine is again in hiding following police violently arresting members of his concert crew. Bobi was badly hurt in an earlier violent arrest and detention. Government must allow opposition space,” she tweeted.
Bobi Wine who has become a strong critic of President Museveni was arrested in August this year together with some legislators and dozens other people in Arua, and they all face treason charges. They are accused of stoning the motorcade of President Yoweri Museveni while he was in Arua for a political campaign.
Bobi Wine was later released but has since had several of his music shows cancelled by Police. Police has used the Public Order Management law to justify their cancellation of some of the shows. Ahead of Bobi Wine’s ‘Kyarenga’ concert held last month, Police had placed a condition that the concert should not be political but for entertainment.
Kenneth Roth, the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch said that there is need to end what he referred to as efforts to silence leading critic of President Museveni.
“Ugandan Police just raided hotel where rapper-politician Bobi Wine was staying ahead of concert tonight in Jinja. He escaped but is now hiding, fearful for his life as police search for him. Pressure needed to stop this effort to silence leading critic of President Museveni,” the Human Rights Watch Executive Director tweeted on Saturday.
President Museveni this week said government was aware that elements in the opposition intend to use their rallies to instigate treasonous acts, including toppling his government.
Meanwhile, Bobi Wine said in a post on his official Facebook account that: “The Police has ordered my team out of Jinja town on gun-point, and escorted them up to Lugazi. They have beaten some of them, dragged them onto police pick-up cars and driven them to unknown destinations for no offence whatsoever.”
He said that he was still in Jinja town would try not to avail himself to Police which he said was searching for him.
Police has not come out to comment on the incident in Jinja.