CAIRO – Two opposition candidates in Uganda who are preparing to challenge the country’s strong president in next February’s elections were arrested on Tuesday as they went to register for candidacy, sign the latest on an impending tough war as they seek to overthrow President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power since 1986.
One candidate, Bobi Wine, 38, a musician-turned legislator and the most prominent presidential challenge, was pulled out of the car after he submitted his nomination in the capital, Kampala. The other, Patrick Amuriat, is detained at his party’s headquarters, the Forum for Democratic Change, the party said on Twitter.
The prisons are the latest example of the barriers leaders and opposition movements in African countries face as they try to challenge entrenched powers. In neighboring Tanzania, opposition leaders who challenged President John Magufuli in an October 28 poll were arrested for calling out against what they called a stolen election.
In the West African country of Guinea, authorities have put under house arrest for opposition candidate Cellou Dalein Diallo after he disputed the results of the poll in October. And in Ethiopia, Jawar Mohammed, the prime minister’s top critic. Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed, was charged with terrorism in September.
In Uganda, both potential candidates were intercepted by police on Tuesday, from coming to their party offices to speak with supporters and set out their campaign platform. Police said the candidates defied orders to limit their crowd size during the pandemic, and did not adhere to plans for the police to escort them to the registration center.
After changing the age restriction in the Constitution, Mr. Museveni, 76, is running for the sixth time and will face nine other candidates in a poll in February. The country’s electoral commission has designated Monday and Tuesday as dates for candidates to submit nominations.
Both candidates will remain on the February ballot.
The arrest of Mr. Wine – a famous musician whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi and elected to Congress in 2017 – is not the first time he has faced the wrath of the authorities. The police arrested him multiple times, severely beat him and even killed his driver. His party offices have been raided, including last month, when the government confiscated election materials.
Mr. Wine has garnered tremendous support in recent years, especially among young people disillusioned with corruption, unemployment, poverty, and the crackdown on freedom of expression. became an East African country under Mr. Museveni.
When he came to power, Mr. Museveni was considered by the Ugandan people and the West as a stable source of a country that had experienced many years of war and political conflict. However, his government has been affected by controversy over his participation in wars in neighboring countries, the passage of anti-homosexual laws, his expansion of digital scrutiny and prices of food and fuel increased.
On Monday, Mr. Wine said police had sent him a notice saying they would escort him to the nominated site. But after submitting a nomination on Tuesday, he was detained after dozens of security officers surrounded the car carrying him and his assistants.
In a series of live videos on his Facebook page, a security officer can be seen breaking the window next to the front passenger seat with a key. After scuffing with the people in the car, the officers opened the door and dragged Mr. Wine from the back.
“God, this is what the police are doing,” he could hear before being pulled out of the car. “We will not be violent.”
As security vehicles chased him away, live video on Facebook showed his supporters engaged in a car chase with them.
After being blocked to his office, Mr. Wine was returned to his residence, where he spoke to his supporters. Despite and voicing out, he turned around to show his jacket had been torn and pointed out the wounds he said some of his associates had encountered in the incident.
Amuriat’s detention takes place at his party headquarters in Kampala, and officers take him to the campus of Kyambogo University, where he will submit nominations. He did not bring shoes or papers when he arrived at the center, as he pointed out to local media.
After the detention, Muhoozi Kainerugaba, son of Mr. Museveni, who is also a senior adviser to the president, tweeted a picture of himself to Mr. Wine, writing: “You can NEVER threaten us. We are much stronger than you can imagine. If you want to fight, we will simply defeat you. ”