Police in Uganda confirmed Wednesday that three people were killed and 34 others wounded after protests erupted in the capital and other urban centers following the arrest of presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, popularly known as Bobi Wine.
“It is unfortunate that three innocent lives have been lost as a result of the violent fracas in the city. We do extend our sympathies to their families,” Police Spokesman Fred Enanga said in a statement.
Kyagulanyi was arrested in eastern Uganda Wednesday morning for allegedly contravening electoral guidelines which require candidates not to have more than 200 supporters at a rally so as to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The protests broke out across the country immediately after the news broke that Kyagulanyi had been arrested. His supporters barricaded roads and burnt tires, calling for his immediate release.
Kyagulanyi, 38, a pop star-turned-politician, is seen by many as the new face of Uganda's opposition and viewed as a major threat to President Yoweri Museveni, 76, who has been in power since 1986.
Kyagulanyi joined politics less than five years ago after he was elected a member of parliament in a by-election for the Kyadondo East constituency.
He has been promising to change the lives of youth, the downtrodden and those living in slums.
“A total of 34 people sustained injuries during the violent confrontations and were rushed to Mulago National Referral Hospital for further medical attention,” Enanga said in the statement.
The police publicist said the Joint Security Task Force could not allow such acts of violence conducted by the opposition supporters to escalate into a civil crisis.
“Our quick reaction, CCTV monitoring and crowd control dispersal teams managed to suppress the violent groups with teargas and other non-lethal weapons. Several suspects have been arrested and will be screened once the operations have normalized,” he said.
Sources in Kampala told Anadolu Agency earlier Wednesday that parts of the city resembled a war zone as protesters burnt tires and had running battles with police, who fired tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades.
Police said another presidential candidate, Patrick Oboi Amuriat of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party was also arrested in northern Uganda on Wednesday as he was planning to hold an unauthorized procession in Gulu city.
There are 11 presidential candidates battling for Uganda’s top post. Ugandans will vote for a president, members of parliament and local government representatives on Jan. 14 next year.