Ugandan police detained two lawmakers, one a pop star, at the country’s sole international airport, where supporters say they were trying to seek treatment abroad for injuries suffered during torture by the security forces.
Allegations that Robert Kyagulanyi and Francis Zaake were tortured triggered widespread protests in Kampala and other parts of the country.
The two were among five lawmakers detained on August 13 in Arua, accused of throwing stones at a presidential convoy during the campaign for a vacant seat in parliament. Kyagulyani is a pop star, known by his stage name Bobi Wine.
President Yoweri Museveni, in power since 1986, has repeatedly been accused of rights abuses and widespread use of security personnel to suppress opposition to his rule. He denies government carries out abuse.
“The Uganda Police halted the departure of the Hon. Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu at Entebbe International Airport,” police tweeted on Thursday. “Given that he is on bail, the police is concerned and await guidance from the relevant government department.”
In a separate statement on Thursday police said they found Zaake at Entebbe early on Thursday, “trying to flee the country and accordingly apprehended him.”
Kyagulanyi has emerged as a formidable threat to Museveni’s 32-year rule, winning popular support through his music and strong criticism of government.
In the days after the lawmakers were detained, allied politicians and relatives said the two were tortured and needed to go outside the country for specialised medical care.
Kyagulanyi, charged with treason alongside several others for his role in the stoning incident, used crutches in court appearances and was transported in an ambulance at times. Supporters say he was beaten with a metal bar.
Zaake has not been charged but has been at a hospital in Kampala, with images of him posted on social media showing him on a bed, eyes closed with multiple bruises on a hand and other body areas.
Police said he was taken to the country’s national referral hospital where he would be treated under custody. He would be charged “at an appropriate time” with offences from the stoning of the presidential convoy.