Ugandan Court Orders Release of Opposition Leader Bobi Wine
A Ugandan court has ordered security forces to cease surrounding the home of opposition leader Bobi Wine, whose house arrest since a mid-month presidential election has drawn international pressure, his lawyer said.
Troops have blocked the 38-year-old pop star-turned-politician from leaving his house in a suburb of the capital Kampala since he voted in the January 14 election where he ran against long-serving incumbent President Yoweri Museveni.
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Sitting at the court’s Civil Division in Kampala, Justice Michael Elubu ruled in favour of a petition lodged by Wine’s lawyers asking for his release.
“The continued indefinite restriction and confinement of the applicant to his home is unlawful and his right to liberty has been infringed,” Elubu said on Monday.
“Having found that the restrictions are unlawful it is hereby ordered that they are lifted.”
Wine’s associates welcomed the courtroom victory, but it remains to be seen if authorities will respect the judge’s order in this East African country where similar orders have been ignored in many cases.
“The judge ordered that the state and its agencies should immediately vacate his property and his right to personal liberty should immediately be reinstated,” lawyer George Musisi told newsmen.
Museveni, 76, who has been in power since 1986, was declared winner of the poll with 59 percent of votes versus 35 percent for Wine, who had for years denounced corruption and nepotism in his songs.
He rejected the result, alleging fraud which the government denies.
Wine has accused Museveni of staging a “coup” in last week’s election and is urging his supporters to protest his loss through nonviolent means.
But he suggested in a statement on Friday he might not go to court to challenge the official results because of concerns a possible loss there would validate Museveni’s win. He said he would announce a decision “in a few days.”
Museveni has dismissed allegations of vote-rigging, calling the election “the most cheating-free” since independence from Britain in 1962.
Despite failing in his bid to unseat Museveni, the 38-year-old Wine has emerged as the country’s most powerful opposition figure.
Police spokesman Patrick Onyango said he had no immediate comment as the ruling had not been received.
There was no immediate reaction from the government or confirmation from the court.
US ambassador Natalie E. Brown had tried to visit Wine at his home, drawing an accusation of meddling and subversion from the Ugandan government.
Uganda’s election was marred by violence ahead of polling day as well as an internet shutdown that remained in force until four days after the election. Social media sites remain restricted.
Uganda has never witnessed a peaceful transfer of power, one reason why even some within Museveni’s party urge him to preside over an orderly transition.
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