In a dramatic turn of events, Ugandan opposition leader Bobi Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, was arrested on Thursday immediately upon his arrival at Entebbe International Airport after a trip abroad.
The arrest was confirmed by David Lewis Rubongoya, the general secretary of Wine’s National Unity Platform (NUP) party, who took to social media to report the incident.
Wine’s supporters had planned to welcome him back to the country and escort him to his residence north of the capital city, Kampala. However, Ugandan authorities had declared such a gathering illegal, citing concerns over public order and security.
The startling image accompanying Rubongoya’s tweet depicted two unidentified men forcibly detaining the 41-year-old opposition leader as he stood on the airport tarmac.
Bobi Wine has been a vocal critic of President Yoweri Museveni and his government, enduring multiple arrests and alleged human rights abuses in the past. Last month, Ugandan police banned rallies organized by the NUP, citing public order issues as the reason for the ban.
Wine’s bid for the presidency in the 2021 election, challenging Museveni’s three-decade rule, was marked by a harsh crackdown on the opposition. The election was marred by violence, with at least 54 people losing their lives during anti-government demonstrations.
His return was highly anticipated by his supporters, many of whom see him as a symbol of change in a country dominated by one leader for an extended period. Security forces, including Ugandan soldiers, were deployed extensively around Entebbe airport, NUP offices, and Kampala’s central business district in anticipation of Wine’s arrival.
The police had issued warnings against proceeding with the planned procession and urged the public not to participate, characterizing it as an “illegality.”
Ugandan authorities have frequently employed a tactic known as “preventative arrest” to detain opposition figures temporarily, often holding them for several hours before releasing them to discourage mass protests.
President Museveni, once hailed for his commitment to good governance, has effectively silenced opposition voices during his tenure, amending the constitution to enable him to run for reelection repeatedly.
The next presidential election in Uganda is scheduled for 2026, and as of now, the 79-year-old Museveni has not announced whether he intends to seek another term.