The electoral campaign in Uganda has started against a backdrop of tensions between President Yoweri Museveni and his main opponent Bobi Wine. Over the years, the star has become a real problem for Ugandan number one’s power.
The electoral campaign ahead of the presidential election on January 14, 2021, in Uganda, has started against a backdrop of heightened tensions between the government of President Yoweri Museveni and opponent Bobi Wine. The 38-year-old politician’s arrest about two weeks ago sparked a wave of protests in which at least 37 people were killed across the country.
Released while being indicted for “acts likely to spread an infectious disease” and violations of “the rules on Covid-19”, Bobi Wine has promised to continue the fight against President Museveni, who will run for his sixth term in 2021.
Pop music in Parliament
Bobi Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, was born on February 12, 1982, in Nkozi hospital, where his late mother worked.
He grew up in the slum of Kamwookya, northeast of Kampala, the capital of Uganda. Chorister in a church, he gained admission to the Makerere University, where he studied music and theater before embarking on music in the early 2000s.
He was a resounding success and became one of Uganda’s most famous artists, earning him the nickname “Ghetto President” for singing about growing up in a slum.
Over time, a flamboyant singer became a defender of the ordinary Ugandan, becoming the symbol of the struggle against social injustice. His songs deal with the many problems faced by the young Ugandan population.
In April 2017, Bobi Wine entered politics and was elected Member of Parliament in the Kyadondo East County constituency, defeating candidates from Museveni’s party (National Resistance Movement, NRM) and the main opposition formation (Forum for Democratic Change, FDC).
As soon as he joined Parliament in 2017, Bobi Wine quickly became a prominent critic of President Yoweri Museveni. Since then, he has continuously been in the crosshairs of Ugandan power. More than 120 of his concerts in 2017 were canceled by the security forces, who did not hesitate to use tear gas and water cannons to disperse his rallies. Every move he makes is scrutinized under a magnifying glass. A draft censorship bill, also known as the “anti-Bobi Wine law”, shows just how much of a threat the young politician is to the authorities.
The legislation imposes various restrictions on artists and filmmakers, including requiring them to seek government approval for their song lyrics and when they wish to perform abroad. They cannot shoot a music video or travel abroad to perform because the Ugandan authorities do not give them the necessary access.
Tortured, beaten, his house targeted by a bomb attack, Bobi Wine has become the bugbear of his government. This did not stop the singer-member of Parliament from continuing to campaign against the Ugandan government.
David vs. Goliath
At 76, “M7” (Yoweri Museveni’s nickname) is the only President most Ugandans know, in a country where one in two citizens is under 16. When he came to power in 1986, during a civil war that completely destroyed Uganda, Boni Wine was only 4 years old. Until the young man entered the Ugandan political arena in 2017, not many people had managed to worry the Kampala strongman, who has now ruled the country for almost 34 years. From this perspective, the irruption of Bobi Wine in the political ring against the President was a serious problem for the regime.
Wine could be Museveni’s grandson. In sub-Saharan Africa in general, and in the Great Lakes, this has never been seen before. It’s a David versus Goliath fight that puts Ugandan power in a delicate position. By mobilizing the state’s means to crush the young opponent, who has only his courage and willingness to change to offer, the regime has somehow given the impression of fearing him.