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Uganda Decides: Between The Pop Star & The Life President

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“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.

Read: Uganda Beefs Up Security Ahead Presidential Election

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.

International Concern

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.

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Israeli Billionaire Jailed 5 Years, Fined $56.48M over Guinea’s Bribery Scandal

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A court in Switzerland has sentenced the billionaire Israeli businessman, Beny Steinmetz, to five years in prison for bribery in relation to acquiring mining rights to lucrative iron-ore deposits in Guinea.

Some of the money was said to have been transferred through Swiss banks.

A Swiss criminal court on Friday found billionaire Israeli businessman Beny Steinmetz guilty of corruption and also ordered him to pay 50 million Swiss francs ($56.48 million) fine.

The judgment is a landmark verdict in one of the mining world’s most high-profile legal disputes.

Delivering judgment, the judge, Alexandra Banna, said, “It is clear from what has been presented that the rights were obtained through corruption and that Steinmetz cooperated with others to obtain them.’’

The court, she said, had therefore sentenced him “to a deprivation of liberty for five years”, in line with the prosecutors’ request.

The court also convicted and sentenced Steinmetz’s co-defendants, a French man and a Belgian woman.

They were also found guilty of corruption and were given a 3-1/2 year jail sentence each and a two-year suspended sentence, respectively.

The judgment followed a two-week trial of Steinmetz and his co-defendants variously accused of bribery and corruption.

The convicts were accused of conspiring and paying or arranging payment of $10 million in bribes.

The bribes were aimed at influencing officials so as to obtain exploration permits for the world’s richest untapped deposits of iron ore in Guinea.

They were also accused of forging documents to cover it up through a web of shell companies and bank accounts.

They had denied all the charges before the court.

Central to Steinmetz’s defence was his claim that he was not involved in the day-to-day running of Beny Steinmetz Group Resources (BSGR).

He described himself as the owner and company ambassador but not the boss of the group that employs some 100,000 members of staff.

Steinmetz said he would appeal the judgment.

“It is a big injustice,” he told reporters outside the Geneva courthouse.

The battle for control of the iron ore, buried in the remote Simandou mountain range of West Africa’s Guinea, has triggered probes and litigation around the world.

This has also thwarted efforts to extract the lucrative commodity.

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Two Million Displaced in Sahel Violence – UN

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The Sahel has reached a ‘grim milestone’ with no fewer than two million people displaced by unrelenting violence, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on Friday.

The Sahel, which includes Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger and Nigeria’s extreme north, is home to some of the world’s least developed countries.

The UNHCR said: “Needs are surging across a region where multiple crises converge including armed conflict, extreme poverty, food insecurity, climatic changes, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The extreme vulnerability of the Sahel has been laid bare by the impact of forced displacement.

“This is caused by widespread and gruesome violence perpetrated by armed insurgent groups and criminal gang.”

According to the agency, internal displacement in the region has increased fourfold in just two years.

It said there were 490,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IPDs) at the beginning of 2019, more than half of whom were from Burkina Faso.

The Sahel also hosts over 850,000 refugees, mainly from Mali, it added.

“Already this year, violence in Niger and Burkina Faso has forced more than 21,000 people to flee their homes and seek refuge within their own countries.

“In Burkina Faso, since Dec. 31, a series of armed attacks on the town of Koumbri and nearby villages in the North of the country have displaced more than 11,000 people.

“Most are women and children who fled at night after attackers began shooting at their homes.

“They have reached safety and are now staying within local communities in Ouahigouya and Barga, some 35 kilometres away,” UNHCR said.

The agency warned that the communities hosting the displaced had reached a breaking point.

Many of the IDPs, it said, lack basic needs like shelter in spite of the generosity of their hosts.

UNHCR added that they were in urgent need of water and access to medical and sanitation services to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“The humanitarian response is dangerously overstretched, and UNHCR is urging the international community to redouble its support for the region.

“States must act now to help Sahel countries address the root causes of this forced displacement, to boost strategic and sustainable development.

“And to strengthen institutions such as schools and hospitals, many of which have shut due to ongoing violence.The situation has worsened due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” it noted.

The agency enumerated its interventions in the region to include provision of shelter, relief items, hygiene materials and cash.

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Botswana on High Alert over Cyclone Eloise

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Botswana has warned that the remnants of the tropical cyclone Eloise, will be felt over the eastern part of the country.

The department of meteorological services said the spillover effects will be felt from Sunday spreading into other areas of the country from Monday.

Onalenna Mokgachane, spokesperson for Environment, Natural Resources Conversation and Tourism, on Friday said the cyclone is currently over the Mozambique channel and it is expected to make landfall over the southern coast of Mozambique by Saturday.

“It is expected to move further inland and weaken into a tropical depression as it approaches southern Zimbabwe, eastern Botswana and north-eastern South Africa,” said Mokgachane.

She said the tropical depression is expected to cause widespread rainfall with occasional heavy falls, strong winds and lightning over most parts of the country during the week.

“Due to this heavy falls, there is a possibility of localised flooding in some places, therefore the public is advised to take necessary precautions,” said Mokgachane.

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