Bobi Wine, the Ugandan pop star who opposes the long-time president, has “a kidney problem” that needs urgent medical attention abroad, his lawyer said Wednesday, two days after the singer was freed from detention on crutches.
A medical report confirms “the suspicion of a kidney problem” now afflicting the singer, whose real name is Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, Medard Sseggona told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Ssentamu, who is being treated at a private facility in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, also reported that in detention “they squeezed his manhood,” he said. “He was suffering pain in the hips.”
“All efforts are underway” to get the papers necessary for him to travel abroad for specialized care, he said.
Ssentamu, through his lawyers and colleagues, has alleged severe torture at the hands of security personnel during his detention. But he himself has not made any public statement since he was arrested on Aug. 14 in the northwestern town of Arua for his alleged role in an incident in which the presidential motorcade was pelted with stones.
Ssentamu was freed on bail Monday after being charged with treason alongside 32 other suspects arrested following the alleged stone attack on the presidential convoy. Ssentamu’s driver was shot and killed in the aftermath of the incident, allegedly by the security forces. The government says the killing is being investigated.
A trial date has not yet been fixed for the treason charges. Ssentamu and his co-accused will still be required to appear before a magistrate’s court on Thursday. The magistrate will consider the evidence and decide if the case should go to the High Court for trial.
Since winning a seat in parliament last year Ssentamu has drawn big crowds while campaigning for several opposition candidates who have won election. He is challenging the long rule of President Yoweri Museveni by appealing to young people frustrated by the lack of jobs and opportunities. His supporters, citing his popularity with the youth, are urging him to run for president in 2021.
Like Museveni, Ssentamu was in Arua to campaign in a local election to choose a legislator. The eventual winner of that vote, Kassiano Wadri, has also been charged with treason and is yet to be sworn in. Two other lawmakers have been similarly charged.
Another lawmaker arrested alongside Ssentamu, Francis Zaake, is hospitalized with injuries his colleagues describe as serious. The nature of those injuries has not been revealed.
The allegations of torture have angered Ssentamu’s followers, who see him as the victim of government intolerance. The speaker of Uganda’s parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, has written to Museveni urging the arrest of alleged perpetrators within the security forces.
In the letter she said that Zaake “remains gravely ill” and Ssentamu “has visible signs of torture and beatings.” Unless the accused officers are arrested and presented in court, she warned, “it will be very difficult to conduct government business” in parliament.
Ssentamu’s arrest sparked protests in Kampala and elsewhere demanding his release, with scores of people detained as security forces cracked down on demonstrators.
Dozens of top international musicians, including Angelique Kidjo, Chris Martin, Chrissie Hynde and Brian Eno, signed a letter demanding Ssentamu’s release, and a social media campaign to (hash)FreeBobiWine was launched.
Museveni, a U.S. ally on regional security who took power by force in 1986, has been elected five times. Although he has campaigned on a record of establishing peace and stability, some worry that 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 had prevented anyone over 75 from holding the presidency. Ssentamu publicly opposed that decision.
Museveni recently accused “unprincipled politicians” of luring youth into rioting.