KAMPALA, UGANDA - The Ugandan singer and legislator known as Bobi Wine has vowed to continue using music to denounce longtime President Yoweri Museveni. But his music increasingly faces stiff controls from the state.
Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, has been singing and entertaining Ugandans since he was a teenager.
Now 37 and a member of parliament, his songs today carry a political message. Wine says it’s time for the country’s young people to awaken and challenge Museveni.
“Our message has been primarily a message of mental emancipation. Of knowing that Ugandans are actually the owners of this country and the leaders must do everything they do in the benefit of the people, which is not the case here today,” he said.
It’s rare that Wine gets to sing these days. Since 2017, more than 120 of his planned concerts have been canceled by the police, who say his management failed to meet minimum security standards required to host revelers.
To stop his concerts, police have used arrests and tear gas to clear the crowds.
Wine’s supporters, such as Kifampa Nsambu, are not happy.
“He’s singing about the Ugandan who is suffering, and he’s talking about the reality on ground. Those who are living in posh houses and posh cars, moving in AC (air-conditioned) cars, they do not feel the situation that is having here. But, it’s the government that is destroying the peace that is here,” Nsambu said.
Under house arrest, the musician once again turned to his music to send a message to the police.
His message? I am fighting for you and not against you.
Days later, he was arrested again on charges of unlawfully engaging in a protest against Uganda’s 2018 social media tax. He was released on bail.
Message part of appeal
Political analyst Miria Matembe says the message of Wine’s music helped get him elected to the legislature.
“They elected him because they believe in what he stands for. Now, why should you? Why should you brutalize him, torture him, simply because you fear, that he’s threatening your position as a president of Uganda,” Matembe said.
Solomon Silwanyi, deputy chief whip of the ruling National Resistance Movement party, says he does not have a problem with Wine as long as he can differentiate between music and politics.
“Of course, as a musician I love Bobi Wine so much. I love the music. I support his music. But, as a president of Uganda, of course I don’t support him. I support President Museveni because I believe he still has a vision for this country,” Silwanyi said.
During the 2011 election campaign, Museveni’s team created a song off a rhyme he made during a speech.
Museveni isn’t competing with Wine on the music stage, but he will have to test his popularity next to Wine in the political arena if the legislator decides to run for president in 2021.