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“Our Liberation is a Matter of Now”: An Interview with Bobi Wine

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Debating Concepts is a brand new part that goals to mirror the values and editorial ethos of the African Arguments ebook sequence, publishing engaged, typically radical, scholarship, unique and activist writing from inside the African continent and past. It’s going to supply debates and engagements, contexts and controversies, and critiques and responses flowing from the African Arguments books.

That is an abridged model of a dialogue with Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, the favored Ugandan musician-turned-opposition politician, who has risen, over the past 4 years, to develop into the chief of the East African nation’s most important opposition occasion, the Nationwide Unity Platform (NUP). We interviewed Kyagulanyi by way of WhatsApp name, as police surrounded his house, only a day earlier than his incumbent opponent within the disputed January 2021 election, Yoweri Museveni, was formally sworn in as President, thus starting his 6th time period in workplace. In our dialog, we mentioned Uganda’s 2021 election and Kyagulanyi’s determination to withdraw his petition of the electoral outcomes; his entry and subsequent rise in Ugandan opposition politics; the generational dimension of politics in Uganda and Africa extra broadly; and the function and affect of america in Uganda’s home politics.

Luke Melchiorre (LM): In January, the Electoral Fee declared President Museveni the winner of Uganda’s presidential election. You instantly alleged that the outcomes of the election have been an “absolute fraud” and promised to launch video proof to assist your claims and you continue to haven’t conceded defeat. Do you continue to consider that you just received January’s election?

Bobi Wine (BW): I positively received the January election, and the proof are the declaration types that have been collected from all around the nation. Regardless that, in lots of areas individuals weren’t allowed to vote. And sure, in lots of areas, the outcomes have been modified by the regime. However even within the face of a lot irregularities in accordance with the declaration types that we have been capable of gather, we [defeated] Common Museveni [by] 4.19%. It may have been a lot, way more. However however, we [defeated] him. So, I’m positive that I received the election.

LM: In case you are positive that you just received the election, why did you determine to withdraw the petition difficult the outcomes?

BW: I withdrew the petition difficult the vote as a result of the courtroom system demonstrated the best stage of bias. I used to be not allowed to tender all the proof that I received. Video proof of troopers and cops pre-ticking poll papers in favour of Common Museveni. Lots of my brokers have been arrested and we weren’t allowed to even entry [our detained agents to acquire] the proof [they had gathered]. The courtroom itself, the Chief Justice demonstrated the best stage of bias, as a result of he blocked me from amending my petition, one thing that has been allowed by earlier petitioners. So, it was clear that that petition was solely going for use to legitimize Museveni’s illegitimate announcement as winner and that’s why we withdrew from the courtroom, as a result of we misplaced confidence within the Chief Justice and the vast majority of the justices of the Supreme Court docket.

LM: Over the course of the election, you and your fellow opposition politicians and supporters have been subjected to unprecedented repression on the a part of the state: it was initially reported that at the least 37 individuals protesting your arrest have been killed in November 2020; lots of of your political occasion’s supporters, members and polling brokers have been arrested and plenty of stay in detention. Given this case, do you continue to consider that significant political change can come to Uganda by the poll field?

BW: To begin with, I need to say it was not solely 37 those who have been murdered on the 18th and 19th of November 2020. It was lots of of individuals. Regardless that Common Museveni solely acknowledged the homicide of 54 individuals. There have been a lot, way more than that. They continued to be murdered. They continued to be kidnapped. Such as you talked about, [the] unprecedented repression, and all of the injustices and oppression, and human rights abuses that proceed even to the current day, in reality, the current hour. I nonetheless consider that change is feasible, however I’m not change solely on the poll. I’m trying on the individuals of Uganda, I’m calling on the individuals of Uganda to say themselves, as a result of this isn’t the primary time Common Museveni is dropping an election. However once more, it’s not the primary time that he’s forcing himself on the individuals of Uganda.

LM: You have got been very vocal about your admiration for radical African leaders, like Thomas Sankara, who have been deeply dedicated to pan-African and socialist concepts. But, by your personal admission, your occasion, the Nationwide Unity Platform’s political programme, with its emphasis on bettering service supply and good governance, and upholding the rule of regulation, is comparatively average. How would you describe your personal politics and that of your occasion, NUP?

BW: In the beginning, I salute Sankara. And I salute many different leaders, not as a result of we’ve got the identical political ideology. I salute them for looking for his or her individuals and I salute them for remodeling a couple of issues: for empowering girls and for effecting actual change in a really brief time. Nonetheless, the scenario in Uganda, and our circumstances and context are totally different from that of Burkina Faso and certainly many different international locations. However like I mentioned we’re average, as a result of we’re formed by the point and the challenges [that confront us]. And we need to be as versatile as doable, so that everyone feels empowered, all people feels equal, and all people’s concepts really feel accommodated within the new Uganda that we envision. 


