By Elias Biryabarema
KAMPALA (Reuters) – A Ugandan court ordered on Monday the detention of a pop star and lawmaker who wants to unseat veteran leader Yoweri Musaveni at the next election on charges of having organised a demonstration last year against a new tax on social media users.
The ruling is the latest in a series of moves against Bobi Wine, whose growing base of supporters has rattled Ugandan authorities ahead of the next presidential election in early 2021, in which the singer hopes to run against Museveni.
Last week police and army personnel used teargas and water cannon to disperse supporters who had gathered for a concert, drawing criticism from the United States. Wine said after the incident he had been put under house arrest.
State prosecutors charged Wine on Monday with disobeying public order management laws and sent him to a detention facility by Lake Victoria pending trial on May 2, an aide to the singer, Hakim Katongole, told Reuters.
Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi and who was elected to parliament in 2017, is charged with organising a protest last year against a tax levied on people accessing social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter.
Wine and his supporters also infuriated police on Monday when the fans surrounded his car en route to answering a police summons. They accused Wine of “blatant disregard for the law”.
Many Ugandans have been drawn to Wine by his bold criticism of Museveni, sometimes delivered through his lyrics.
As well as breaking up his rallies with teargas and beatings, authorities have halted some of his scheduled concerts, citing public order concerns. Wine says the cancellations are retaliation for his criticism of Museveni.
Museveni has ruled Uganda since 1986 and is expected to stand again in 2021 after a court this month cleared the way for him to seek re-election.
(Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Omar Mohammed and Gareth Jones)