KAMPALA, Uganda – The death toll from protests over the arrest of Ugandan opposition presidential hopeful and musician Bobi Wine has risen to 37, police said Friday. This is the country’s worst unrest in a decade, and more is expected ahead of the election early next year.
Four Ugandan presidential candidates and the mayor of Kampala have suspended their election campaigns following the arrest of their colleagues Robert Kyagulanyi (Bobi Wine) and Patrick Amuriat.
Kyagulanyi of the National Unity Platform is still being held by police while Amuriat of the Forum for Democratic Change has been released. Alliance for National Transformation candidate Mugisha Muntu, independent candidate John Katumba, Henry Tumukunde of Renewed Uganda, and Democratic Party presidential candidate Norbert Mao, have halted their campaigns.
Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago has also indefinitely suspended his re-election campaign. Violent and deadly protests followed the arrests.
Election analyst Crispin Kaheru says the chaos casts doubt on the credibilty of the electoral process, while human rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo has called for a halt to “this charade of a campaign process”.
The Uganda police pathologist and the head of police health services told journalists in the capital, Kampala, that they had counted 37 bodies by Friday morning.
Police have said 350 people were arrested and detained throughout Kampala. Tension remained in the capital Thursday, with a heavy military and police presence.
Wine, who has been arrested many times in recent years, has captured the imagination of many Ugandans with his persistent calls for President Yoweri Museveni to retire after 36 years in power.
Speaking to reporters, Security Minister Gen. Elly Tumwine warned the protesters that they will be dealt with if they continue. ”This was a deliberate and pre-planned move to cause chaos because we have evidence,” Tumwine asserted. “But I want to warn those inciting violence that they will reap what they sow.”