Ugandan pop star turned leading opposition figure Bobi Wine said Thursday he was ready to take on veteran President Yoweri Museveni in the 2021 elections despite a string of arrests seen as a bid to silence him.
Now an opposition MP, the singer is a figurehead for young people who have grown up knowing only one president — 74-year-old Museveni — and are desperate for change.
“If my team decides that I am the right person to challenge President Museveni, I am ready to take him on,” Wine told Agence France-Presse in an interview in Paris.
“We hope to have a big revolution, a peaceful revolution,” said the 37-year-old, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, wearing his trademark red beret which he calls a “symbol of resistance”.
Wine was arrested in late April for allegedly staging an illegal protest in 2018 — charges fellow opposition MPs decried as ridiculous — but was released from jail after just a few days in prison.
He is also facing treason charges after he and 30 other opposition politicians were arrested in August last year for allegedly stoning Museveni’s convoy following a campaign rally.
He accused security forces of torturing and beating him while in custody — which authorities denied.
With his anti-government songs winning him a big following, analysts see Wine as a real challenger to the veteran president, who intends to run for a sixth term in 2021 after first coming to power in 1986.
– ‘Dictatorship weakened’ –
“After 33 years, the Museveni dictatorship is very weakened. Indeed every dictatorship has an expiry date,” Wine told AFP, saying the “majority” of Uganda was with his cause.
“We are on the right side of history.”
Wine is currently touring several European capitals to give concerts and spread his message, although he was not scheduled to perform in Paris.
He insisted that peaceful handovers of power were possible in Africa, even by longstanding rulers, pointing to transitions in The Gambia and Democratic Republic of Congo.
“We are confident that we can put an end to the Museveni dictatorship using a vote and civilised means,” he said.
Wine also said he was in touch with Museveni’s longstanding opposition challenger Kizza Besigye about coordinating their efforts against the president.
“We are in constant touch with Dr Besigye and we believe that when we come together we will be able to put an end to President Museveni’s regime,” he said.
He said Uganda’s opposition forces were working to make sure they “come together as the forces of change” and put up one candidate to stand against Museveni.
– ‘Fear and intimidation’ –
Wine said he had decided from 2017 to move into politics, saying “it was time for me to stop just talking the issues but to act.”
He said he was currently banned from staging concerts and his music cannot even be broadcast at home. “I even cannot attend a public gathering, not even church,” he added.
“I keep going because I know that no matter how hard the regime tries to stop us from communicating, we are lucky to be living in a very connected generation.”
His wife Barbara Itungo Kyagulanyi said grenades had been launched at their house and cars followed them.
“It’s frightening but we are learning to live with it,” she told AFP.
Wine accused Museveni of assiduously cultivating a good image abroad while cracking down on dissent at home and said he had come to Europe with the aim of “demystifying the lies”
“Outside in the world, people look at him as a democrat, back home he rigs elections, unleashes terror on the people,” he said.
“There is so much fear and so much intimidation, there is a very closed political space.”
He said France and the European Union, who regard Kampala as a key ally in Africa, should put pressure on Museveni and watch closely where their money goes “to make sure that their aid is not orchestrating brutalities.”
“They should make sure they don’t continue to sponsor our suffering,” he said. Daily Mail Online