August 5, 2019 / 7:42 PM / 12 days ago

Ugandan presidential hopeful says ally dead after abduction, torture

(Note: Graphic content in paragraph 5.)

FILE PHOTO: Ugandan musician turned politician, Robert Kyagulanyi also known as Bobi Wine arrives at the news conference at his home in Kasangati, Kampala, Uganda July 24, 2019. REUTERS/James Akena

By Elias Biryabarema

KAMPALA (Reuters) - A Ugandan musician-turned-legislator who is seeking to challenge veteran President Yoweri Museveni said on Monday a supporter and fellow singer had died after being abducted and tortured, in what police are treating as a homicide.

Since joining politics two years ago Robert Kyagulanyi has rattled authorities in the East African country with his growing popularity and biting criticism of Museveni, who has ruled since taking power in a 1986 coup.

Mostly known by his music moniker - Bobi Wine - Kyagulanyi has declared he intends to run in Uganda’s next presidential election in 2021, potentially pitting him against Museveni.

In a statement, Kyagulanyi said that Michael Kalinda, a fellow musician who also works in his recording studios, died Sunday night after he was abducted by unidentified people.

Kalinda, according to Kyagulanyi’s statement, was subjected to “horrendous forms of torture, his left eye was plucked out, two of his fingers cut off and parts of his body were burnt with a flat iron.”

Over the past year, Kyagulanyi said, dozens of his supporters and activists had been kidnapped by unknown people and tortured. “As we draw toward 2021 elections it is apparent that President Museveni is determined to silence any form of dissent using extreme violence,” he said.

Government officials have repeatedly denied that opposition supporters have been abducted and tortured on the orders of state authorities.

Kyagulanyi said Kalinda disappeared about two weeks ago and was left several days later at Mulago hospital in the capital Kampala where he later died.

Police spokesman Fred Enanga said a post mortem indicated Kalinda died from blunt force trauma to his head and police are treating the death as a homicide.

“At this stage, the motivation for the murder is not yet established,” Enanga said. “Political actors, journalists, activists, theorists and members of the public are cautioned against speculating about the murder.”

Ugandan security personnel including police, military and intelligence agencies have over the years been accused by the opposition and human rights groups of inflicting torture on Museveni’s political opponents.

Rallies by opposition leaders are routinely broken up with tear gas and live rounds while activists are detained, often for days before they are charged in court.

Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Hereward Holland and Mark Heinrich

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