Uganda’s detained presidential candidate and pop star Bobi Wine was released on bail on Friday after authorities charged him over acts likely to spread coronavirus, an online TV channel reported.
Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, was detained on Wednesday while campaigning in eastern Uganda and his arrest has triggered mass protests which have lead to the deaths of at least 37 people.
“It is Museveni who is supposed to be in this dock for killing innocent citizens,” Wine said while in court after he was charged, referring to incumbent leader President Yoweri Museveni.
Police on Friday said the death toll sparked by the protests had jumped to 37.
“Thirty-seven bodies have been counted so far,” police pathologist Moses Byaruhanga told Reuters.
Police spokesman Fred Enanga said detained protesters were involved in violence including targeting members of the public who do not support Wine’s National Unity Platform (NUP) party.
“What we have seen in the last few days, that is violence, vandalism, looting, intimidation and threats, are crimes that were being committed (against) people who are not pro-NUP,” he said. “This is not something that we can tolerate.”
Uganda, a nation of 42 million people, is due to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on Jan. 14, with Wine emerging as a serious threat to veteran Museveni, 76, who aims to extend his rule.
Wine has amassed a large following among Ugandan youth, attracted by his bold criticism of the government, often in his lyrics.
Wine has said that being “born hustling and born to hustling parents, raised in the ghettos” meant he could understand the struggles of ordinary, impoverished Ugandans, and he has repeatedly urged Museveni to retire.
His arrest triggered immediate protests in Kampala and other major towns across the East African country. Youths have burnt tyres and other material on roads and erected barriers to block traffic, demanding his release.
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