A Ugandan pop-star-turned-opposition lawmaker on Saturday said he had arrived in the US for medical care after allegedly being tortured while in detention.
Bobi Wine, whose real name is Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, said on Twitter that he experienced “brutal torture” by soldiers of the presidential guard, allegations the Ugandan government has denied.
Ssentamu posted a photograph of himself in an airport corridor, sitting in a wheelchair and holding crutches, although it was not clear which city he was in.
Ssentamu left Uganda late on Friday after an attempt to leave the previous day was blocked by officials who said he needed to get clearance from the government because of his allegations of torture.
The holding of Ssentamu caused sporadic protests in some parts of the capital, Kampala.
Ssentamu and several other lawmakers are charged with treason over an incident on Aug. 13 in which the president’s motorcade was pelted with stones. Ssentamu was released on bail on Monday last week.
Video footage posted by human rights attorney Nicholas Opiyo showed the 36-year-old singer in his trademark red beret and carrying crutches as he was wheeled to the departure gate late on Friday, saluting and thanking supporters along the way.
Another lawmaker who on Thursday last week was blocked from flying to India for treatment, Francis Zaake, was still being held in a hospital on Friday night.
Ssentamu has emerged as a powerful opposition voice among youth frustrated by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, 74, who has been in power for 32 years and oversaw a constitutional change last year to remove an age limit on the presidency.
The singer won a parliament seat last year without the backing of a political party.
Dozens of global musicians, including Chris Martin, Angelique Kidjo and Brian Eno, last week issued an open letter condemning the treatment of Ssentamu, who in his first public appearance after his arrest had to walk with support and appeared to cry.
The treason charges have heightened concerns about a crackdown on the opposition in the east African nation.
Museveni, a close US security ally, has spoken in recent days about “unprincipled politicians taking advantage of our unemployed youth to lure them into riots and demonstrations.”
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