Troops withdraw as Uganda lifts blockade of defeated opposition leader Bobi Wine's home

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  • Following a court order, Ugandan troops have withdrawn from around the home of opposition leader Bobi Wine, ending his house arrest.
  • Foreign governments have become increasingly frustrated over long-serving President Yoweri Museveni's crackdowns on opponents.
  • The incumbent was declared winner with 59% of votes versus 35% for Wine, but the opposition rejected the result, alleging fraud.

KAMPALA – Ugandan troops have withdrawn from around the home of opposition leader and popstar Bobi Wine, ending his house arrest since a 14 January election won by long-serving President Yoweri Museveni.

With the vote behind him and fraud claims by Wine failing to gain significant traction, Museveni appears to be calculating that he can mollify pressure from Western allies to free his rival without significant risk to his power base.

The withdrawal of security forces, which the government had said were for Wine's own protection, complied with a court order on Monday. A Reuters correspondent on the scene confirmed the departure of soldiers and police from his compound in a leafy northern suburb of the capital Kampala.

A police helicopter circled low over the residence.

"That is normal, nothing to worry about. Police can fly its helicopters anywhere it wants," said Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesperson Luke Owoyesigyire.

Former guerrilla leader Museveni, 76, has long been a Western ally, receiving copious aid and sending troops to trouble spots including Somalia to fight Islamist militants.

Foreign frustration

But foreign governments have become increasingly frustrated over his crackdowns on opponents and his reluctance to cede power.

Wine, 38, had been besieged at home since voting in the presidential poll, where he rode a wave of youth disillusionment to challenge Museveni's 34-year rule.

The incumbent was declared winner with 59% of votes versus 35% for Wine, who for years denounced corruption and nepotism in his songs.

The opposition rejected the result, alleging fraud and unfair conditions, including pre-filled ballot sheets, result tallies showing impossibly high numbers of voters and harassment of opposition polling agents.

The government denies any irregularities.

Foreign pressure, from the United States to rights group Amnesty International, had been growing on Museveni to remove the restrictions at Wine's home. There have also been calls for investigations into violence and irregularities around the election, though street protests have sputtered out.

Wine is an idol to many young Ugandans who say that Museveni is out-of-touch, represses dissenters and is failing to generate enough jobs.

Museveni casts Wine as a foreign puppet and troublemaker, and insists he is the sole guarantor of political stability and economic progress in Uganda.

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