Sam Mpofu

Who is scared of Bobi Wine?

A 4-3 majority decision affirmed the legitimacy of a December 2017 parliamentary amendment in Uganda, which abolished a limit of 75 years for presidential hopefuls. The parliament had in 2005 removed term limits, ensuring 74-year-old Yoweri Museveni can remain in power beyond the expiration of his current term, and may be for life.

While Museveni has been able to survive challenges from Kizza Besigye, who had run against him in 2001, 2006 and 2011; former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi; former Makerere University Vice Chancellor Venansius Baryamureeba; retired Army General Benon Biraaro, Joseph Mabirizi and former presidential advisor Faith Kyalya, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, popularly known as Bobi Wine is leading a new breed of politicians boldly challenging Museveni’s rule, with support from veterans like Besigye. But Museveni, who has over the years been accused of repeated arrest of opposition politicians is not ready to leave the seat he has occupied since 1986. With his biggest threat yet looking like Bobi Wine, who recently declared that he is likely to contest for president in 2021, the pop singer and lawmaker said he has been placed under house arrest.

On Monday, police and military personnel used teargas and water cannon to disperse a large group of Bobi Wine’s supporters as they gathered for a concert at a lakeside beach resort. Before the concert, Bobi Wine was removed by police from a vehicle near the beach, a footage by NTV Uganda showed.

Bobi Wine, 37, said he was taken to his home in a northern suburb of the capital, Kampala and had been blocked from leaving by security personnel.

“Police and the military have been deployed at my residence since yesterday, after the violent arrest … They have surrounded my fence and installed barricades on all roads leading to my home,” Wine wrote on Twitter.

In Uganda, Bobi Wine is famously known as the “Ghetto President” for persistently speaking out about the struggles of the Ugandan lower classes and the urban poor. Releasing songs that hit directly at government failures and excesses made Robert Kyagulanyi popular among Ugandan youth.

In 2017, Kyagulanyi won a parliamentary seat for Kyaddondo East in Uganda, taking the ghetto to the parliament as he didn’t stop being Bobi Wine. All by himself, Bobi Wine has galvanized support for a new line of thinking that is beyond Museveni. He has helped unseat three incumbent ruling party MPs.

But President Museveni is not threatened by the Kyadondo East legislator whom he last month called a clown and unable to manage politics.

“Bobi Wine is an artiste. This [politics] isn’t singing. If you are an artiste, go to Suzanna and Nakulabye,” President Museveni said. Suzanna was a popular discotheque in the 1970s.

President Museveni was recently endorsed by the ruling party’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) as a sole candidate in 2021 polls. He has accused Bobi Wine of misleading youth into violence, which he claims has affected the country’s image and investment. But Bobi Wine soldiers on, as he enjoys the support of many Ugandans who are tired of the old guard.

Bobi Wine sure poses a threat to Museveni, but not much threat that could unseat Kaguta, who seems to be keen on a life presidency in Uganda, with the constitution now in favour of his ambition.