“Museveni represents the history of Uganda, I represent the future of Uganda, ” –Bobi Wine
On Thursday, 14th of January, Ugandans will go all out to vote for their next President.
Unlike previous elections which saw Kizza Besigye lose four times on a trot to President Yoweri Museveni, Ugandans have been charged to look the other way.
Museveni, 76, is twice as old as his closest competition, pop star and Member of Parliament, Robert Kyagulanyi, popularly known as Bobi Wine.
When Museveni saved Ugandans from the hands of Apollo Milton Obote in 1986, he was a hero, who had to snatch power rebelliously. By far the most significant name in the modern history of Uganda, Museveni’s 34-year reign may be facing its biggest threat yet.
Bobi Wine was barely four years years old when Museveni became President and his grandfather played critical roles in the Uganda Bush War, where the incumbent also led from the front.
2021 Presidential election has pitted both men against each other, as direct competitors and defeating Museveni in Uganda is as difficult as winning an election anywhere in the world, if not more arduous.
Since 1996 when Uganda conducted its first election under Museveni, the incumbent has won by a landslide, amassing an average of 66% of total votes from the 5 previous elections. His bullish run is however under huge threats for the first time.
Uganda, a country of about 42m people, has a massive youth population, with 75% of the country’s population in the less than 30 age bracket.
This massive youth presence has become the fuel for Bobi Wine, 38. Through his society-driven music, Wine has reached the roots and fabrics of the Ugandan youths and is a popular figure in the country. He’s seen as the saviour, the voice of the voiceless and the hope of the masses.
His political prominence was felt in 2017 when he vigorously rejected the removal of the age limit from the Ugandan constitution. As a member of Parliament, he had seen first hand how difficult the battle for the future of the country may be, and he took it on.
Donning a red cap, Wine is seen as the voice of the Ugandan ghetto dwellers, many of whom had always seen Museveni as a hero, based on his role in freeing Uganda off the shackles of dictatorial leaders.
Wine’s youthfulness and vigour represent youth, and his message has been clear to them, that the future of Uganda has to be in the hands of the youth. To many, Museveni may have done his part and it’s time to go.
The incumbent took charge of government at the age of 42, and has said, age is nothing but a number. He, however, recognises the threat posed by Wine and has stifled him at every point all the way.
Battered, bruised but unbroken, Wine and many of his supporters have been arrested several times. He accused the Ugandan Police of torture but has stayed resolute and defiant to the cause.
Museveni, taking nothing to chance, albeit in ways that least point to respect for democracy, has blocked many of the avenues through which the Ugandan people can be reached by the opposition. Yet, Wine’s popularity has waxed stronger, thanks to the social media.
Europe Behind Bobi Wine – Museveni
Museveni has accused the European Union (EU) of sponsoring Wine’s charge. He said they want to scuttle the stability the country has enjoyed under him and wants to use an “ideologically bankrupt” Wine to reach their goal.
Ugandans have shown their disagreement with Museveni, but the incumbent of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) still holds the nation in his palm, with power, tools and resources all under his watch.
Wine’s message has been crystal clear, despite criticisms over his lack of ideas in governance. His ideals, however, have been the key message behind the huge support for him.
His security and his family’s have come under the spotlight in the past few months. He has now flown his children out of Uganda in what local journalist, Andrew Kyamagero described as “the call of fatherhood”.
The Ugandan Police have been dubbed one of the most oppressive in Africa and the youths have always seen security as one of the weaknesses of Museveni’s decades-old government.
From Wine’s usual red beret, he changed to a helmet and now wears a bullet-proof vest everywhere he goes. Museveni is known for being a tough nut to crack for every opposition he faces, and if any can allude to the fact, it is Bobi Wine.
More than 50 people were killed on his campaign train between November 18 and 20, as he went round the country. He was later arrested for violation of COVID-19 rules.
A Ugandan election is beyond just Uganda. It’s also an election that gives a clear idea of what leadership of the East African region is. For decades, Museveni has been seen as a regional leader in the continent.
He has played very critical roles in the past in the region and Uganda is of economic importance to the region. That role can as well be placed on anyone who leads Uganda and some dissenting voices have been raised about the actual leadership qualities of Bobi Wine.
Thursday’s election will put many things to test, the resolve of Uganda’s youths especially, as Wine faces a man that is long known as the identity of the country, and one that is difficult to beat.
While a new President will be music to many ears in the country, Wine has gone beyond pop in his ambition. And to Ugandan youths, it’s a matter of swim or sink, rise or fall; or even, life and death but the ambition of a politician is not worth the lives of the people.