Mr Ssegiriinya Muhamad, commonly known as Mr. Update today the 20th of May 2021 has sworn in as a full member of Parliament to Represent Kawempe North constituency.
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“Our Liberation is a Matter of Now”: An Interview with Bobi Wine By African Arguments, a pan-African platform for news, investigation and opinion.
Luke Melchiorre: In January, the Electoral Commission declared President Museveni the winner of Uganda’s presidential election. You immediately alleged that the results of the election were an “absolute fraud”and promised to release video evidence to support your claims and you still have not conceded defeat. Do you still believe that you won January’s election?
Bobi Wine: I definitely won the January election, and the evidence are the declaration forms that were collected from all over the country. Even though, in many areas people were not allowed to vote. And yes, in many areas, the results were changed by the regime. But even in the face of so much irregularities according to the declaration forms that we were able to collect, we [defeated] General Museveni [by] 4.19%. It could have been much, much more. But nevertheless, we [defeated] him. So, I am sure that I won the election.
Luke Melchiorre: If you are sure that you won the election, why did you decide to withdraw the petition challenging the results?
Bobi Wine:I withdrew the petition challenging the vote because the court system demonstrated the highest level of bias. I was not allowed to tender all of the evidence that I got. Video evidence of soldiers and police officers pre-ticking ballot papers in favour of General Museveni. Many of my agents were arrested and we were not allowed to even access [our detained agents to acquire] the evidence [they had gathered]. The court itself, the Chief Justice demonstrated the highest level of bias, because he blocked me from amending my petition, something that has been allowed by previous petitioners. So, it was clear that that petition was only going to be used to legitimize Museveni’s illegitimate announcement as winner and that’s why we withdrew from the court, because we lost confidence in the Chief Justice and the majority of the justices of the Supreme Court.
Luke Melchiorre: Over the course of the election, you and your fellow opposition politicians and supporters were subjected to unprecedented repression on the part of the state: it was initially reported that at least 37 people protesting your arrest were killed in November 2020; hundreds of your political party’s supporters, members and polling agents were arrested and many remain in detention. Given this situation, do you still believe that meaningful political change can come to Uganda through the ballot box?
Bobi Wine: First of all, I want to say it was not only 37 people that were murdered on the 18th and 19th of November 2020. It was hundreds of people. Even though General Museveni only acknowledged the murder of 54 people. There were much, much more than that. They continued to be murdered. They continued to be abducted. Like you mentioned, [the] unprecedented repression, and all the injustices and oppression, and human rights abuses that continue even to the present day, in fact, the present hour. I still believe that change is possible, but I am not looking at change only at the ballot. I am looking at the people of Uganda, I am calling on the people of Uganda to assert themselves, because this is not the first time General Museveni is losing an election. But again, it is not the first time that he is forcing himself on the people of Uganda.
Luke Melchiorre: You have been very vocal about your admiration for radical African leaders, like Thomas Sankara, who were deeply committed to pan-African and socialist ideas. Yet, by your own admission, your party, the National Unity Platform’s political programme, with its emphasis on improving service delivery and good governance, and upholding the rule of law, is relatively moderate. How would you describe your own politics and that of your party, NUP?
Bobi Wine:First and foremost, I salute Sankara. And I salute many other leaders, not because we have the same political ideology. I salute them for looking out for their people and I salute them for transforming a few things: for empowering women and for effecting real change in a very short time. However, the situation in Uganda, and our circumstances and context are different from that of Burkina Faso and indeed many other countries. But like I said we are moderate, because we are shaped by the time and the challenges [that confront us]. And we want to be as flexible as possible, so that everybody feels empowered, everybody feels equal, and everybody’s ideas feel accommodated in the new Uganda that we envision.
Luke Melchiorre: I want to talk about your history with politics. How do you think growing up in Kamwokya during the conflict of the 1980s in Uganda influenced your own political worldview?
Bobi Wine:Well, it influenced my political worldview, first of all, by depriving me, [because] I grew up in a society, in a community that was deprived. I grew up with a single mother in the ghetto, in the slums of Kamwokya. That connected me so much with other people, but it taught me to share the pains of other people and one of my desires is to ensure that we change the trajectories, that we change the circumstances of people. I entered into the political arena, not as a typical politician, but as a leader, as a revolutionary; as someone that desired to influence and inspire other Ugandans to get politically involved in the running of their country and the transformation of their lives and the lives of those who are like them.
Luke Melchiorre: Your father was involved in opposition politics in Uganda during your childhood. Can you tell us a little about his political career? How did his engagement in politics influence your own?
