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We are removing a dictator

Will Bobi Vine be Uganda’s next president?

By Ricky Browne

#WeAreRemovingaDictator was trending in the UK on Twitter today, with more than 17,000 tweets… and it had nothing to do with the current tribulations of US President Donald Trump.

The so-called dictator in question is the President of Uganda Yoweri Kaguta Tibuhaburwa Museveni.

Its not often that anything to do with Uganda is trending on Twitter in the UK. So why now? When it comes to dictators from Uganda, Idi Amin seems to get most of the attention – even being depicted in several movies, including The Last King of Scotland (2006) and more Entebbe (2018), which recently played on British television.

Idi Amin and some of his medals

But Amin is history, and today many Ugandans want to see the back of Museveni.

That day may not be far away as Uganda will hold the first round of its general election on January 14th, with Museveni trying to win a sixth term in office. Previous elections didn’t really pass the smell test – and it looks like this one will be no exception.

Up against Museveni is the audacious Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine.

But like how Jamaica’s Prime Minister Michael Manley locked up some of his opponents  on trumped-up charges before the 1976 election, Museveni is doing something similar.

Last week the Ugandan police reportedly arrested several of Wine’s supporters and members of his campaign team. Many of them displayed wounds and stated that they had been tortured while in prison.

ABOUT MUSEVENI

Museveni has been in power as president since 1986, and actually was part of the rebellion that first removed Idi Amin in 1979 and then Milton Obote in 1985.

Still going strong at 76 is Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni

He has so far avoided the constitutional restrictions on him extending his time in office two times – once in 2005 when he introduced constitutional amendments to remove the presidential term limits, and then in 2017 when he removed the presidential age limit.

Even so, at 76 years old, Museveni is still two years younger than Joe Biden who is scheduled to become president on January 20.

At the time of his swearing in in 1985, Museveni promised democracy for Uganda.

“The people of Africa, the people of Uganda, are entitled to a democratic government. It is not a favour from any regime. The sovereign people must be the public, not the government”, he said.[

Queen Elizabeth II is the world’s longest-serving head of state

Museveni is one of the longest-serving African presidents, behind Paul Biya, President of Cameroon and in power since 1975  and Teodoro Mbasogo President of Equatorial Guinea who has been in power since 1979.. But Museveni is still years being the world’s longest serving Head of State, Queen Elizabeth II, who has been on the throne since 1952.

ABOUT BOBI WINE

Could Bobi Wine be the 10th President of Uganda?

Bobi Wine, whose real name is Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, is seen while giving an interview to Associated Press at his home,Magere in Kampala, Uganda Monday, July 15, 2019. Photo: AP/Ronald Kabuubi

Born in 1982, Wine is a musician who appears to be taking a page out of the book of Michel Joseph Martelly, the popular singer otherwise known as Sweet Micky, who was President of Haiti from 2011 to 2016.

Wine has 992,000 followers on Twitter, and says about himself on Twitter “One Ghetto child who has something to say through Music. Ugandan legislator representing Kyadondo East constituency in the 10th @Parliament_UG”.

In one of his most recent tweets, he spoke out about the tactics of the Ugandan government in arresting his team.

Bobi Wine

“The army has this morning raided my home, arrested all my security guards and anyone they could see around my premises. No reason for the arrest was given. Such acts of impunity are all kicks of a dying horse,” Wine tweeted, getting 16,000 likes and 1.100 comments.

He followed that up with a more explicit tweet.

“Gen. Museveni needs to tell the world what he intends to do in this election that he should arrest my entire campaign team, my assistants & supporters. Last night, the military yet again arrested so many friends and comrades; two days to the election! Others living as fugitives!”, he tweeted.

Born in a Kampala ghetto, Wine’s music is clearly influenced by Jamaican and its reggae/dancehall, but also a part of the Afrobeat sound..

 He sang about many social issues, including ghetto life, birth control and sanitation and condemning political violence.

