Opposition presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, known by his stage name Bobi Wine, has announced that he will hold his election manifesto launch in the Western Region city of Mbarara on Friday, November 6. Kyagulanyi will also reportedly use the event to open the new district office of his National Unity Platform (NUP) in the city. The event is scheduled to be held three days after Kyagulanyi was briefly detained by police and prevented from addressing crowds in the Kamwokya area of Kampala on Tuesday, November 4, where he had planned to launch his manifesto after having his presidential candidacy confirmed by the electoral commission.
The rally in Mbarara, a major stronghold of President Yoweri Museveni and the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM), will almost certainly draw a large police response and is likely to be dispersed by security forces. Clashes between security forces and opposition demonstrators are highly likely at the event.
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, Robert 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 Mbarara 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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