Ugandan opposition leader Bobi Wine has said his bodyguard has been killed and two journalists injured amid violent confrontations between security forces and his followers.
A tearful Wine, a popular singer and politician who is challenging the country’s long-time leader, said his bodyguard had died of his injuries after allegedly being run over by a truck belonging to the military police. The victim, Francis Senteza, was attacked while helping to transport a journalist injured in an earlier confrontation between police and a group of Wine’s supporters, he said.
“I regret to announce the murder of my security team member Francis Senteza Kalibala aka Frank,” Wine wrote on Twitter. “He was deliberately run over by military-police truck, No. H4DF 2382, which blocked us in Busega on our way to Rubaga to get Kasirye Ashraf emergency medical attention.”
The Ugandan military’s spokeswoman wrote on Twitter late on Sunday that the bodyguard had not been hit by a military police vehicle.
“UPDF (Ugandan People’s Defence Force) would like to clarify that the late Senteza ... was not knocked by a Military Police Vehicle as purported, but rather fell off a speeding car ... he tried to jump to (sic) but fell off.”
Wine was campaigning on Sunday in parts of central Uganda where he has considerable support. As his convoy tried to proceed from one rally to the next, police fired tear gas into the crowd, injuring at least two journalists.
Ashraf Kasirye, a cameraman on a TV crew that follows Wine, suffered a serious head injury.
“We are hoping against hope that he will live,” Wine said of Kasirye on Twitter.
Another journalist, Ali Mivule, of local broadcaster NTV, was injured after a tear gas canister hit his leg, according to his employer. His condition was said to be stable.
Police said in a statement that while trying to quell confrontations with Wine’s supporters, “journalists were regrettably caught up during the process of dispersing the violent group.” Kasirye is in critical condition after being apparently hit by a tear gas canister, it said.
The Ugandan army spokesperson, Brig. Flavia Byekwaso, disputed Wine’s version of events, saying the bodyguard fell while trying to jump into a speeding car.
The three casualties are the latest victims of election-related violence as Uganda’s security forces are accused of trying to stop Wine from holding raucous public rallies.
Uganda faces growing pressure from the international community and rights watchdogs to respect human rights ahead of polls scheduled for 14 January. The arrest and detention last week of a prominent rights attorney, Nicholas Opiyo, over criminal charges has added to what some critics see as a campaign of repression targeting civic leaders, activists, journalists and perceived political opponents.
Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, who has held power since 1986, faces a strong challenge from Wine, who appeals to young people wishing to see a change of government. Museveni’s government is frequently criticised for corruption as well as widespread joblessness in the urban centres. Wine has repeatedly urged Museveni to retire, saying he would guarantee his safety.
Wine’s campaign events have become increasingly affected by violent confrontations with authorities and Wine himself has been arrested many times by police who accuse him of trying to disrupt public order.
With Associated Press and Reuters