Bobi Wine:My father was involved in opposition politics and so was my grandfather. My grandfather was part of a rebel group that took over areas of Buganda [Kyagulanyi’s home region] and he worked hand-in-hand with General Museveni. Unfortunately, he was killed by the Obote government, the government that Museveni overthrew. He was killed for being a rebel, for being a Museveni sympathizer. And my father lost everything that the family had. He was sentenced to death. Fortunately, he was pardoned when the Museveni government took over. But that affected my life, because when my elder siblings were growing up, they were growing up in a life of providence. However, because I was born in 1982, in the middle of the war, by the time I turned six, we had more or less lost everything. So, I had to scratch. That influenced me, because it positioned me in the life of need, in the life of luck.
To say that my father’s political life inspired or influenced mine, I would say that that is not accurate. Because, even when I was growing up, my mother always advised me and my other siblings to keep out of politics, because it was politics that had caused all the loses that our family had faced. However, my entry into politics was more out of desperation.
Luke Melchiorre: I wanted to talk a little bit about that entry. In 2015, you were approached by the Museveni government to record a song “Tubonga Nawe”, which translates into English as “We are with you”. Is it true that you were offered half a billion Ugandan shillings to participate? Why did you turn this offer down?
Bobi Wine: I turned that offer down, because my music is not for sale. My conscience is not for sale. Of course, my music is business. And I would say my services are for sale, because I get paid to perform, to sing about products and the like. However, I only do what I believe in. It was morally not right for me to sing praises for a dictator that had impoverished my country for 30 years [by] then, and that is why I decided not to be part of that, and I respectfully turned them down.
Luke Melchiorre: Did this incident and the 2016 election have an impact on your eventual decision to enter formal politics? What inspired you to run in the Kyadondo-East by-election in June 2017?
Bobi Wine: Yes, sure. I would say that no sooner had I turned down that offer from the regime then I started facing subtle economic repression. I was slapped with exorbitant tax bills, and some of my businesses were strangled here and there. But again, it further pointed to me that we are the ones we’ve been waiting for. In 2016, I was quite old enough to see the betrayal of those that we thought would stand for the voiceless. The intellectuals of our country had actually turned out to be users, in fact, misusers of the people. And I thought it was important for me to get involved. I had all along been singing and encouraging people, especially young people, to get involved. But there was no better way to inspire them [than through one’s actions] – not explaining but demonstrating [it].
Luke Melchiorre: I want to talk about People Power and the National Unity Platform, but before I get there: you surprised many political experts in Uganda, by winning in a huge landslide in the Kyadondo East constituency. What, if anything, made your approach to campaigning different from the other candidates during that campaign?
Bobi Wine: Well, I was real. I was not a politician. I was a common man. I found myself representing so many people’s thoughts, by presenting myself as a common person, not as, “professional politician”. I represented the downtrodden, the poor, the unemployed, the sidelined, the excluded, the young people, the angry, the hungry, who are actually the majority, more than 80% of our population. They saw their plight in me. And also, having followed me throughout my music career and listening to my lyrics for more than a decade and a half, they saw they had finally gotten one of their own.
Luke Melchiorre: What does the “rope-a-dope” style to campaigning refer to?
Bobi Wine:[Laughs] The rope-a-dope refers to the informal way of doing things, the unconventional way, the unusual way, the common man way, the unacademic way, that is the rope-a-dope style.
Luke Melchiorre: How important was the Age Limit Debate of 2017 in galvanizing the opposition and your own political pressure group, People Power?
Bobi Wine:The Age Limit, in my opinion, was the most uniting thing for Ugandans against the Museveni dictatorship, because to anybody that was still doubting Museveni’s dictatorial tendencies, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Because it came out very clearly that General Museveni will never relinquish power; that General Museveni was intending to be President for life. [Because] I found myself in parliament, I stood firm together with other Members of Parliament who were, by the way, from both opposition parties and the ruling party. Coming together has been our strength. When the parliament finally passed that bill making it into law [removing presidential age limits from the constitution and opening the way for Museveni to run in 2021], we gave Museveni a blank cheque to be president forever. That was when I made the decision that if nobody was going to challenge this guy, I, on behalf of my generation, will challenge him.
Luke Melchiorre: When you speak about People Power, who are “the people” that you are referring to?
Bobi Wine:I am referring to everybody. I am referring to the common people, the boda-boda riders, the students, the lawyers, the doctors, the farmers, the house-helps. Those young people who are over 80% of our population, but they are disenfranchised. We derive the name People Power, Our Power from Article 1 of our constitution, which declares that all power belongs to the people. So, we wanted to communicate that to all the people of Uganda; to let them know that actually they have the power, they only need to exercise it.
