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Ugandan Opposition Figure To Trump: Stop Providing Weapons To Government


Uganda is an important U.S. security partner, but a Ugandan opposition figure and well-known pop singer has a message for the Trump administration. Stop providing weapons to a government that he says tortured him. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Pop singer-turned-politician Bobi Wine walks with difficulty, holding a crutch with his blistered right hand a month after he was arrested at an opposition rally and, he says, brutalized by authorities. Still, he told journalists in Washington that he doesn't want to be seen as a victim but rather as a voice for Ugandans.

BOBI WINE: Even right now, we have people that are rotting in hospitals out of torture. And the least I can do is to speak out for those hundreds, if not thousands, of people that have been brutalized.

KELEMEN: Ugandan authorities accuse Wine of treason and deny he was tortured, though Wine says he was beaten so badly he needs specialized care here in the U.S. for his back.

WINE: I got injections that I don't know about. And I spent quite a long time on cuffs. They shackled both hands and legs, and my hands sweated a lot.

KELEMEN: He says he's luckier than most. A well-known musician, he was able to come to the U.S. for medical treatment and to speak out. His lawyer, Robert Amsterdam, says they'll be making the case to U.S. lawmakers and to officials to suspend military aid to Uganda.

ROBERT AMSTERDAM: It is U.S. weaponry, and it is $500 million of U.S. taxpayer money that's going to these arms that are being used against Uganda's own people.

KELEMEN: And Amsterdam says he's drawing up a list of Ugandan officials who should be put on a U.S. sanctions list. State Department officials say they have expressed concerns about reports of brutality against Ugandan members of parliament, journalists and others. And officials here say they are meeting with Bobi Wine to discuss this. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen
Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.