LM: I need to discuss your historical past with politics. How do you assume rising up in Kamwokya throughout the battle of the 1980s in Uganda influenced your personal political worldview?

BW: Nicely, it influenced my political worldview, to begin with, by depriving me, [because] I grew up in a society, in a group that was disadvantaged. I grew up with a single mom within the ghetto, within the slums of Kamwokya. That related me a lot with different individuals, however it taught me to share the pains of different individuals and considered one of my wishes is to make sure that we alter the trajectories, that we alter the circumstances of individuals. I entered into the political area, not as a typical politician, however as a pacesetter, as a revolutionary; as somebody that desired to affect and encourage different Ugandans to get politically concerned within the operating of their nation and the transformation of their lives and the lives of those that are like them.

LM: Your father was concerned in opposition politics in Uganda throughout your childhood. Are you able to inform us just a little about his political profession? How did his engagement in politics affect your personal?

BW: My father was concerned in opposition politics and so was my grandfather. My grandfather was a part of a insurgent group that took over areas of Buganda [Kyagulanyi’s home region] and he labored hand-in-hand with Common Museveni. Sadly, he was killed by the Obote authorities, the federal government that Museveni overthrew. He was killed for being a insurgent, for being a Museveni sympathizer. And my father misplaced all the pieces that the household had. He was sentenced to loss of life. Fortuitously, he was pardoned when the Museveni authorities took over. However that affected my life, as a result of when my elder siblings have been rising up, they have been rising up in a lifetime of windfall. Nonetheless, as a result of I used to be born in 1982, in the midst of the conflict, by the point I turned six, we had kind of misplaced all the pieces. So, I needed to scratch. That influenced me, as a result of it positioned me within the lifetime of want, within the lifetime of luck.

To say that my father’s political life impressed or influenced mine, I might say that that’s not correct. As a result of, even once I was rising up, my mom all the time suggested me and my different siblings to maintain out of politics, as a result of it was politics that had precipitated all of the loses that our household had confronted. Nonetheless, my entry into politics was extra out of desperation.

LM: I wished to speak just a little bit about that entry. In 2015, you have been approached by the Museveni authorities to document a tune “Tubonga Nawe”, which interprets into English as “We’re with you”. Is it true that you just have been supplied half a billion Ugandan shillings to take part? Why did you flip this supply down?

BW: I turned that provide down, as a result of my music shouldn’t be on the market. My conscience shouldn’t be on the market. After all, my music is enterprise. And I might say my companies are on the market, as a result of I receives a commission to carry out, to sing about merchandise and the like. Nonetheless, I solely do what I consider in. It was morally not proper for me to sing praises for a dictator that had impoverished my nation for 30 years [by] then, and that’s the reason I made a decision to not be a part of that, and I respectfully turned them down.

LM: Did this incident and the 2016 election have an effect in your eventual determination to enter formal politics? What impressed you to run within the Kyadondo-East by-election in June 2017?

BW: Sure, positive. I might say that no sooner had I turned down that provide from the regime then I began dealing with refined financial repression. I used to be slapped with exorbitant tax payments, and a few of my companies have been strangled right here and there. However once more, it additional pointed to me that we’re those we’ve been ready for. In 2016, I used to be fairly sufficiently old to see the betrayal of those who we thought would stand for the unvoiced. The intellectuals of our nation had really turned out to be customers, in reality, misusers of the individuals. And I assumed it was essential for me to get entangled. I had all alongside been singing and inspiring individuals, particularly younger individuals, to get entangled. However there was no higher option to encourage them [than through one’s actions] – not explaining however demonstrating [it].

LM: I need to discuss Individuals Energy and the Nationwide Unity Platform, however earlier than I get there: you shocked many political consultants in Uganda, by successful in a enormous landslide within the Kyadondo East constituency. What, if something, made your method to campaigning totally different from the opposite candidates throughout that marketing campaign?

BW: Nicely, I used to be actual. I used to be not a politician. I used to be a typical man. I discovered myself representing so many individuals’s ideas, by presenting myself as a typical particular person, not as, “skilled politician”. I represented the downtrodden, the poor, the unemployed, the sidelined, the excluded, the younger individuals, the offended, the hungry, who’re really the bulk, greater than 80% of our inhabitants. They noticed their plight in me. And likewise, having adopted me all through my music profession and listening to my lyrics for greater than a decade and a half, they noticed that they had lastly gotten considered one of their very own.

LM: What does the “rope-a-dope” type to campaigning confer with?

