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Security forces remove the remains of a burning makeshift roadblock set by protesters supporting opposition presidential candidate Bobi Wine, in downtown Kampala, Uganda, on Nov. 18, 2020.

The Associated Press

The death toll from protests over the arrest of Ugandan opposition presidential hopeful and musician Bobi Wine has risen to 37, police said Friday. This is the country’s worst unrest in a decade, and more is expected ahead of the election early next year.

A weary-looking Wine was granted bail in the eastern town of Iganga after being arrested on Wednesday and accused of flouting COVID-19 guidelines that require presidential candidates to address less than 200 people.

“Let (President Yoweri) Museveni know that we are not slaves and we shall not accept to be slaves,” Wine said. “We shall be free.”

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The 38-year-old opposition figure, who has been arrested many times in recent years, has captured the imagination of many Ugandans with his persistent calls for Museveni to retire after 36 years in power.

His lawyers brought the torn clothes the singer wore the day of his arrest on Wednesday, when protests erupted in the capital, Kampala.

Police have said 350 people were arrested and detained throughout Kampala. Tension remained in the capital Thursday, with a heavy military and police presence.

The Uganda police pathologist and the head of police health services told journalists they had counted 37 bodies by Thursday morning.

Speaking to reporters, Security Minister Gen. Elly Tumwine warned protesters that they will be dealt with if they continue.

“This was a deliberate and preplanned move to cause chaos, because we have evidence,” Tumwine asserted. “But I want to warn those inciting violence that they will reap what they sow.”

Museveni while campaigning on Thursday said the protesters “have entered an area of fighting that we know very well. Whoever started it, will regret it. Some of these groups are being used by outsiders who don’t like stability.”

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Museveni is expected to address the nation on Sunday, his spokesman said.

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