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Uganda’s Bobi Wine urges lifting of ‘house arrest’

Ugandan opposition leader Bobi Wine on Sunday urged the international community to demand he be released from "house arrest" after a disputed election returned President Yoweri Museveni

The billboard of presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, is seen before the announcement of the presidential election results at the gate of National Unity Platform (NUP) headquarters in Magere, Uganda, on January 16, 2021. – Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni has won a sixth term in office, the election commission said on January 16, 2021, extending his 35-year rule after an election which his main rival said was marred by fraud. (Photo by Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP)

Ugandan opposition leader Bobi Wine on Sunday urged the international community to demand he be released from “house arrest” after a disputed election returned President Yoweri Museveni to the office for a sixth term.

The former ragga singer turned lawmaker, who came second in the presidential election, has not left his home since he went out to vote on Thursday, and has said his home is surrounded by hundreds of police and soldiers.

“We are here, we have run out of food, and nobody is allowed to come in or go out,” said Wine, speaking on a crackling “clandestine” line on a Zoom call with journalists as Uganda remains under an internet blackout.

“We have not been charged with any crime.”

Wine, 38, has said he has video footage of ballot-box stuffing, soldiers forcing people to vote in a certain way, or pre-ticking ballots, but that the internet shutdown is preventing his local lawyers from putting together a legal case.

He called for international sanctions against Museveni, the release of political prisoners, the restoration of the internet, an international audit of the election, and for “all the nations to kindly re-audit their relationship with Uganda”.

He said he has been unable to meet his party officials to decide on a way forward but “we are putting all non-violent, all legal and all constitutional options on the table and that includes peaceful and legal protests”.

Museveni has said it was the cleanest election in the country’s history.

Wine’s National Unity Platform earlier said that prominent MP, Francis Zaake, who had been arrested as he tried to visit his house on Friday, had been admitted to hospital “badly beaten and brutalised” by security forces.

Ugandan officials have said the soldiers and police were there for Wine’s own security.

Government spokesman Ofwono Opondo said the internet would begin to come back online on Monday.

“We anticipate that by Monday the opposition, who have been misusing the internet, would have come to terms with the loss they suffered in the presidential election”.

– ‘Deeply troubled’
Museveni, 76, has ruled Uganda without pause since seizing control in 1986 when he helped to end years of tyranny under Idi Amin and Milton Obote.

Once hailed for his commitment to good governance, the former rebel leader has crushed any opposition and tweaked the constitution to allow himself to run again and again.

His re-election with 58.6 percent of the vote, to Wine’s 34.8 percent, came after the most violent election campaign in recent years, with the harassment of the opposition, media, and deaths of scores of Wine’s supporters.

US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus praised Ugandans on Saturday for voting “despite an environment of intimidation and fear”.

She added that the US was “deeply troubled by the many credible reports of security force violence during the pre-election period and election irregularities during the polls”.