SATURDAY PROFILE | Bobi Wine has shaken up Ugandan politics: four things worth knowing about him

Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, also known as Bobi Wine, addresses supporters in Uganda’s capital Kampala. Photo by Luke Dray/Getty Images

Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, also called Bobi Wine, addresses supporters in Uganda’s capital Kampala. Photograph by Luke Dray/Getty Photographs

All through the electoral marketing campaign, Ugandan president  Yoweri Museveni has been upstaged by a formidable younger challenger: standard musician-turned-parliamentarian Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine. Luke Melchiorre examines 4 issues value realizing about Bobi Wine.

No matter how Ugandans voted within the 14 January presidential elections, the incumbent Yoweri Museveni will most certainly be declared the winner. Museveni has dominated the nation for 5 consecutive phrases. He has traditionally been in a position to manipulate elections in his favour, as a result of he controls Uganda’s army, judiciary, and Electoral Fee with an iron fist.

All through this electoral marketing campaign, nonetheless, the long-standing Ugandan president has been upstaged by a formidable younger challenger: standard musician-turned-parliamentarian Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine. Since being elected as a Member of Parliament in 2017, the 38-year-old chief of the Nationwide Unity Platform has change into the brand new face of Uganda’s opposition.

There are 4 issues value realizing about Bobi Wine and Uganda’s politics.

Constructing a motion, defying expectations

Bobi Wine has repeatedly been underestimated by authorities supporters and critics since he first ran for parliament. He was compelled to run as an impartial after the 2 main opposition events, the Discussion board for Democratic Change and the Democratic Social gathering, turned him away.

He however simply received the by-election within the Kyandondo East constituency inside Kampala with 78% of the vote. Since then, he has proved himself to be a talented politician who has efficiently constructed a powerful political motion – from scratch.

Inside his first two years in workplace, he solid a status as a principled and fearless opponent of Museveni’s insurance policies. He was a leading voice towards the president’s finally profitable effort to take away presidential age limits from the structure. He additionally led protests towards the federal government’s proposed tax on social media in July 2018.

Over the course of that very same yr, he endorsed opposition candidates who went on to win 4 consecutive parliamentary by-elections.

By 2018, he had created a political strain group referred to as People Power, Our Power. When the federal government blocked its registration as a proper political get together, Bobi Wine outmanoeuvred the Electoral Fee by aligning himself with a smaller, pre-existing one, which he re-christened because the Nationwide Unity Platform. Nearly instantly greater than 20 MPs left extra established opposition events to join his get together.

A goal of unprecedented state repression

Bobi Wine has been an everyday goal of state repression.

The Museveni regime responded to his early successes by repeatedly blocking him from holding live shows and banning the general public from sporting Individuals Energy’s trademark crimson berets.

Since being elected, Bobi Wine has been arrested numerous occasions. He has by no means been convicted on any of the fees. A few of his motion’s members and supporters have been killed, typically in suspicious circumstances.

Many have been arrested. Maybe most notoriously, in August 2018, as he campaigned for a fellow impartial candidate in a by-election in Arua in northwestern Uganda, Bobi Wine and not less than 35 of his political associates have been arrested following doubtful reports that Museveni’s motorcade had been stoned. That very same evening the opposition chief’s driver, Yasin Kawuma, was murdered with a bullet that Bobi Wine believes was meant for him.

Within the aftermath of those arrests, the Kyadondo East MP was charged with treason and possession of unlawful firearms. Over his subsequent ten days in custody, he was beaten so brutally by authorities safety forces that he couldn’t stand, sit or stroll. He ultimately sought treatment for his injuries within the US.

Worldwide outrage at this incident has not stopped the Museveni regime from escalating its ways of repression throughout this election cycle.

The arrests have continued unabated all through the present marketing campaign. As well as, marketing campaign rallies have been restricted and the federal government has met opposition supporters with lethal drive on a number of events. Most tragically, following Bobi Wine’s arrest in mid-November, nationwide protests erupted throughout which state safety forces killed at least 54 people.

In response to those abuses, in early January, Bobi Wine and two different co-claimants filed a 47-page grievance to the International Criminal Court towards Museveni and 9 of his regime’s safety officers, accusing them of gross human rights violations relationship again to 2018.

Generational dimension

Uganda’s altering demographics have an ideal deal to do with Bobi Wine’s electoral enchantment. The East African nation of 46.5 million folks has one of many world’s youngest populations, with a median age of 16.7. Simply over one in 5 Ugandans are between the ages of 15 and 24 and 77% of the nation’s inhabitants is under the age of 30.

Though these younger folks have benefited from reforms to public training launched by the Museveni regime, they see little hope for the longer term. By some estimates, youth unemployment in Uganda is as high as 70%. Annoyed younger folks can, due to this fact, simply establish with Bobi Wine, who grew up within the Kampala ghetto of Kamwokya. Like him, they’ve solely identified life underneath Museveni. He was not even 4 when Museveni first got here to energy in 1986.

Bobi Wine has skilfully appealed to this demographic. He frames his political motion in generational phrases: the “Fb era”, which he represents towards the “entrenched interests of the ‘Facelift generation’” of the Museveni regime. He has been in a position to communicate to – and articulate – the deep sense of anger and grievance that younger Ugandans really feel in the direction of the Museveni regime. In so doing, Uganda’s “Ghetto President” has come to be the face and voice of younger folks’s collective want for generational political change.


Within the ultimate weeks of the marketing campaign, Museveni derided Bobi Wine as a populist politician. Whereas this adjective was meant to dismiss his younger adversary, there may be some reality to this label. In my research, I argue that Bobi Wine’s inclusionary model of populism has additionally been a key to his political success.

His use of populist rhetoric has successfully solid a brand new collective sense of id amongst his largely youthful supporters across the nodal level of “the folks” and in antagonistic opposition to the nation’s political elite .

However Bobi Wine’s model of populism is novel as a result of his conception of “the folks” is outlined not in ethno-nationalist phrases (as with right-wing politicians within the US or Western Europe). Reasonably it’s outlined largely in generational ones. This has helped him to construct a burgeoning political coalition throughout ethno-regional strains.

If Bobi Wine’s model of generational populism proves profitable, its repercussions may very well be felt throughout Africa. It might function a mannequin for opposition politicians who’re working in nations with related demographic traits and going through most of the similar political obstacles.

Luke Melchiorre, Assistant Professor, Political Science, Universidad de los Andes

This text is republished from The Conversation underneath a Artistic Commons license. Learn the original article.

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