CAIRO — Two opposition candidates in Uganda who are preparing to challenge the country’s strongman president in an election next February were detained on Tuesday as they went to register as candidates, the latest indication of a tough fight to come as they seek to unseat President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power since 1986.
One candidate, Bobi Wine, 38, a musician-turned-lawmaker who is the most prominent challenger to the president, was dragged from his car after he submitted his nomination papers in the capital, Kampala. The other, Patrick Amuriat, was detained at the headquarters of his party, the Forum for Democratic Change, the party said on Twitter.
The detentions are the latest examples of the roadblocks facing opposition leaders and movements in African countries as they try to challenge entrenched powers. In neighboring Tanzania, opposition leaders who challenged president John Magufuli in the polls on Oct. 28 were arrested when they called for protests of what they called a stolen election.
In the West African nation of Guinea, authorities placed opposition candidate Cellou Dalein Diallo under house arrest after he contested the results of the October vote. And in Ethiopia, Jawar Mohammed, the leading critic of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, was charged with terrorism in September.
In Uganda, both prospective candidates were prevented by the police on Tuesday from going to their party offices to address their supporters and set out their campaign platforms. The police said the candidates had defied orders to limit the size of their crowds in the pandemic, and failed to comply with plans for police to escort them to the registration center.
After changing the age-limit provisions in the Constitution, Mr. Museveni, who is 76, is running for a sixth time and is due to face nine other candidates in the February polls. The country’s electoral commission had designated Monday and Tuesday as the dates for the candidates to submit their nominations.
Both of the candidates will still be on February’s ballot.
The detention of Mr. Wine — a popular musician whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi and who was elected to Parliament in 2017 — was not the first time he has faced the wrath of the authorities. The police have arrested him several times, severely beat him in custody and even killed his driver. His party offices have been raided, including last month, when the authorities confiscated election materials.
Mr. Wine has drawn huge support in recent years, particularly among young people who are disillusioned with the corruption, unemployment, poverty and crackdowns on free speech that have come to define the East African nation under Mr. Museveni.
When he came to power, Mr. Museveni was seen by Ugandans and the West as a source of stability in a nation that had undergone years of war and political strife. But his government has been dogged by controversies over his involvement in wars in neighboring countries, the passage of anti-gay laws, his expansion of digital surveillance, and rising food and fuel prices.
On Monday, Mr. Wine said the police had sent him a statement saying that they were going to escort him to the nomination venue. But after he filed his nomination papers on Tuesday, he was detained after dozens of security officers surrounded the vehicle carrying him and his aides.
In a series of live videos on his Facebook page, a security officer can be seen using a lug wrench to break the window next to the front passenger seat. After a scuffle with those inside the car, officers opened the door and dragged away Mr. Wine, who was sitting in the back.
“Jesus, this is what the police is doing,” he could be heard saying before being lugged from the car. “We will not be violent.”
As security vehicles whisked him away, live videos on Facebook showed his supporters involved in a car chase with them.
After being blocked from going to his offices, Mr. Wine was taken to his residence, where he addressed his supporters. Defiant and raising his voice, he turned around to show that his suit jacket was torn and pointed to injuries that he said some of his associates had sustained in the incident.
Mr. Amuriat’s detention took place at his party’s headquarters in Kampala, and officers brought him to the grounds of Kyambogo University, where he was to submit his nomination papers. He did not have his shoes or papers on him when he arrived at the center, as he pointed out to the local news media.
After the detentions, Muhoozi Kainerugaba, Mr. Museveni’s son, who is also a senior adviser to the president, tweeted a photo of himself with Mr. Wine, writing: “You can NEVER intimidate us. We are much stronger than you can ever imagine to be. If you want to fight we will simply defeat you.”