Ugandan pop star and presidential aspirant Bobi Wine has been charged with intending to “alarm, annoy or ridicule” President Yoweri Museveni.
Bobi Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, has also been charged with inciting violence after being accused of calling on his supporters to physically harm the president.
The singer denies the charges.
They relate to a rally last year when Mr Museveni’s convoy was allegedly stoned by opposition supporters.
Bobi Wine is already facing a treason charge over the incident, and is currently out on bail.
If convicted, he, along with 35 others charged with him, could face a sentence of up to life imprisonment.
The 37-year-old musician has been an MP for two years. He portrays himself as a champion of the poor, and sings about social justice and democracy.
He says the charges are all politically motivated to undermine his presidential ambitions.
He intends to run against Mr Museveni, 74, in the 2021 election.
Mr Museveni has been in power since 1984, and is seeking a sixth term.
The charge sheet says that Bobi Wine and his co-accused “wrongfully restrained” the president by “refusing to give him right of way” when he was travelling in northern Uganda’s Arua area in August 2018 to campaign for a ruling party candidate in a by-election.
This showed “intent to alarm, annoy or ridicule” Mr Museveni, the charge sheet says.
Bobi Wine has been placed under house arrest several times, prompting Angelique Kidjo and other music stars to sign a petition last year to free him.
Uganda has a poor record on freedom of expression, according to Reporters Without Borders, which says President Museveni “tolerates no criticism”.
Last week, an academic was sentenced to 18 years in prison for “cyber harassment” after writing Facebook posts insulting the president of 33 years and his mother.
The fresh charges against Bobi Wine come a day after the death of Ziggy Wine, a musician who was close to the opposition MP and also a staunch critic of the president.
He died of his injuries after being abducted and tortured. Police said they have begun an investigation into the death, but they allege Ziggy Wine’s family is not co-operating.
The late musician’s family believe the state may have had a hand in the abduction.
Bobi Wine’s rise to fame
- Born four years before Yoweri Museveni became president
- Describes his music as “edutainment” – entertainment that educates
- One of his earliest hits, Kadingo, was about personal hygiene
- Even after becoming famous, kept his recording studio in Kamwokya slum
- Nicknamed “the ghetto president”
- He and his wife have backed education and sanitation projects
- Became MP for Kyadondo East in June 2017
- Led a campaign against a social media tax
- Charged with treason August 2018
- Charged with inciting violence and ridiculing the president in 2019.