Ugandan pop star-turned-politician flies to US for treatment

Ugandan pop star-turned-politician Kyagulanyi Ssentamu (AP) Credit: PA

A Ugandan pop star-turned-opposition politician said he has arrived in the United States for medical care after allegedly being tortured while in detention.

Bobi Wine, whose real name is Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, said on Twitter that he suffered “brutal torture” by soldiers with the presidential guard, allegations the government has denied.

He posted a photo of himself in an airport corridor, sitting in a wheelchair and holding crutches, though it was not clear which city he was in.

Mr Ssentamu left Uganda late on Friday after an attempt to leave the previous day was blocked by officials who said he needed first to get clearance from the government because of his allegations of torture.

The holding of Mr Ssentamu caused sporadic protests in some parts of the capital Kampala.

Mr Ssentamu and several other politicians are charged with treason over an incident on August 13 in which the president’s motorcade was pelted with stones.

Mr Ssentamu was freed on bail on Monday.

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.

Another politician who was blocked on Thursday from flying to India for treatment, Francis Zaake, was still being held in a hospital on Friday night.

Kyagulanyi Ssentamu Credit: AP

Mr Ssentamu has emerged as a powerful opposition voice among youth frustrated by President Yoweri Museveni, 74, who has been in power for 32 years and oversaw a constitutional change last year to remove an age limit on the presidency.

The singer won a seat in parliament last year without the backing of a political party.

Dozens of global musicians including Chris Martin, Angelique Kidjo and Brian Eno last week issued an open letter condemning the treatment of Mr Ssentamu, who in his first public appearance after his arrest had to walk with support and appeared to cry.

The treason charges have heightened concerns about a crackdown on the opposition in the East African nation.

Mr Museveni, a close US security ally, has spoken in recent days about “unprincipled politicians taking advantage of our unemployed youth to lure them into riots and demonstrations”.