When Yoweri Museveni seized power in Uganda in 1986, he promised to end political murders and restore democracy after decades of dictatorship. “This is not a mere change of guards. I think this is a fundamental change in the politics of our government,” he promised in his first speech as president.
But the only change was for the worse. Museveni’s North Korea-trained military has committed crimes even more heinous than those that occurred under his infamous predecessors, Idi Amin and Milton Obote. His security forces have looted billions of dollars from the Ugandan Treasury, sparked wars in neighboring countries, probably assassinated potential rivals, and tortured countless politicians and nonviolent political activists, including, most recently, the massively popular 36-year-old Afrobeat musician and parliamentarian Bobi Wine, whose songs lament Uganda’s poverty and call upon listeners to reclaim their country.
On August 13, Wine, along with four other MPs and dozens of others were arrested and beaten while campaigning for the opposition in Arua, a town near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. During the operation, security forces shot and killed Wine’s driver. Museveni was also in Arua that day, stumping for the ruling-party candidate. After the campaigns ended, the president’s convoy collided with a procession of opposition supporters on a main road, and, according to witnesses, ran some of them into the ditch by the side of the road. The police claim that members of the angry crowd began shouting and throwing rocks, one of which broke the window of one of Museveni’s vehicles. On social media, many have questioned this claim, since pictures showed the window in question to have been cleanly removed, with no hanging shards of glass, and in any case, presidential vehicles are normally armored, bulletproof, and impervious to stones.
The convoy delivered Museveni to his waiting helicopter, and then unleashed terror, arresting and torturing Wine and the others. The detainees, who included members of the opposition campaign team as well as bystanders who happened to be on the scene, have all been charged with treason. When they emerged from a police bus for a bail hearing on August 27, several, including Wine, were on crutches and had to be carried down the steps. Wine and several others are scheduled to be flown out of the country for specialized treatment in the coming days.