Bobi Wine during his arrival
A Ugandan pop star turned opposition politician has arrived in the US for medical care after allegedly being tortured while in detention in his home country.
Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, known as Bobi Wine, said on Twitter on Saturday he had arrived in the US after suffering “brutal torture” by special forces soldiers, allegations the government has denied.
He posted a photo of himself in an airport corridor, sitting in a wheelchair and holding crutches, though it wasn’t clear which city he was in.
“Safely arrived in the US where I’ll be receiving specialised treatment following the brutal torture at the hands of SFC soldiers. We thank the world for standing with us. I will soon tell you what exactly happened to me since 13th August and what is next. #peoplepower Power,” he said.
A video posted by human rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo showed the 36-year-old singer in his trademark red beret and carrying crutches as he was wheeled to the departure gate late on Friday, saluting and thanking supporters along the way.
“I can now confirm that Hon Bobi Wine #FreeBobiWine is on a KLM flight out of Entebbe Airport. I just saw him off. We will now embark on getting Hon Zaake to leave for medical treatment too. Thank you for all your prayers and support,” Nicholas tweeted.
Kyagulanyi’s attempt to leave Uganda the previous day was blocked by officials. After police detained him at the airport, protests erupted in the Ugandan capital Kampala on Friday.
Kyagulanyi and several other politicians were charged after the motorcade of the president, Yoweri Museveni, was pelted with stones on August 13. Kyagulanyi was freed on bail on Monday. Ugandan authorities initially dismissed the allegations that Kyagulanyi was beaten up in detention as “rubbish” and “fake news”. But late on Friday, a police spokesman said there would be an investigation into those allegations.
Kyagulanyi was elected last year and has amassed a large following among youth electrified by his scathing criticism of Museveni, sometimes delivered in his songs. Dozens of global musicians, including Chris Martin, Chrissie Hynde and Brian Eno, last week issued an open letter condemning the treatment of Kyagulanyi, who in his first public appearance after his arrest had to walk with support and appeared to cry.
Museveni, 74, a close US security ally, has held power since 1986. He has spoken in recent days about “unprincipled politicians taking advantage of our unemployed youth to lure them into riots and demonstrations”.