Ugandan Pop Star Bobi Wine in 'A Lot of Pain' After Being Beaten in Detention

Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
 Bobi Wine speaks at Goalkeepers 2017 at Jazz at Lincoln Center on Sept. 20, 2017 in New York City.  

Chris Martin, Damon Albarn and Brian Eno have petitioned for the opposition lawmaker's release.

The deputy speaker of Uganda’s parliament says a detained pop star and opposition lawmaker “is in a lot of pain” after suffering “severe beating” in detention. Jacob Oulanyah told reporters Wednesday (Aug. 22) that Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, whose stage name is Bobi Wine, is in a “humorous” mood despite his condition. Wine, often referred to as the "Ghetto President," was a popular musician for 15 years before he dove into politics, releasing albums and singles ("Akagoma," Funtula") that spoke out against corruption and injustice using dancehall and afrobeat rhythms.

The military released a video of Ssentamu smiling during Oulanyah’s visit. Ssentamu has not been seen in public since Aug. 13. Security forces have violently put down street protests by Ugandans demanding the singer-turned-politician's release following his charge of illegal possession of firearms; the charges came after President Yoweri Museveni's motorcade was attacked with stones. The musician scored a slot as an independent MP in parliament in last year's election over two long-serving candidates and is leading what some see as a popular movement against president Museveni, who has been in power since 1986.

He was arrested along with four other opposition lawmakers, three of whom face treason charges. A fifth lawmaker has been hospitalized with injures he allegedly sustained during detention. The government denies allegations of torture. The arrest of Wine has resulted in an open letter signed by Coldplay's Chris Martin, the Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde, Peter Gabriel, Angelique Kidjo, Femi Kuti, Brian Eno and the Gorillaz's Damon Albarn calling for his release. 

Read the full text of the letter below, via OkayAfrica:

Tuesday August 21 2018

We, the undersigned, strongly condemn the arrest, imprisonment and vicious, life-threatening physical attack by Ugandan government forces on popular Ugandan singer and Member of Parliament, the Honourable Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, a.k.a Bobi Wine. We also condemn the unprovoked killing of his driver, Yasin Kawuma as well as the beating and arrest of three other opposition Members of Parliament.

The above incidents took place in the town of Arua on Monday August 13, where Bobi Wine was attending a bi-election rally in support of an opposition candidate, Kassiano Wadri. It is claimed that stones were thrown at the convoy of President Museveni who was there to support his candidate. Museveni's security forces then made their way to Bobi Wine's hotel where Yasin Karuma was sitting in Bobi's car and was shot in the head at close range and killed. Yasin was sitting in the co-driver's seat where Bobi Wine normally sits. The possibility of an assassination attempt cannot be ruled out. They then entered the hotel, kicking in doors and arresting many people, including hotel staff, journalists and other opposition MPs until they found Bobi who was beaten to within an inch of his life and arrested.

They claim to have found two sub-machine guns, a pistol and ammunition in Bobi's room and he was charged with treason and taken before a military tribunal on Thursday. His face was badly swollen and he could neither talk, see or walk, so vicious was the beating he'd received. The charge against him was reduced to the illegal possession of arms and he is currently detained in an army barracks with limited access by his family and lawyers until a further appearance before a military tribunal this coming Thursday.

We call upon the Ugandan government to ensure his full access to medical treatment, to allow a full and impartial investigation of his violent arrest and imprisonment and of the brutal killing of Yasin Kawuma, and to follow internationally recognised procedures and safeguards in proceeding with any case against him.

We pledge to remain vigilant about his ongoing detention and to use our voices and networks at the local, regional and international levels to raise awareness about his case, to press for his immediate and unconditional release, and for an end to this and other acts of political repression and violence in Uganda.

We also call for the lawful and humane treatment of the more than thirty other detainees that were arrested at the same time as Bobi Wine. Some of them are also fighting for life.

N.B. At the same time as Bobi appeared before the tribunal the results of Wednesday's by-election were announced. The candidate, Kassiano Wadri, who Bobi had come to Arua to support, had won. He also remains in custody, still charged with treason.

