I have come to continue exactly where I stopped”, declared Ugandan MP Robert Kyagulanyi, also known by his stage name Bobi Wine, upon his arrival to Kampala on September 20. He had just come back from a trip to the United States where he sought treatment for injuries he says were caused by his torture at the hands of Ugandan security forces.
“We must get our freedom or we shall die trying to get our freedom,” he told reporters. Large crowds of supporters came to his house to welcome him, defying a police order.
Over the past few months, his appeal has grown and his profile raised in Uganda and beyond. He has helped unseat three incumbent ruling party MPs, including in the city of Arua, where he was arrested in mid-August. After news broke of his detention and torture, the #FreeBobiWine campaign spread rapidly across East Africa, Europe and North America.
This put pressure on the Ugandan government to release him and allow him to travel to the US. There, he met with and lobbied US officials to withdraw support from President Museveni over the human rights violations his administration has committed. His cause was also brought up in legislatures in the United Kingdom and the European Union.
He now has many high-profile friends and sympathisers around the world who are watching every move of the Ugandan government, ready to blow the bullhorn should something happened to him again.
Ugandans have seen the rise and fall of challengers to President Museveni over the past three decades but many seem to sense that something is different this time.
It seems the 36-year-old musician-turned-MP has managed to get under Museveni’s skin, rattling and unsettling him in a way that no politician ever has.
Quite out of character, the Ugandan president has even flip-flopped on his social media stance. While just a few months ago, he was trying to tax the youth for using social media platforms to spread “gossip”, he took to Twitter to deny the obvious and to push the narrative that the rising political star is just another irritant, a troublemaker.
Museveni has also given two lengthy speeches to defend his legacy, promising to fix the country’s intractable problems but disillusioned Ugandans, mostly young Bobi Wine “diehards”, see him as an old man out of touch with reality, obsessed with past glories and clueless about present-day challenges. They even nicknamed Bosco, a technologically challenged character in a popular ad released by a local mobile operator.OPINION