April 22, 2019 / 12:20 PM / a month ago

Ugandan police disperse backers of lawmaker with presidential ambitions

KAMPALA (Reuters) - Ugandan police fired teargas and water cannon on Monday to disperse supporters of popular musician and lawmaker Bobi Wine after they gathered at a beach resort near Kampala where he was planning to hold a news conference and stage a concert.

Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, has built support since becoming a member of parliament two years ago. Many young Ugandans have been drawn to him by his criticism of President Yoweri Museveni, who has ruled for more than three decades. Wine has said he plans to run for president in 2021.

Security forces have frequently prevented Wine, 37, from staging concerts, often accusing him of failing to comply with public order management rules. Wine and his supporters accuse the government of cancelling his shows due to his political ambitions.

“Police are empowered by the law to use reasonable force and that’s what we did to disperse his supporters and make him comply with our orders,” police spokesman Patrick Onyango told Reuters.

Footage on local NTV showed police firing teargas and water cannon at Wine’s supporters gathered at One Love Beach in Busabala on the shores of Lake Victoria on Kampala’s southern outskirts where he planned to stage a concert.

The footage showed police removing Wine from his vehicle and shoving him into a police truck.

“Police and the military blocked us from reaching Busabala for our press conference about police brutality, injustice and abuse of authority,” Bobi Wine said on Twitter.

“They have been trying to break into our car. Now they are clamping it to drag us away,” he said, shortly before his administration team posted an update saying he was “violently arrested.”

The police spokesman said Wine was driven by police back to his home in Kampala’s northern outskirts.

Opponents of Museveni says he has used security crackdowns and patronage to maintain power. The president’s supporters say he has brought order to a once unstable nation and has built up a strong support base particularly in the countryside.

Last week, Uganda’s supreme court cleared the way for Museveni, 74, to stand again after rejecting a legal challenge to a 2017 constitutional amendment that had removed an age limit.

Editing by Hereward Holland and Gareth Jones

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