Ugandan pop star-turned-MP gives detailed account of alleged torture

Ugandan politician Bobi Wine posted a ...

Posted: Sep 4, 2018 11:38 AM
Updated: Sep 4, 2018 11:38 AM

Ugandan politician Bobi Wine posted a statement on Facebook Monday detailing physical abuse he says he suffered at the hands of the military.

During his arrest and detention in August, Wine says he was beaten with an iron bar, punched, kicked, hit with pistol butts and had his ears pulled with "something like pliers."

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"After some time, I could almost no longer feel the pain. I could only hear what they were doing from a far. My cries and pleas went unheeded. The things they were speaking to me all this while, I cannot reproduce here. Up to now, I cannot understand how these soldiers who I probably had never met before in person could hate me so much," Wine said in the statement.

Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, is an MP and the leader of a youth movement that has rattled the regime of President Yoweri Museveni.

Uganda's ministers of internal affairs, defense and security will hold a press conference Tuesday to address allegations of torture by security forces, deputy national police spokesperson Patrick Onyango said Monday. Museveni previously dismissed allegations that Wine and other opposition politicians were tortured.

The Facebook post is the first detailed statement Wine has made since he arrived in the United States over the weekend. Wine came to the US for medical treatment following "brutal torture" at the hands of Uganda's Special Forces Command, he said in a tweet Saturday upon arriving. CNN has reached out to Uganda's SFC for comment.

"We thank the world for standing with us," Wine said in Saturday's tweet.

Wine was first arrested by the military on August 15 after rioting broke out between rival parties ahead of a local parliamentary election in the Arua municipality. He has been charged with treason for allegedly trying to stone Museveni's convoy. Another 32 opposition politicians have also been charged.

In his Facebook post, Wine said SFC soldiers stormed a hotel where he was staying on August 13 and fatally shot one of his team members. Wine locked himself in a room and listened as soldiers shouted at people and beat them up while searching for him.

"In the wee hours of the morning, the soldiers started breaking doors of the different hotel rooms. With rage, they broke doors, and I knew they would soon come to my room," he said.

Eventually, a soldier beat down his door with an iron bar and another ordered him to his knees at gunpoint, Wine said.

"I put my hands up and just before my knees could reach the floor, the soldier who broke into the room used the same iron bar to hit me. He aimed it at my head and I put up my hand in defence so he hit my arm. The second blow came straight to my head on the side of my right eye. He hit me with this iron bar and I fell down. In no minute, all these guys were on me -- each one looking for the best place to hurt. I can't tell how many they were but they were quite a number," he said.

"They beat me, punched me, and kicked me with their boots. No part of my body was spared. They hit my eyes, mouth and nose. They hit my elbows and my knees. Those guys are heartless!"

Read more: Bobi Wine: The 'Ghetto President' versus the strongman President

They brought him to a car and continued to torture him until he lost consciousness, he said. "They pulled my manhood and squeezed my testicles while punching me with objects I didn't see. They pulled off my shoes and took my wallet, phone and the money I had. As soon as the shoes were off, they started hitting my ankles with pistol butts. I groaned in pain and they ordered me to stop making noise for them. They used something like pliers to pull my ears," he said,

He regained consciousness in a small room with his legs and hands tied together with tight cuffs, bleeding from the nose and ears, he said. Two soldiers entered the room and one of them offered a tearful apology, he said.

From there, he says he was transported to military barracks in northern Uganda, where he was drugged and forced to sign a written statement at the Gulu Police Station, the contents of which he hardly recalls, he said. Then, he was moved to military barracks in Makindye, where he was able to see his wife, lawyers and representatives from the Uganda Human Rights Commission, who made a report of his condition, he said.

"I will never forget the atmosphere in that room -- people started crying upon setting eyes on me. At that point, I could not sit, walk or even stand by myself. I was still swollen and spoke with great difficulty due to chest pains," he said.

On that day, he said he learned that he was due in court on August 23 after being "framed" on weapons charges, and received constant medical attention. "It was clear they wanted me to appear in better shape at the next time of my court appearance and they did everything possible to achieve that."

The weapons charge was withdrawn and he was freed on bail August 27, paving the way for his departure to the United States.

Wine attempted to travel to the United States on Thursday but was prevented from boarding his flight, one of his attorneys, Erias Lukwago, told CNN. He was taken away in a police vehicle to a government-owned hospital in the capital of Kampala with limited access to his family, the lawyer said. On Friday, Uganda's Police Force said it had prevented Wine from traveling in order to give him a medical checkup to investigate allegations that he was tortured.

Pockets of protests broke out in Kampala on Friday as angry youths took to the streets to protest Wine's arrest.

Police and soldiers moved through the city, particularly downtown Kamwokya, where Wine's studio is located, to quell demonstrations by his supporters, who had blocked roads in the neighborhood with rocks and tires.

Musicians around the world, including Chris Martin, Angelique Kidjo and Damon Albarn, joined the campaign to #FreeBobiWine.

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