On Friday, October 6, 2023, a video captured the moment when Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine, the president of Uganda’s National Unity Platform (NUP), was apprehended at Entebbe Airport on October 5, 2023.
The leader of the opposition, who had recently been touring the country and addressing large gatherings, has accused the security forces of violating his right to freedom of movement.
Shortly after the morning flight from RwandaAir touched down at Entebbe International Airport, Bobi Wine, expected to receive a warm welcome from his supporters, was instead swiftly taken into custody. This unexpected turn of events left him stating that he was “officially not in Uganda.”
The Ministry of Internal Affairs spokesman, Simon Mundeyi, later explained that these dramatic events at Entebbe were the result of “an emergency security decision taken to avert looming chaos at the airport.”
Bobi Wine’s return was supposed to include a grand welcoming party, with numerous supporters accompanying him into Kampala, the capital of Uganda. However, the police had previously declared any welcome procession illegal and warned NUP supporters and politicians of potential arrest if they defied this order.
In the lead-up to Bobi Wine’s arrival, security personnel, including soldiers from the army’s Special Forces Command, had set up security checkpoints in Entebbe Municipality and along the 45-kilometer highway to Kampala.
As Bobi Wine disembarked from the aircraft, individuals dressed in plain clothes but wearing high-visibility jackets swiftly approached him. In a matter of seconds, they surrounded him, grabbed his arms, and forcefully escorted him into an unmarked car, departing without passing through customs or immigration desks.
According to Bobi Wine, he was then taken to the Old Entebbe Airport, where he was transferred to another vehicle filled with individuals in police and military uniforms. This second vehicle transported him to his home in Magere, Wakiso District.
Mr. Mundeyi, the Internal Affairs spokesman, defended these actions as necessary to manage the situation. He stated that the removal of Bobi Wine from the airport was aimed at preventing chaos and ensuring his safety.
Regarding Bobi Wine’s passport, Mundeyi indicated that immigration procedures would be completed discreetly, and the travel document would be returned to its owner without public awareness.
Bobi Wine, who had recently been touring the country and addressing large rallies, accused security forces of violating his right to freedom of movement. He expressed frustration at being prevented from addressing the media at his intended location in Kamwokya due to a police and military presence.
He also highlighted the arrest of more than 300 of his supporters and members during the incident.
It remains unclear whether this incident, the second involving an opposition politician under President Museveni’s government, will have any diplomatic or other implications related to passenger safety protocols governed by the 1944 UN convention on civil aviation.
Authorities from RwandAir and the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority did not report any breaches of regulations by security operatives.
Police spokesperson SSP Patrick Onyango stated that Bobi Wine was not arrested but escorted home, and he arrived there around 11:20 am.
At his home, Bobi Wine was joined by other party leaders, including the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Mr. Mathias Mpuuga, who condemned the arrest and police brutality against his supporters.
By the end of the day, Bobi Wine posted on social media that security forces had broken through his wall fence, poured reinforcements into his compound, and blocked visitors from entering.
In Parliament, Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja described the incident as providing Bobi Wine with “free transport and security to his home” to avoid disrupting businesses along the Kampala-Entebbe road.
This incident brought to mind a similar event on October 3, 2016, when security agents removed opposition figure Dr. Kizza Besigye from a Kenya Airways flight and arrested him upon his return from Geneva, Switzerland. Three years later, Dr. Besigye successfully sued the aviation agency in the High Court for violating his rights to freedom of movement and dignified arrest procedures.