Security forces guarding former presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine, last evening blocked United States Ambassador Natalie Brown from reaching the residence of the National Unity Platform (NUP) leader.
Ambassador Brown and team traveled to Magere in Wakiso District where Bobi Wine has been placed under de facto house arrest, in two official diplomatic cars.
However, police and soldiers turned the American diplomats away as they approached Bobi Wine’s home, with police spokesperson Fred Enanga later questioning the motive of the visit and America’s direct involvement in Uganda’s domestic politics.
“What role does America play in the politics of this country? Does the American ambassador have any personal attachment to Hon Kyagulanyi? That then raises even more suspicions, what was she going to do there?” Mr Enanga asked last night.
In an email response to our inquiries last night, US embassy spokesperson Anthony Kujawa noted that “the purpose of Ambassador Brown’s visit was to check on Robert Kyagulanyi’s health and safety, given that he’s effectively been unable to leave his home, with security forces surrounding his property under the guise of providing ‘security’ that he did not request”.
But Mr Enanga, without elaborating, said they deployed to restrain the NUP leader’s movement as a “preventive measure” following intelligence they received about planned riots and protests countrywide.
Bobi Wine’s confinement is not a new tactic in Uganda government’s rule book in suppressing main political challengers who aim to challenge results of presidential elections in court.
On the day of voting during the 2016 elections, security grabbed then presidential candidate Kizza Besigye, who alleged that the ballot had been rigged, and placed him under house arrest for more than 40 days and freed him after the period to file election petition had lapsed.
The Supreme Court, however, upheld Mr Museveni’s victory when Independent candidate Amama Mbabazi, who performed dismally, challenged the poll outcome.
Its unclear if Bobi Wine, who has declared his intention to challenge results of last Thursday’s presidential election, will be contained at home for as long as Dr Besigye and lose the opportunity to gather evidence. Police and army yesterday ringed off the NUP headquarters.
This newspaper understands that the US diplomats yesterday intended, among others, to deliver groceries to Bobi which, if true, would have been an answer to clarion call by activists on twitter to foreign diplomats accredited to Kampala to re-stock supplies for the politician’s family that security forces have kept off-limits from Ugandans.
Police said the family has not run out of food and they are working with Barbra Itungo, the politician’s wife, to ensure no member starves.
In last night’s email, Mr Kujawa noted that Ms Brown’s trip was not unusual since US officials regularly meet with “actors across Uganda’s political spectrum as part of Washington’s diplomatic engagement”. The embassy was unable to say whether her visit to Bobi Wine was coordinated through, or undertaken with approval by, Uganda’s Foreign Affairs ministry as required by diplomatic protocol.
“Today, a presidential candidate is being held under effective house arrest by government security agents surrounding his home. These unlawful actions continue a worrying trend on the course of Uganda’s democracy,” Mr Kujawa noted.
Condemns house arrest
He added: “Nobody should be unlawfully be denied a means to communicate and the freedom to leave his home, should he choose to do so … The government of Uganda’s ‘democracy in the dark’ strategy has undermined the integrity of Uganda’s electoral process.”
During campaigns, Mr Museveni labelled Bobi Wine as a foreign agent.
President Museveni, in power already for 34 years, won last week’s presidential elections with 58.6 per cent while Bobi polled 34 per cent of the 9.9 million valid votes cast.
Bobi Wine has disputed the results as manufactured, claiming, without providing evidence, that he won.