Omuntu w’abantu: How Did Bobi Wine Become an Enemy of the State

The President insisted that politics in some shows will not be tolerated

Ugandan Afro-pop star and politician Robert Kyagulanyi, better known as Bobi Wine, is currently still under house arrest after being detained by the police on Monday. This incident follows his declaration earlier in the year to challenge the Presidency in the next elections in 2021. He was arrested while leading a procession to one of his Easter concerts.

Wine had chosen to continue with plans to stage his concert on the outskirts of Kampala, despite police denying him permission to stage all of his scheduled events due to his failure to meet certain requirements.

He was also scheduled to address journalists at the venue. Wine’s concerts have been routinely blocked since October last year.

While police forced themselves into his car to arrest him, the two promoters responsible for organizing the events, Andrew Mukasa and Abbey Musinguzi, were arrested at police check- points earlier that morning.

Other promoters had met with the President prior to this to accept compensation in cash for cancelling shows associated with Wine, and to commit to removing political messages from music. “The President insisted that politics in some shows will not be tolerated and warned that he will not compensate anyone in future whose show will be cancelled because of politics,” said Tonny Ssempijja, coordinator of Uganda Music Promoters and Venue Owners Network

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After apprehending him, the police dropped Wine off at his home. On the following day, he discovered that he was under house arrest after deciding to walk to his local police station to deliver a letter notifying authorities of his call for a peaceful nationwide protest. “It is today when I attempted to move out of my home that the police told me that I am under house arrest. I was headed to Police headquarters in Naguru to deliver a notification about our planned peaceful demonstrations against police brutality, injustice and misuse of authority.” He tweeted on Tuesday morning.

Wine unsuccessfully attempted to use his legal team led by Benjamin Katana to deliver the notice. “They did not even allow us to enter. We were blocked from outside the police headquarters and ordered to leave immediately,” Mr Katana said.

Bobi Wine has earned himself the title ‘Omuntu w’abantu’, a title meaning ‘The People’s Person’ in Luganda, since coming into political office as a Member of Parliament in July 2017 with the slogan ‘People Power’. His victory as an Independent candidate in Uganda’s predominantly single party state was a feat that gained him the nation’s attention as he began to put the messages embedded in his massively popular socially conscious music into practice.

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During his time in office, he has rallied young people to protest against the Social Media Tax that sought to charge Ugandans a fee to use platforms like Whatsapp and Facebook, and has backed several independent candidates in victorious by-elections. He was also active in the violent scuffles that took place in Uganda’s Parliament as opposition MPs clashed with the ruling party in a bid to challenge the constitutional extension of President Museveni’s term.

Wine was arrested and charged with treason in August 2018 when he was suspected of being guilty of stoning President Museveni’s motorcade. His account of being tortured in police custody, and images of him hospitalized in America after fleeing Uganda due to the same incident raised his profile internationally, as global press and human rights movements began to notice him and amplify his story to the world. Young people in Uganda rallied together to protest for justice for the star.

However, the reports that Wine was tortured were dismissed by the government as ‘fake news’.

“Bobi Wine is the voice of the people, he is bold enough to say and do all the things that the average young person in Uganda would like to express but can’t” said a source who chose to remain anonymous. “If the government were to harm him, we the young people would be ready to go into the bush to fight”.

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In an emailed statement to CNN commenting on Wine’s political journey and future ambitions, spokesman for Ugandan government Ofwono Opondo stated, “Wine is being presumptive, perhaps to ride on Museveni’s name to gain some international attention. Otherwise, it is his right to do so if he really wants to run for the Presidency of Uganda”.

Uganda is ranked as one of the two countries with the world’s youngest population. With 78% of the nation’s population aged under the age of 30, Uganda’s average age is 15. The country’s President Yoweri Museveni has been in office for 33 years, and is set to fulfill a life presidency term. The country’s ruling party National Resistance Movement occupies 293 of the 426 seats in the Ugandan Parliament.


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