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Uganda’s opposition pop star Bobi Wine set to return home

September 19, 2018
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FILE - In this Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018 file photo, Ugandan pop star-turned-lawmaker Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, also known as Bobi Wine, center, arrives at a magistrate's court in Gulu, northern Uganda. Wine is due to return home on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018 after seeking treatment in the United States for injuries suffered during alleged state torture. (AP Photo, File)

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Uganda’s pop star-turned-opposition lawmaker is returning home on Thursday after seeking treatment in the United States for injuries suffered during alleged state torture, while police say they will meet him at the airport.

Bobi Wine, whose real name is Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, is charged with treason over his alleged role in an August incident in which President Yoweri Museveni’s motorcade was pelted with stones. Ssentamu is out on bail. His lawyers call the treason charge false.

Ugandan authorities said police will escort him from the airport to his home to maintain order. “Unlawful rallies, processions and assemblies” will not be allowed, they said.

That drew an immediate response from Ssentamu, who tweeted from an airport lounge in Amsterdam that he is “a free Ugandan with the right to move freely in my country. The police (have) no business telling me who receives me and who cannot or where I go and where I cannot. This impunity must stop now.”

The 36-year-old Ssentamu says he is fighting for freedom from oppression and wants Museveni, in power since 1986, to retire. Museveni in turn has accused opposition figures of trying to lure young people into rioting. Ssentamu has a big following among poor, unemployed young people in urban areas.

Ssentamu has alleged he was tortured by members of the presidential guard who arrested him on Aug. 14 and detained him for several days. The government denies the allegations.

His arrest sparked riots by demonstrators demanding his release and security forces violently put down protests in the capital, Kampala.

Dozens of global musicians have condemned the treatment of the singer, and the European Union parliament and some U.S. senators have urged Ugandan authorities to respect basic human rights.

Museveni, a key U.S. ally on regional security, took power by force and has since been elected five times. Although he has campaigned on his record of establishing peace and stability, some worry those gains are being eroded the longer he stays in power.

The 74-year-old Museveni is now able to seek re-election in 2021 because parliament passed legislation last year removing a clause in the constitution that prevented anyone over 75 from holding the presidency. Ssentamu publicly opposed that decision.

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