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20 Nov 2020 | 10:56 AM UTC

Anti-government protests likely to continue in Uganda despite release of Bobi Wine on bail November 20

Anti-government protests likely to continue in Uganda despite release of presidential candidate Bobi Wine on bail on November 20; monitor for developments and anticipate heightened security presence



Ugandan presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, also known as Bobi Wine, was released on bail from Jinja Central Police Station (Eastern Region) on Friday, November 20, after being charged with spreading the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Some human rights groups have condemned the arrest, claiming the COVID-19 charge is a pretext to suppress political opposition ahead of the January 14 presidential election.

Kyagulanyi was arrested on Wednesday, November 18, prior to staging a rally in Luuka district (Eastern Region). He had been scheduled to address his supporters but police accused him of breaching COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings of more than 200 people. His arrest triggered violent unrest across Uganda. 

Since Kyagulanyi's arrest, protests have been reported in Jinja, where Kyagulanyi was being held, Kampala, and several other centers across the country. As of November 20, at least 37 people have died nationwide during the protests, and more than 500 people have been arrested. 

Further protests across Uganda are possible and subsequent clashes between opposition demonstrators and security forces are likely to occur.


Uganda's military intends to deploy additional soldiers in the capital Kampala and other major urban centers as of November 20, following violent unrest witnessed across the country. Deputy army spokesperson, Colonel Deo Akiiki, reportedly stated that soldiers will be deployed at all major roads leading into the capital. There will also be an increased security presence at potential flashpoint areas including fuel reservoirs and petrol stations. A 21:00 (local time) curfew in place due to the COVID-19 will also be more strictly enforced to deter gatherings from taking place.

Political tensions in Uganda have been increasing ahead of the presidential election in 2021, after President Yoweri Museveni pushed through controversial constitutional reforms in December 2017 to remove the presidential age limit in a move widely seen as paving the way for him to stand for a sixth term in office. The debate around the proposed constitutional reforms was bitter with infighting within the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM), regular protests and several opposition leaders being arrested. However, Museveni and his supporters, backed by a closely-aligned and powerful military, have largely succeeded in suppressing opposition to his candidacy within the NRM.

Having come to prominence during the constitutional reform campaign, Kyagulanyi has become a major opposition talisman following his move into politics in 2017. The outspoken critic of Museveni has been arrested multiple times by security forces on charges related to anti-government protests, with arrests sparking unrest amongst his populist support base. After announcing his bid to run for president in the 2021 general election in 2019, he assumed leadership of the National Unity, Reconciliation and Development Party and revamped it as the National Unity Platform, becoming the party's de facto presidential candidate.


Those in Uganda are advised to monitor the situation, avoid all demonstrations as a precaution, anticipate a heightened security presence, and adhere to all instructions issued by the local authorities.

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