BW: [Laughs] The rope-a-dope refers back to the casual means of doing issues, the unconventional means, the weird means, the widespread man means, the unacademic means, that’s the rope-a-dope type.

LM: How essential was the Age Restrict Debate of 2017 in galvanizing the opposition and your personal political strain group, Individuals Energy?

BW: The Age Restrict, for my part, was probably the most uniting factor for Ugandans towards the Museveni dictatorship, as a result of to anyone that was nonetheless doubting Museveni’s dictatorial tendencies, this was the straw that broke the camel’s again. As a result of it got here out very clearly that Common Museveni won’t ever relinquish energy; that Common Museveni was meaning to be President for all times. [Because] I discovered myself in parliament, I stood agency along with different Members of Parliament who have been, by the best way, from each opposition events and the ruling occasion. Coming collectively has been our power. When the parliament lastly handed that invoice making it into regulation [removing presidential age limits from the constitution and opening the way for Museveni to run in 2021], we gave Museveni a clean cheque to be president endlessly. That was once I made the choice that if no one was going to problem this man, I, on behalf of my era, will problem him.

LM: While you talk about Individuals Energy, who’re “the individuals” that you’re referring to?

BW: I’m referring to all people. I’m referring to the widespread individuals, the boda-boda riders, the scholars, the attorneys, the docs, the farmers, the house-helps. These younger people who find themselves over 80% of our inhabitants, however they’re disenfranchised. We derive the title Individuals Energy, Our Energy from Article 1 of our structure, which declares that every one energy belongs to the individuals. So, we wished to speak that to all of the individuals of Uganda; to allow them to know that really they’ve the ability, they solely have to train it.

LM: In July 2020, you shocked many in Uganda, together with the federal government, by taking up your personal political occasion, the Nationwide Unity Platform (NUP). Why did you’re feeling the necessity to be a part of a political occasion simply previous to the 2021 election? What may NUP give you that your earlier strain group, Individuals Energy, couldn’t? 

BW: Nicely, like it’s clear that I don’t do politics alone. We’ve got to do it collectively. Whereas I do know that strain teams and political actions are supplied for within the regulation, we needed to discover one thing that unifies us, a typical image, and a typical agenda. And since enterprise in parliament is formal, we needed to formalize in such a means. We might have wished to register the Individuals Energy motion as a political occasion, however for greater than a 12 months we have been blocked by the regime. Orders have been issued that the Individuals Energy motion couldn’t be registered as a political occasion. And Common Museveni made positive to affect all different political events that we had been working along with, notably the Democratic Social gathering and the Discussion board for Democratic Change, to disengage and distance themselves from myself and the Individuals Energy motion. I had hoped to run [for president] below the Democratic Social gathering, however the then president of Democratic Social gathering denied us that chance and so did the Discussion board for Democratic Change. That’s the reason we, below excessive concealment, went forward to affix the Nationwide Unity Platform, which later elected me to be its President and chief, after which I invited plenty to affix me.

LM: The Nationwide Unity Platform carried out very properly within the final election turning into the main occasion of the opposition. NUP did particularly properly in your house area of Buganda. A few of your critics each in authorities and within the opposition have used this success to accuse your occasion of being an ethnic or a tribal occasion. How do you reply to such criticisms or characterizations?

BW: I’ll say that these accusations and criticisms have come from Common Museveni. I’ll ask this to those who are criticizing us for having a lot assist from the place I come from: since when did it develop into tribal for one to be supported of their house space? I’ll remind all people that the Secretary-Common of the Nationwide Unity Platform shouldn’t be from my tribe. Three of our Deputy Presidents aren’t from my tribe and the vast majority of the management of the Nationwide Unity Platform shouldn’t be from my tribe. It has been a behavior for Common Museveni, like all dictators, to show one thing that he has been doing and use it to focus on his adversaries. It’s referred to as reverse tribalism and that’s precisely what President Museveni has been practising.

LM: Whereas the estimates differ, someplace round 77% of Uganda’s inhabitants is beneath the age of 30. Previously, you’ve got claimed to characterize a “generational trigger” in Ugandan politics, and also you even prompt that the final election pitted the “Fb era” of your supporters towards the “Facelift era” of the Museveni elite. How essential do you assume the generational dimension proved to be in January’s election?

BW: The generational dimension was there for everyone to see. As you’ll keep in mind that the 2021 election, particularly the campaigns, weren’t one thing to name a presidential marketing campaign. It was kind of a conflict. As a result of I went into these campaigns placing on a bulletproof vest and a ballistic helmet for cover. I survived quite a few assassination makes an attempt, notably surviving gun photographs 3 times when bullets have been fired at my automobile and considered one of them went by my windscreen; it was the grace of god that saved me. So, I might say that Common Museveni was and continues to be afraid of the younger individuals of this nation, who’re the bulk, who end up in numbers to assist us and certainly to vote.

