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Uganda's Bobi Wine: 'Tortured' pop star MP returns home

By Mutala Yakubu
Bobi Wine spoke atop a vehicle to jubilant crowds outside his home
Bobi Wine spoke atop a vehicle to jubilant crowds outside his home

Ugandan pop star-turned-MP Bobi Wine has returned home after receiving medical treatment in the US for injuries he says he suffered in custody.

"It's great to finally be home," he told supporters outside his house.

Police escorted him there from the airport - a move which he said was against his wishes.

The BBC's Fergal Keane accompanied him into his home, where the MP said he had "come back to fight".

Bobi Wine, 36, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, was charged with treason alongside 32 other politicians following campaign violence during a by-election in August.

His treatment by Ugandan authorities has been condemned by the EU, UK and US - earlier this week a group of US Senators warned that democracy in Uganda was "backsliding".

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Some of music's biggest names, including Angelique Kidjo, Chris Martin and Damon Albarn, signed a petition for the MP's release when he was in detention last month.

Some see Bobi Wine's popularity as sign of a generational rift between Uganda's young population and President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power since 1986.

'Ambitions for a people-power revolution'

Bobbi Wine is a significant figure not only in the emerging politics of Uganda but in the story of a changing Africa.

He represents a youth voice that is social media-literate, hungry for economic development, and angry with the corruption and cronyism that has blighted the lives of generations.

Three-quarters of Uganda's population is under the age of 35 and Bobi Wine told the BBC he has come home to lead a people-power revolution.

The very fact that President Museveni has allowed Bobi Wine to return to his home represents a victory for the musician-turned-politician - and is possibly the consequence of international pressure.

But for all his undoubted support among the young, he still lacks a wider political organisation to challenge for the presidency, and 74-year-old Yoweri Museveni may have simply paused in his familiar tactics of repression.

Police earlier arrested several people who had been trying to reach Entebbe Airport to welcome the politician back.

The police later issued a statement thanking Bobi Wine for co-operating with officers who escorted him home from the airport.

The MP and other politicians were charged in August after stones were allegedly thrown at President Yoweri Museveni's convoy. They deny the charges.

Uganda's army has rejected allegations that the MP was tortured while in their custody.

Speaking to the BBC before boarding his connecting flight from Kenya's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Bobi Wine said the Ugandan government was "clearly panicking" at the level of support for him.

He admitted he was "scared" to go back, but wanted to live as a "free Ugandan".
The MP said he was not considering a run for the presidency, adding: "I'm thinking about my freedom and my liberty as a citizen of Uganda.

"That's the first of my priorities."

The 36-year-old MP stood and won as an independent candidate in a by-election last year in Kyadondo East, central Uganda.

The self-declared "ghetto president" told the BBC after his win that he represented a new generation: "I am going to stand up for issues. I'm here to give young people confidence," he said.