Luke Melchiorre: In July 2020, you surprised many in Uganda, including the government, by taking over your own political party, the National Unity Platform (NUP). Why did you feel the need to join a political party just prior to the 2021 election? What could NUP offer you that your previous pressure group, People Power, could not?
Bobi Wine:Well, like it is clear that I do not do politics alone. We have to do it together. While I know that pressure groups and political movements are provided for in the law, we had to find something that unifies us, a common symbol, and a common agenda. And because business in parliament is formal, we had to formalize in such a way. We may have wanted to register the People Power movement as a political party, but for more than a year we were blocked by the regime. Orders were issued that the People Power movement could not be registered as a political party. And General Museveni made sure to influence all other political parties that we had been working together with, particularly the Democratic Party and the Forum for Democratic Change, to disengage and distance themselves from myself and the People Power movement. I had hoped to run [for president] under the Democratic Party, but the then president of Democratic Party denied us that opportunity and so did the Forum for Democratic Change. That is why we, under extreme concealment, went ahead to join the National Unity Platform, which later elected me to be its President and leader, and then I invited masses to join me.
Luke Melchiorre: The National Unity Platform performed very well in the last election becoming the leading party of the opposition. NUP did especially well in your home region of Buganda. Some of your critics both in government and in the opposition have used this success to accuse your party of being an ethnic or a tribal party. How do you respond to such criticisms or characterizations?
Bobi Wine:I’ll say that those accusations and criticisms have come from General Museveni. I will ask this to those that are criticizing us for having so much support from where I come from: since when did it become tribal for one to be supported in their home area? I will remind everybody that the Secretary-General of the National Unity Platform is not from my tribe. Three of our Deputy Presidents are not from my tribe and the majority of the leadership of the National Unity Platform is not from my tribe. It has been a habit for General Museveni, like all dictators, to turn something that he has been doing and use it to target his adversaries. It is called reverse tribalism and that is exactly what President Museveni has been practising.
Bobi Wine:The generational dimension was there for everybody to see. As you will remember that the 2021 election, in particular the campaigns, were not something to call a presidential campaign. It was more or less a war. Because I went into those campaigns putting on a bulletproof vest and a ballistic helmet for protection. I survived numerous assassination attempts, particularly surviving gun shots three times when bullets were fired at my car and one of them went through my windscreen; it was the grace of god that saved me. So, I would say that General Museveni was and is still scared of the young people of this country, who are the majority, who turn out in numbers to support us and indeed to vote.
Luke Melchiorre: Do you think your relative success in the 2021 election in Uganda can offer a model to opposition parties in other African countries, with similar demographic profiles, who are facing similar political obstacles?
Bobi Wine:Certainly! Our message was and continues to be, not only for the people of Uganda, but for the people of Africa and the world. Africa is the most youthful continent, and Uganda in particular is the youngest, actually second youngest country after Guinea. It has been a message from us to the young people to rise to the occasion and use their numbers to determine their destiny, well knowing that they are stuck in a non-functioning Africa, where the largely senile leaders are presiding over a young population. So, it is upon the young people of Africa to rise to the occasion and be the ones to channel and determine their destiny. It has been our message not only for Uganda, but Africa and the world over.
Luke Melchiorre: The Daily Monitor reported today that President Museveni recently hinted he will not sign the newly enacted Sexual Offences Act, which would among other things further criminalize homosexuality in Uganda and set 10-year jail terms for offenders. In 2014, you were denied a visa to the visit the UK after LGBTQ advocates accused you of inciting homophobic attacks with your lyrics. I know that over the last seven years, your position on these issues has changed considerably to the point where President Museveni has called you “an agent of foreign interests” and said that “homosexuals are very happy with Bobi Wine”. Can you talk about what your position is on LGBTQ rights in Uganda today and how and why that position has evolved?
Bobi Wine:Well like any human being, you know, I am bound not only by my thoughts as an individual, but by thoughts that are generated by all various people. That explains why General Museveni has been attacking me and claiming I am being supported by homosexuals and foreigners. It has been General Museveni’s way of doing things. I have said, and I will say again, I am for human rights, and regardless of people’s divergent thoughts, I believe that it is my duty, as a leader, to defend the rights of everybody, even those that are different from me.
Luke Melchiorre: You have been critical of the United States’ historical support of the Museveni regime, or “America’s Favorite African Strongman”,as you called him in the New York Times in July 2020. In an ideal world, what role, if any, should the US play in Ugandan domestic politics?
