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Teargas, warning shots as Ugandans protest arrest of Bobi Wine

By AFP | August 21st 2018
Ugandan security forces detain a protester in Kampala, Uganda, Monday, Aug. 20, 2018. Ugandan police fired bullets and teargas to disperse a crowd of protesters demanding the release of jailed lawmaker, pop star, and government critic Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, whose stage name is Bobi Wine.

Ugandan police and soldiers closed off parts of Kampala for several hours yesterday and fired teargas and gunshots into the air to break up protests over the arrest of a prominent opposition lawmaker.

Popstar-turned-politician Bobi Wine was one of five MPs arrested on August 13, on the eve of a parliamentary by-election in the north-west town of Arua, after President Yoweri Museveni's convoy was pelted with stones by their supporters, according to authorities.

The arrest of the popular MP - a vocal critic of the long-serving president - has angered many in Uganda, and protests erupted in the capital on Monday over his ongoing detention.

Demonstrators in central Kampala set fire to piles of tyres and wooden pallets, blocking traffic, and lobbed stones at policemen while supporters cheered their encouragement from shopping arcade balconies, an AFP reporter said.

Armed police

Heavily armed police in anti-riot gear and soldiers took control of the streets around the bustling Kireka market. Armoured personnel carriers were positioned at key intersections as security forces ordered members of the public to evacuate city blocks.

Hundreds of market traders and passers-by winced in fear as they were ordered by baton-wielding soldiers to walk in single file with their hands raised.

On Nasser Road - a hub for printers and stationers - soldiers forced hundreds of people to kneel in the street with their hands up while they patrolled the area.

Amid chaotic scenes, members of the public used scarves and tee-shirts to shield their eyes and mouths from the clouds of teargas and black smoke that hung in the narrow streets between shopping arcades while shopkeepers rushed to seal their doors.

Reuters photographer James Akena said he was detained for several hours after being beaten up by soldiers.

"I was just standing holding my camera near to the protest. Suddenly there were many soldiers hitting me. I have some bruises and my hand is swollen. They still have my camera and I don't know when I'll get it back," he said.

Lawyers and family members say that Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, is in urgent need of medical attention after being beaten by security forces during his arrest.

But in a weekend statement, Museveni, 74, said this was "fake news" and accused the MP of forming "indisciplined groups" and intimidating ruling party voters in what he said was "terrorism".

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