AARON BEBE SUKURA, - Musician, Ghana ABIOLA OKE – CEO OkayAfrica/Okayplayer ADAM CLAYTON – Musician U2 ADE BANTU – Musician, Producer Nigeria AHDAF SOUEIF – Author AISHA ORAZBAYEVA – Musician, violinist ALEX HEFFES - Composer ALFRED ADEFILA - Musician, Lagos ALI BUKARI aka NUBIAN – Musician ANGELIQUE KIDJO - Musician BANNING EYRE - Senior Producer, Afropop Worldwide BELINDA ATIM – Uganda Sustainable Development Initiative BRIAN ENO – Artist, musician, producer CHICOCO RADIO - Port Harcourt Nigeria CHRIS MARTIN – Musician Coldplay CHRISSIE HYNDE – Musician CLAUDE GATEBUKE – African Great Lakes Action Network DAMON ALBARN – Musician, Blur, Gorillaz DAN ACEDA - Musician, Nairobi DELE SOSIMI – The Afrobeat Orchestra DR VINCENT MAGOMBE – Journalist and Broadcaster EDDY YAWE - Musician EMEL MATHLOUTHI – Musician EMRE RAMAZANOGLU – Musician & Producer ERIAS LUKWAGO - Kampala City Lord Mayor FATOUMATA SOW - Music Industry Professional, Mali FEMI ANIKULAPO KUTI – Musician Nigeria FRANCESCA MARTINEZ – Writer & Comedian FRANK RYNNE - Senior Lecturer British Studies, UCP, France FREDERICO RODRIGUES DE PAULA SANTOS (FRED) – Footballer Manchester United GEOFF TRAVIS – Rough Trade Records HELEN EPSTEIN - Author of Uganda and the War on Terror HUGH CORNWELL - Musician HON MEDARD SSEGONA - Member of Parliament Uganda IAIN C NEWTON - Founder, Silent B Inc.USA JAMIE DRUMMOND – Co-founder of ONE JAN PETER SCHWAIM – Musician, Composer JESSE HACKETT – Musician JOHN CONGLETON – Musician, Producer JON HASSELL - Musician JOHNNY BORRELL – Musician Razorlight JOJO MAYER – Musician JONATHAN HENDERSON – Artist Management JOSEPH MAYANJA aka Jose Chameleon Musician JULIANA KANYOMOZI – Musician Uganda JULIANI - Rapper, founder Dondora Hiphop City, Nairobi JUSTIN ADAMS - Musician KADIALY KOUYATE – Musician KWEKU MANDELA – Filmmaker LEO ABRAHAMS – Producer, musician, composer LORD WOOD OF ANFIELD – House of Lords UK MARIE KORPE – Co-Founder FREEMUSE & Editor MARKUS DRAVS – Producer MARTIN GOLDSCHMIDT – Co-Founder Cooking Vinyl MASUUZA EDRISA – aka Eddy Kenzo Musician MAURICE BERNSTEIN - President the Giant Step Organisation MAURICE CARNEY – Friends of the Congo MILTON ALLIMADI – Founder Black Star News MONTE – Musician NICHOLAS OPIYO - Human rights lawyer Uganda NICK LAIRDE-CLOWES – Artist The Dream Academy NIKE RANSOME KUTI – Lawyer Nigeria OHAL GRIETZER – Composer ORHAN MASLO OHA – Director of Rock School Bosnia OWEN PALLETT – Composer PEDRO COQUENAO – Musician, Producer PETER GABRIEL – Artist, Producer PHIL HARVEY – Musician Coldplay RAOUL ,MARTINEZ – Author REGGIE WATTS – Musician RICHIE TROUGHTON - Writer RIKKI STEIN – Kalakuta Sunrise Ltd ROBIN RIMBAUD – Musician RUTH DANIEL – Director In Place of War RWAKAFUZI LAUDISLAS - Human rights lawyer SEBASTIAN ROCHFORD – Musician, Polar Bear SEGUN ADEFILA - Founder Crowne Troupe of Africa, Lagos SEUN ANIKULAPO KUTI - Musician STEPHEN BUDD – Director Africa Express, NH7 Festivals. Music Managers Forum STEPHEN HENDEL – Kalakuta Sunrise LLC STEVE JONES – Musician TOM WATSON – Deputy Leader of the Labour Party UK TOUMANI DIABATE – Musician Mali TUNDE ADEBIMPE – Musician, Actor, TV on the Radio VINCENT MAGOMBE – Director Africa Inform International WANLOV the KUBOLOR – Musician Ghana WOLE SOYINKA – Nobel Laureate Nigeria