Bobi Wine:In an ideal world, the role of the United States, and indeed all development partners, is to be bound by the values that bring us together as the international community. Values, like respect for human rights. Values, like respect for democracy. Values, like respect for the rule of law. And that should cut across regardless of who we are dealing with. Of course, we appreciate the cooperation from the United States, but again, we still hold the United States to live by their values. We are aware that quite a lot of military support is being given to Uganda to the tune of almost a billion dollars every year.[i] But again, this aid is clearly used for the repression of [Ugandan] people, for the murder of people, for the disrespect of democracy, for abuse of rights of citizens, tortures, abductions, name it. We have already called upon the United States to hold Uganda accountable and make the rule of law and respect for human rights and democracy a pre-condition for cooperation. These are the same values that we also want to be held accountable for, because these are universal values. These are values that keep us together as members of the international community.
Luke Melchiorre: Finally, as things currently stand, what do you think your political future holds? Do you intend to run for the presidency again in 2026?
Bobiwine: Thank you. First of all, I must tell you that I look at the future, not the political future. Just like I mentioned, I am not a politician. I am a common Ugandan, a musician, that’s all my role. That’s all my responsibility. Just like I am encouraging the doctors, the farmers, the teachers, the soldiers, everybody to get actively involved and play their role. Either by running for positions, or by supporting those with the right agenda for their people, or by teaching and spreading the word. So, coming to your question of whether I intend to run again in 2026, it is until the people of Uganda have the right to assert their voice that is when elections are going to make sense. I ran for president and I won, and it is me who is supposed to be sworn in tomorrow. But unfortunately using the military, and using the fact that he has usurped all the powers from the institutions of Uganda, General Museveni is swearing himself in having put everybody else at gunpoint. As we speak right now, my home continues to be surrounded by the military, putting me effectively under house arrest. The military has surrounded every town here in Uganda, trying to subjugate the people of Uganda into silence. That is what is happening now. So, we cannot talk about 2026, when we have a president to deal with every day, every year, every month. In fact, every hour that Museveni continues to rule over our country, we continue to sink down the drain. Our liberation is not a matter of 2026, our liberation is a matter of now.
According to the US State Department, the US government provides significant development and security assistance to Uganda, with a total assistance budget exceeding $970 million per year, as of December 2019.
This article was done by the African Arguments, a pan-African platform for news, investigation and opinion. it has been translated into Audio for easy spread by JB MUwoonge, check it out in podcast form below.
I was born six years after you lied, looted and murdered your way into power. I went through school, under your rule, with relative ease — for mine were parents of some means. But while that may have been so, I reached the apex of our education system only to look back and see that most of my childhood friends had not proceeded to Advanced Level, let alone to University. I was succeeding alone. That was not okay.
So I engaged many of them, only to realize that although I went to some of the best schools I could under my circumstances, not everyone I met there necessarily came from a well-to-do family. Most of those with whom I was at University could not find gainful employment however brilliant they had been in school, yet they lacked the wherewithal and social support to operate private businesses. This, due to the polluted investment climate for local entrepreneurs characterized by a cocktail of burdensome taxes, absence of the rule of law, and political uncertainty.
In a country like ours, the main impediment to young people’s aspirations tends to be bad leadership, yet that is exactly what many youth have unconsciously grown up under with you fixed at the helm of our country. I thus felt that it behooved me, as a person surrounded by abundance, to participate in causes that would equally give my despairing age mates a fighting chance in life. So I joined Parliament at the old age of 23, and immediately identified with the opposition because I did not trust that our problems could be solved by the same leadership that created and/or incubated them.
Once in Parliament, I yearned to have a President of my generation; one that would empathize with the struggles youth fight on a daily basis to stay alive. I felt that such a person would, then, be best suited to lead us in the struggle of salvaging our future. That is why, among other reasons, I immediately embraced Hon. Robert Kyagulanyi when he joined active politics. It did not occur to me at that time that this union would mark the beginning of a self-perpetuating cycle of State violence against me, rationalized by State-sponsored false propaganda.
It began with the 2017 debate of the Age Limit Bill when you unleashed your SFC bodyguards against us on the floor of Parliament. It escalated during the 2018 #AruaByeElection campaigns that have since turned into a nightmare for me. Acting on what you certainly knew to be false propaganda claiming that we had stoned your car, you once again set upon us your bodyguards who tortured and left us for dead. Your security men have tortured me on at least 2 more occasions since then, with the latest being the April 2020 incident when I was dehumanized for distributing food to my neighbors.
