When those in power are reluctant to the idea of alternative voices they suppress it with all their might. When power is deeply entrenched by those who possess it, they hardly entertain the idea of opposing forces. Ugandan Afrobeats star and lawmaker Bobi Wine has had to endure the wrath of the system in Uganda, and the brutal treatment he has been subjected to has been widely condemned.
There has been a crackdown on opposition in Uganda, but Bobi Wine has received the harshest treatment. Bobi Wine, real name Robert Kyagulanyi, was charged with treason in a civilian court after a military court released him. Just ahead of last week’s by-election in Arua, Bobi Wine was arrested together with 30 other people. President Museveni was campaigning in Arua, and the authorities accused opposition lawmakers of inciting supporters to throw stones at the president’s convoy.
Authorities say Bobi Wine’s hotel room had weapons and ammunition. The charges are widely viewed as being politically motivated since it is becoming apparent that Bobi Wine may turn out to be Museveni’s biggest challenge in Uganda. Bobi Wine’s driver was shot and killed.
There are reports by Bobi Wine’s lawyers that the lawmaker was seriously assaulted while in detention. The president and the military deny this. But when Bobi Wine was released, he was limping, amid a crowd that showed unwavering love to him, and there were signs he was visibly in pain.
After his release, he was arrested again, this time on treason charges, and will be remanded in custody until 30 August. Tensions have risen in Uganda, and protests have sparked off, as people are clearly not pleased with the suppression of dissenting voices. Other artists such as Chris Martin, Damon Albarn and Angelique Kidjo are calling for Bobi Wine’s release.
Bobi Wine’s influence
Bobi Wine is a an Afrobeats artist whose lyrics are mainly predicated on social issues and educating people. He believes in "edutainment," entertainment that educates.
"When our leaders have become misleaders and mentors have become tormentors. When freedom of expression becomes the target of oppression, opposition becomes our position," goes part of his lyrics from his song "Situka" which means "Rise up" in Luganda.
Bobi Wine has desired for a youth that is empowered, a youth with a voice, and it is with the youth where he commands his huge support. Three-quarters of Uganda’s population is under 30, and this works to his side. He once said, "I’m here to give young people confidence".
Ever since he entered politics, opposition candidates whom he endorses go on to win the elections. He might be carving his role as a kingmaker in Ugandan politics. Powerful influence, indeed.
Threat to Museveni
2021 elections are coming, and with his popularity, he may be the biggest threat to Museveni. It would not be wrong to say that Museveni is painfully aware of the popularity and influence which Bobi Wine commands.
Bobi Wine has always stood against the government excesses. He joined other activists and opposition leaders in voicing disapproval against the social media tax. Government has since backtracked and said they will review it.
It can be said with the highest degree of confidence that Bobi Wine may be Museveni’s biggest nightmare.
Header image credit: BBC