Ugandan pop star and MP Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, 36, better known as Bobi Wine, centre, in happier times before being detained.Picture: AP
KAMPALA, Uganda: A detained pop star and MP “is in a lot of pain” after suffering “severe beating” in detention, the deputy speaker of Uganda’s parliament said yesterday.

Meanwhile, dozens of high-profile global musicians including Angelique Kidjo and Chris Martin issued an open letter condemning the arrest and “vicious attack”.

“We pledge to remain vigilant about his detention and to use our voices... to raise awareness,” the musicians said.

Pressure was mounting on the government to free the young opposition figure who is challenging President Yoweri Museveni’s long rule.

Deputy speaker, Jacob Oulanyah, said Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, whose stage name is Bobi Wine, was in a “humorous” mood despite his condition.

“This should not have happened,” Oulanyah said of the beating. “It was not necessary. But it happened.”

The government denies the allegations of torture.

Ssentamu is expected to appear in a military court today. Hundreds yesterday attended a special Mass in Uganda’s main Catholic cathedral to pray for his safety and that of other detained MPs.

Ssentamu has not been seen in public since August 13, when he was campaigning in the town of Arua. Museveni was in Arua at the same time, campaigning for a rival candidate who eventually lost.

As the president was departing, authorities said, his motorcade was pelted with stones by people associated with Ssentamu and the candidate he backed, Kassiano Wadri.

Ssentamu’s driver was shot and killed, allegedly by security forces.

Ssentamu, 36, was arrested along with four other opposition MPs, three of whom face treason charges. A fifth lawmaker, Francis Zaake, has been hospitalised with injures allegedly sustained during detention.

Security forces in recent days have violently put down street protests by Ugandans demanding the release of Ssentamu, who is charged with illegal possession of firearms.

Scores were arrested in riots in Kampala on Monday, and broadcast footage showed men in military uniform beating up people, including at least two journalists.

Although Kampala was peaceful yesterday, riots were reported in the town of Jinja, on Lake Victoria.

Religious leaders have condemned the violence “in which lives are lost, people are barbarically arrested and tortured and property destroyed”. - AP