The Ugandan pop star and opposition lawmaker Bobi Wine returned home from the United States on Thursday amid heavy security near the airport and elsewhere in the capital as authorities enforced a ban on rallies they said threaten public order.
Before his arrival police detained the singer’s brother and at least two other people who were driving to the airport to welcome him home, lawyer Asuman Basalirwa said.
“They have not given any reasons for the arrests,” Basalirwa said, adding that he had been ordered to turn back. “We don’t know their intentions
Police had said only family members would be permitted to meet the singer. His arrival was not broadcast by local stations NBS and NTV, which often air live coverage of such events. Police had said he would be escorted to his home to avoid public disturbances.
Another of the singer’s lawyers, opposition legislator Medard Sseggona, said Thursday he had escaped police detention at his home. Police also surrounded the home of the mayor of Kampala, Erias Lukwago, and he was unable to leave, Sseggona said.
Ssentamu, who won a national assembly seat last year, faces treason charges over his alleged role in an incident last month in which the president’s convoy was pelted with stones. He denies wrongdoing. His next court appearance is Oct. 1.
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 Uganda’s large youth population into rioting.
Ssentamu has a big following among poor, unemployed young people in urban areas. His arrest sparked riots by demonstrators demanding his release and security forces violently put down protests in the capital.
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.