A Ugandan musician-turned-legislator seeking to challenge veteran President Yoweri Museveni said a supporter and fellow singer died after being abducted and tortured, in what police are treating as a homicide.
Since joining politics two years ago Robert Kyagulanyi rattled authorities in the East African country with growing popularity and biting criticism of Museveni, who ruled since taking power in a 1986 coup.
Widely known by his music moniker – Bobi Wine – Kyagulanyi intends to run in Uganda’s next presidential election in 2021, potentially pitting him against Museveni.
In a statement, Kyagulanyi said Michael Kalinda, a fellow musician who worked in his recording studios, died on Sunday after he was abducted by unidentified people.
Kalinda, according to Kyagulanyi’s statement, was subjected to “horrendous torture, his left eye was plucked out, two fingers cut off and parts of his body burnt with a flat iron.”
Over the past year, Kyagulanyi said, dozens of supporters and activists were kidnapped by unknown people and tortured. “As we near 2021 elections it is apparent President Museveni is determined to silence dissent using extreme violence,” he said.
Government officials repeatedly denied opposition supporters were abducted and tortured on the orders of state authorities.
Kyagulanyi said Kalinda disappeared about two weeks ago and was left several days later at Mulago hospital in Kampala where he died.
Police spokesman Fred Enanga said a post mortem indicated Kalinda died of blunt force trauma to his head and police are treating the death as a homicide.
“At this stage, motivation for the murder is not established,” Enanga said. “Political actors, journalists, activists, theorists and members of the public are cautioned against speculation.”
Ugandan security personnel including police, military and intelligence agencies have over the years been accused by the opposition and human rights groups of torturing Museveni’s political opponents.
Rallies by opposition leaders are routinely broken up with tear gas and live rounds while activists are detained, often for days before they are charged in court.