13 September 2018

Ugandan Politician Confronts Diplomat Over Torture Allegations

Ugandan opposition leader Bobi Wine has confronted Uganda's ambassador to the United States about Wine's recent arrest and alleged torture, but many Ugandans did not get to see the interview because of a power outage.

VOA's Straight Talk Africa radio program on Wednesday featured the pop star-turned-politician, whose given name is Robert Kyagulanyi, and Ugandan Ambassador to the United States Mull Sebujja Katende.

On Aug. 14, Wine was accused of attacking the convoy of longtime President Yoweri Museveni during clashes between opposition supporters and supporters of the government. Wine says police fatally shot his driver, Yasin Kawuma, that day, mistaking him for Wine.

The next day, Wine and 33 others were arrested, "including four members of parliament," he said.

Rights group Amnesty International reported they were charged with treason.

Wine says that he and the other detainees were brutally beaten and that some sustained permanent injuries or are still in the hospital. He was later released and permitted to travel to the U.S. for medical treatment.

Asked by VOA's Shaka Ssali whether he believed Wine had been tortured, Katende said, "Uganda does not condone torture." He also said there is no crisis in Uganda, only isolated incidents of criminality. He added, "Uganda remains committed to the tenets of democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights."

Wine responded, "The criminality is not being carried out by Ugandan citizens. it is actually being carried out by the armed forces. ... If that's not criminality, I wonder what it is."

Wine said the men who beat him belonged to a section of the Ugandan military charged with guarding the president.

"I was beaten, kept in handcuffs. A lot of despicable things were done to me. But I'm here, and I'm still alive," he said.

While the interview was live-streaming, Uganda's power authority tweeted that power had gone out "in most areas" because of a system failure.

Some Ugandans tweeted back to accuse the company of causing the power failure to deny them access to the VOA program.

"Seems they don't want us watch bobiwine on tv," one person tweeted.

Another said, "This power blackout is political."

Power was restored later in the evening.

Earlier this week, Wine held a news conference to ask the United States to stop sending military aid to Uganda.

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