Ugandan judge orders Bobi Wine released from house arrest

A Ugandan court on Monday ordered security forces to release opposition leader and pop star Bobi Wine, whose house arrest following a presidential election has put international pressure on President Yoweri Museveni’s government.

Hours later, his large association in a leafy northern suburb of the capital Kampala remained blocked.

“The military and police are still surrounding our home and in fact they are still locking our gates and not allowing anyone to move out or anyone to enter,” Wine told Reuters in a video message.

Former guerrilla leader Museveni, 76, has long been a Western ally, receiving widespread aid and sending troops to troubled areas including Somalia to fight Islamist militants.

But foreign governments have become increasingly frustrated by his unwillingness to relinquish power and crackdown on opponents.

Vin, 38, has been under siege at home since voting in the January 14 election in which he rode a wave of youth disillusionment to challenge Museveni’s 34-year rule.

The incumbent was declared the winner with 59% of the vote against 35% for Wine, who for several years had condemned corruption and nepotism in his songs. The opposition rejected the result and claimed fraud that the government denies.

Foreign printing

Uganda’s military was aware of the decision by Judge Michael Elubu and would follow, said military spokeswoman Brigadier Flavia Byekwaso, without specifying when.

The pressure has increased on the government, including from the United States and the rights group Amnesty International, who called Wines’ prison arbitrary and politically motivated.

Joel Ssenyonyi, spokesman for the Wines National Unity Platform (NUP), said lawyers would notify the court decision to security agencies. “Their continued presence there is illegal,” he said.

Last week, US Ambassador Natalie E. Brown tried to visit Wine, with an accusation of interference and subversion from the Ugandan government.

Vin is a hero to many young Ugandans who see former guerrilla leader Museveni as an out-of-touch autocrat who suppresses deviant and does not create jobs.

“The Ugandan government continues to use state security in a partisan manner to harass and intimidate the citizens, the press and the political opposition,” US Majority Leader Steny Hoyer tweeted on Sunday. “Mr Museveni’s tactics towards those who advocate an inclusive democracy are dangerous and must be addressed by the global community.”

Museveni throws wine as a start-up with the support of foreign powers and says that only his administration can guarantee political stability and economic progress. There was no immediate government comment on the court decision on wine.