Bobi Wine’s Concert Petition Withdrawal Sparks Drama at UHRC

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Tensions flared at the Uganda Human Rights Commission offices on Monday as Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu squared off with the commission’s chairperson Mariam Wangadya. 

Thereafter, Kyagulanyi withdrew his petition challenging the police for blocking his musical concerts. Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine, accompanied by his lawyers; Benjamin Katana and George Musisi, appeared before Wangadya where he accused the commission of violating his right to a fair hearing and acting with partiality and a lack of independence.

The petition stemmed from police actions led by then Kampala Metropolitan Police Commander Frank Mwesigwa, now assistant inspector general of police (AIGP) in charge of operations, who cancelled the concerts in November 2018 allegedly to prevent Kyagulanyi from inciting violence. Mwesigwa also accused Kyagulanyi of failure to differentiate between Bobi Wine, the musician and Kyagulanyi the politician and legislator.

“We have noticed that Bobi Wine has been turning into Hon. Kyagulanyi to make political statements at music shows, that is not what we agreed upon,” Mwesigwa said. 

The concerts came shortly after Kyagulanyi took his parliamentary oath and amidst heated debates over constitutional amendments regarding the presidential age limit. As Kyagulanyi read his statement, Wangadya interrupted, accusing him of attacking the commission. 

“Excuse me, if that is the personal statement you are making, it is an attack on the commission. You are free to withdraw your complaint. We shall not allow you to undermine, emancipate, or disrespect this commission,” Wangadya stated. 

She further insisted that Kyagulanyi’s accusations of the commission violating human rights were unacceptable and called for security when he attempted to continue.  

“You are represented you can speak through your lawyers. I will not allow you to accuse this commission of violating human rights.  You will not speak. Where is the security…?”

In response, Kyagulanyi criticized Wangadya for mocking victims of human rights abuses and declared his intention to withdraw his complaint due to the commission’s perceived lack of impartiality and independence.

“I hereby withdraw my complaint from this commission because it lacks impartiality and independence. This is supposed to be the Human Rights Commission helping people,” Kyagulanyi stated.   

He condemned the five-year delay in addressing his complaint, during which security agencies allegedly blocked his concerts, confiscated equipment, and denied people their livelihoods due to his political affiliation. Kyagulanyi questioned the commission’s ability to protect constitutional rights when it seemed complicit in human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings, torture, and enforced disappearances. 

“Madam Chairperson, what kind of commission are you presiding over?” Kyagulanyi asked.

He highlighted the ongoing plight of his supporters, many of whom have faced severe abuses without any intervention from the commission. He also criticized Wangadya for dismissing the concerns of families of missing persons by calling their loved ones “ghosts.”

“Madam chairperson, you have shamelessly told the mothers, spouses, and children of our missing persons that their missing loved ones were ghosts!” he said.

Given these grievances, Kyagulanyi stated that the commission’s actions had severely undermined their confidence in its ability to deliver justice. He labelled the hearing a mockery and withdrew his case, expressing concerns for his safety and citing Wangadya’s previous remarks about commission members carrying guns to meetings.

“Having said this, I beg to leave because am not even sure of our safety here, seeing that you, recently said that some members of this commission possess and come to meetings with guns!” 

As Kyagulanyi left, Wangadya called for security to arrest him but ultimately ruled the petition dismissed due to his withdrawal. This is not the first time Kyagulanyi has withdrawn a petition. In 2021, he withdrew his presidential election petition from the Supreme Court after being denied additional time to file evidence against President Yoweri Museveni’s victory by Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo’s panel.

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