KAMPALA, UGANDA - The return of Ugandan legislator Robert Kyagulanyi, better known as singer Bobi Wine, has excited his supporters and raised their hopes for political change.
Hundreds of young people gathered Thursday at Kyagulanyi's home in the Wakiso district outside of Kampala. Their songs and chants made clear who they want Uganda's next leader to be.
Beaten but not broken, the 36-year-old Kyagulanyi told VOA he cannot think about the 2021 presidential election at this time.
"Right now, we are actually slaves in our own country," he said. "We cannot speak freely. We cannot even wave to each other freely. So, if we have such impunity, we must think about that impunity and how to deal with. It's now or never. It has never happened before that so many people are so united and are speaking with one voice. This should not be taken for granted."
Kyagulanyi returned to Uganda on Thursday, after receiving medical treatment in the United States. He sustained injuries last month when police arrested him following protests against President Yoweri Museveni in the town of Arua.
Nakuya Aida, who was among those chanting her support for Kyagulanyi, sees this as the start of a movement.
"This is the process, leading us to 2021," she said. "We are hoping change through elections. We are spreading the gospel of people power all over the country. So, there is nothing like asking what's next. We are already in the transitional process without tear gas, without worry, but with the vigor, with all the courage."
Political analyst Anna Adeke Ebaju says young people are tired of hearing the older generation praise the current government for bringing peace after years of conflict. She argues that the younger generation has reached its breaking point.
"We are talking about young people who can't get jobs. We are talking about systems that we need to build so that they work for all of us. For our sake as young people, I hope that we are preserved until we can finish this revolution that is already in its primary stages. But we would never want, of course, our country to be marred by more bloodshed," she said.
Government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo says the ruling National Resistance Movement created expectations through its political promises.
"NRM government is not able to create for them opportunities at a faster pace," he said. "And, therefore, there is genuine discontent and yearning, particularly opportunity for gainful employment. But that cannot be achieved by the kind of emotional wave of Bobi Wine."
Kyagulanyi and several opposition colleagues are still facing charges of treason in connection with the incident in Arua, when someone threw a stone at the president's motorcade, shattering a car window.