LM: Do you assume your relative success within the 2021 election in Uganda can supply a mannequin to opposition events in different African international locations, with related demographic profiles, who’re dealing with related political obstacles?

BW: Actually! Our message was and continues to be, not just for the individuals of Uganda, however for the individuals of Africa and the world. Africa is probably the most youthful continent, and Uganda particularly is the youngest, really second youngest nation after Guinea. It has been a message from us to the younger individuals to rise to the event and use their numbers to find out their future, properly figuring out that they’re caught in a non-functioning Africa, the place the largely senile leaders are presiding over a younger inhabitants. So, it’s upon the younger individuals of Africa to rise to the event and be those to channel and decide their future. It has been our message not just for Uganda, however Africa and the world over.

LM: The Day by day Monitor reported right now that President Museveni just lately hinted he won’t signal the newly enacted Sexual Offences Act, which might amongst different issues additional criminalize homosexuality in Uganda and set 10-year jail phrases for offenders. In 2014, you have been denied a visa to the go to the UK after LGBTQ advocates accused you of inciting homophobic assaults together with your lyrics. I do know that over the past seven years, your place on these points has modified significantly to the purpose the place President Museveni has referred to as you “an agent of overseas pursuits” and mentioned that “homosexuals are very proud of Bobi Wine”. Are you able to discuss what your place is on LGBTQ rights in Uganda right now and the way and why that place has advanced?

BW: Nicely like several human being, you already know, I’m sure not solely by my ideas as a person, however by ideas which are generated by all varied individuals. That explains why Common Museveni has been attacking me and claiming I’m being supported by homosexuals and foreigners. It has been Common Museveni’s means of doing issues. I’ve mentioned, and I’ll say once more, I’m for human rights, and no matter individuals’s divergent ideas, I consider that it’s my responsibility, as a pacesetter, to defend the rights of all people, even these which are totally different from me.

LM: You have got been important of america’ historic assist of the Museveni regime, or “America’s Favourite African Strongman”, as you referred to as him within the New York Instances in July 2020. In a really perfect world, what function, if any, ought to the US play in Ugandan home politics?

BW: In a really perfect world, the function of america, and certainly all growth companions, is to be sure by the values that carry us collectively because the worldwide group. Values, like respect for human rights. Values, like respect for democracy. Values, like respect for the rule of regulation. And that ought to reduce throughout no matter who we’re coping with. After all, we admire the cooperation from america, however once more, we nonetheless maintain america to dwell by their values. We’re conscious that numerous navy assist is being given to Uganda to the tune of just about a billion {dollars} yearly.[i] However once more, this assist is clearly used for the repression of [Ugandan] individuals, for the homicide of individuals, for the disrespect of democracy, for abuse of rights of residents, tortures, abductions, title it. We’ve got already referred to as upon america to carry Uganda accountable and make the rule of regulation and respect for human rights and democracy a pre-condition for cooperation. These are the identical values that we additionally need to be held accountable for, as a result of these are common values. These are values that maintain us collectively as members of the worldwide group.

LM: Lastly, as issues presently stand, what do you assume your political future holds? Do you plan to run for the presidency once more in 2026?

BW: Thanks. To begin with, I have to let you know that I have a look at the long run, not the political future. Similar to I discussed, I’m not a politician. I’m a typical Ugandan, a musician, that’s all my function. That’s all my duty. Similar to I’m encouraging the docs, the farmers, the lecturers, the troopers, all people to get actively concerned and play their function. Both by operating for positions, or by supporting these with the suitable agenda for his or her individuals, or by educating and spreading the phrase. So, coming to your query of whether or not I intend to run once more in 2026, it’s till the individuals of Uganda have the suitable to say their voice that’s when elections are going to make sense. I ran for president and I received, and it’s me who is meant to be sworn in tomorrow. However sadly utilizing the navy, and utilizing the truth that he has usurped all of the powers from the establishments of Uganda, Common Museveni is swearing himself in having put all people else at gunpoint. As we communicate proper now, my house continues to be surrounded by the navy, placing me successfully below home arrest. The navy has surrounded each city right here in Uganda, attempting to subjugate the individuals of Uganda into silence. That’s what is going on now. So, we can not discuss 2026, when we’ve got a president to take care of day-after-day, yearly, each month. The truth is, each hour that Museveni continues to rule over our nation, we proceed to sink down the drain. Our liberation shouldn’t be a matter of 2026, our liberation is a matter of now.

Finish Be aware

[i] Based on the US State Division, the US authorities supplies vital growth and safety help to Uganda, with a complete help finances exceeding $970 million per 12 months, as of December 2019.


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