Soldiers from the Ugandan army

Wearing dread locks and talking to a TV host about his pride in coming from the ghetto, he says “That is where I come from. That’s Uganja baby,” linking more to Jamaican culture, and its ganja – marijuana.

When he decided to run for parliament — as an independent — he shaved off his locks, to show he was serious. With his large support from his life in music, he skilfully transferred that to politics make himself a political superstar.

Barely a week after arriving in parliament, Wine had his resolve tested when Museveni moved to have the presidential age limits in the constitution removed, so that he could run for a sixth term in 2021. Wine objected strongly.

Bobi Wine had locks before becoming an MP

When parliament moved to remove the Presidential age limits, which would allow Museveni to run for a sixth term, he released a video that said to those MPs who supported the act, that “They are traitors”.

For that he was put in jail.

“We can not allow a dictatorship, because if this passes then we are doomed” he said in his campaign against the move.

A view of Kampala, capital of Uganda. Photo: Graham Hobster

For his trouble he was forcibly removed from parliament and grenades were thrown at his house, where he lived with his wife and four children.

“We either win this struggle or we die trying” he said.

He recorded a song called Freedom, which showed him in a jail. The song was released when he was in a plane on the way to South Africa for a concert, so that he couldn’t be arrested.

Freedom comes to those who fight, not those who cry, Wine says.

“We are fighting for freedom” goes the main verse of the song. “What was the purpose of the liberation when we can’t have a peaceful transition?” Wine sings.

The video has been viewed 690,591 on YouTube.

A rural area in Uganda.

When Wine returned to Uganda he was not arrested, probably because of the size of his popular support, and he sued the police and government.

“They are charging me for opening the eyes of the people, especially the youth,” he said.

“Can’t you see that the president is too old?” he sang on stage and called for the constitution to be protected.

But despite all his efforts, the age limit was removed any way.

Wine then started the People Power Movement and brought opposition politicians together.

But then in August  2018, Wine was captured at a political rally and taken to a military prison, where he was possibly tortured. His driver was shot dead in the seat that he had just been sitting in one minute before. That, he claims, was an assassination attempt.

Wine has taken to wearing a bullet proof vest to protect himself from assassination

Since then Wine has been arrested several more times. But each time he has been released. His popularity among the people seems unstoppable. In July he assumed the leadership of the National Unity Platform, to take the party into the elections.

In November Wine was arrested yet again for violating Covid-19 protocols at a political rally. And then on December 30 he was arrested yet again, at another rally.

A village in Uganda :Photo: Antoine Pluss

At first people didn’t take him seriously. But it turned out he had a message, and wanted to demonstrate that people from the ghetto couldn’t only aspire to music stardom, but could actually help to develop the country through parliament.

“You can count on me…. If parliament can’t come to the ghetto, then the ghetto will come to the parliament” he said around the time of his first election to parliament.

 But will Museveni allow this upstart, popular or not, to remove him from office?

Stay tuned.

ABOUT UGANDA

Uganda was a British colony known as the Pearl of Africa. It gained its independence in 1962, the same year as Jamaica.

The Ugandan flag

The land-locked country has a population of about 43 million people.

Uganda is said to be one of the youngest countries on Earth, with  80 percent of the population below the age of 35 – or younger than the amount of time that Museveni has been in power. About 68 percent of the population is below the age of 24 and the country has a median age of 15.7 years.

Uganda has a young population. Photo: Roman Nguyen

The population is fast-growing, with a fertility rate of 5.8 children per woman – the world’s highest.

The country depends of agriculture, and particularly the production of coffee, for its economy.

Services are the largest part of the economy, however, taking up 50.7 percent of the economy, compared to 28 per cent for agriculture and 21 percent for industry.

About 21 percent of the population is below the poverty rate.

Only 22 per cent of Ugandans have access to electricity – just 10 percent in rural areas.

The country has a GDP per capita of US$2,400 approximately.

Bobi Wine on the political stage

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