Court Martial frees Bobi Wine as State drops charges

Thursday August 23 2018

Ugandan independent MP Robert Sentamu Kyagulanyi, known as Bobi Wine. The General Court Martial in Gulu on August 23, 2018 dropped charges against the Kyadondo East MP. PHOTO | AFP


Bobi Wine, the Ugandan MP who has been facing charges of illegal arms possession charges, was on Thursday freed by the military court in Gulu.

This was after the Ugandan government withdrew the charges it had filed at General Court Martial.


“I have instructions that the proceedings before this court under Regulation 65 of the Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces procedure be terminated and the accused person be released henceforth,” army prosecutor Major Raphael Mugisha told the court.

Major Mugisha said the institution was no longer interested in pursuing the charges it had levelled against Mr Wine in brief submission before the court presided over by Lt Gen Andrew Gutti.

This followed a spirited fight for his release by his lawyer who opposed his continued lock-up.


“The court is not an instrument of arresting. The gentleman seated right there was beaten and his rights were abused. My prayer is he should be freed and he gets medication. He needs urgent medical care,” lawyer Medard Lubega Segona, who is also the Busiro East MP, told the military court.

The state prosecution told the military court that they wanted the MP handed over to police for further investigations and possibly face charges in a civilian court.

The MP's lawyers welcomed the withdrawal of charges but objected to him being handed over to the police.

In its final ruling, the Court Martial refused to transfer the case to a civilian court, saying it would be “double jeopardy” to the lawmaker.


The reasoning was that if the state had decided to withdraw the charges against the MP in a military court, it makes no sense to subject him to the same case in a different court of law.

Accordingly, Chairman of the Court Martial, Lt Gen. Gutti, sent the state back to the drawing board just in case it still wants to punish Mr Wine.

Police and the army, who arrested Mr Wine, will have to investigate the MP and the chaos that rocked Arua Municipality by-election and lodge fresh charges, this time, in a civilian court.

Inside the court, Mr Wine, who was accused of possessing weapons of calibre reserved for the military, was seen celebrating his freedom with the defence team.

At one point, the visibly frail MP, shed tears as he was was being assisted to walk.

However, the fast-rising MP, who has challenged both President Yoweri Museveni and his arch-rival Kizza Besigye and their dominance in Uganda politics, was re-arrested moments later.


Nicholas Opio, one of Kyagulanyis’ lawyer described the court appearance as a “charade intended to continue abusing” his client’s rights.

“We arrived here at 4am we waited, they brought him in at about 9am and said they were no longer interested in pursuing the matter but the magistrate’s court will take it over,” Mr Opio said in a telephone interview from Gulu.

Notably present at the court included Mr Kyagulanyi’s family, several opposition figures including former army Commander Maj General Mugisha Muntu and the former opposition leader Winnie Kizza.

Mr Wine has been in detention since last week, along with four fellow MPs and dozens of others.

And as the case went on, Mr Museveni's convoy was seen driving past Gulu Military Barracks.

It was not immediately clear why the president was making the impromptu visit.

More than 30 other people arrested with Mr Kyagulanyi following the chaotic Arua Municipality parliamentary by-election including MP-elect, Kassiano Wadri, remain in detention and are expected in court next week.

They have been charged with treason for stoning the presidential motorcade.

Additional report by Charles M. Mpagi in Kampala.