Hardly had I recovered than your guards abducted me, transferred me to Northern Uganda, and had me charged with ‘escaping’ from ‘lawful’ custody – all so that you could maintain the false propaganda against my character.
But as if physically violating my person has not been enough for you, you’ve gone a step further to destroy my reputation such that the public sees me as legitimate target of excessive force, rather than the helpless victim of torture that many of my fellow youth and I have been on all occasions. Your propaganda machine has in some respect succeeded in casting me as an indisciplined, law-breaking young man. That either I am reckless; or I torture myself to earn sympathy; or I conduct myself in so dishonorable a manner that every time security personnel interface with me they must leave me tottering on life’s edge. In so doing, your Regime deflects the public’s attention away from the critical issues of governance that I seek to raise on behalf of my fellow young people, and instead casts that attention upon the false image of me that you have created for unsuspecting members of the public. Yet I have not been the only victim of this pernicious propaganda, as Dr. Kizza Besigye and Hon. Kyagulanyi have suffered worse.
When your prison guards at Kitalya received my comrade Nubian Li and 35 other members of Hon. Kyagulanyi’s 2021 presidential campaign team jailed there for the last 6 months, they subjected them to the most cruel and dehumanising treatment. The mistreatment included stripping them butt-naked and then shaving off their hair in deliberate disregard of the Prisons Act which requires prison officials to keep the hair of prisoners awaiting trial “in the same state as it was on admission”. The prison warders did this to teach my comrades a “lesson”, partly because your propaganda machine had convinced them that the Nubians were violent criminals; and partly because the warders have been employed for far too long by a regime that pays no respect to the most basic of citizens’ rights.
I thought that if Parliament visited these prisoners of conscience, their suffering would be alleviated. But their prison conditions instead became worse: they are now isolated from each other, and some of their leaders are reportedly stripped every night and sodomized! They have not only lost their liberty, but also lost their families either to death or despair. By the time they regain their freedom, many will have lost their jobs, too, or businesses. You have answered their pleas for a secure future with persecution.
When we accompanied our leader Hon. Kyagulanyi to his presidential campaigns, our intention was not to spread disease, cause violence or subvert government like your propaganda machine falsely claimed. We did so in good-faith; acting in pursuit of our constitutional rights and duties. But rather than protect us on the campaign trail as any leader in your position should have done, you terrorized us. You turned highways and venues of our campaign meetings into warzones — while maintaining before the public a façade of a peace-loving Statesman battling terrorists! Being the deceitful coward that you are, you hid behind COVID-19 to perpetrate devastating violence against unarmed groups of youth singing freedom songs. Even when hundreds of bullet-riddled bodies lay in the wake of your brutal military operation against our campaigns, you did not feel satisfied enough until you had locked up thousands of those who survived. I did not know that this is how military Generals worth their salt act!
Having rigged the election, you went ahead to swear yourself in while surrounded by fellow dictators and a few development partners who attended the function out of courtesy rather than out of a genuine conviction that you won the election. And then your message suddenly changed.
You are now telling us to “move on” and “return to work” because “politics” has “ended”. But how do we move on like you never hijacked our Will? How do we move on when thousands of our peers and leaders that were seized on your orders are still languishing in detention? How do grief-stricken families of the people your security forces massacred move on without getting justice? How do we move on when the issues that brought us into the struggle are still unresolved? As someone who took an oath to not recognise any regime that illegally imposes itself on the People of Uganda, I shall not move on until these questions are decisively answered in the Peoples’ favour. We will not move on until all citizens finally have an equal shot at succeeding in life regardless of their circumstances.
Research by World Politics Review | Uganda and the military dictatorship | Uganda’s Dictator Museveni Unleashes a Reign of Terror.
The unmarked white vans, known locally as “drones,” stop at marketplaces and on busy street corners across Uganda. A mix of uniformed and plainclothes security officers shove terrified captives into the vehicles and drive them to undisclosed locations. Many are never seen again. The pages of the Daily Monitor, an independent Ugandan newspaper, are awash with stories of families searching desperately for their missing loved ones.
Their crime: supporting opposition candidate Bobi Wine in the country’s January presidential election.
From his origins in a ghetto in the capital, Kampala, the popstar-turned-politician—whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi—rose to challenge long-ruling President Yoweri Museveni in one of the bloodiest elections in Uganda’s history. Over the course of two days in November, at least 54 opposition supporters and bystanders were killed when riots broke out across Kampala after Wine was briefly jailed for allegedly violating COVID-19 restrictions.
Ugandans went to the polls Jan. 14 with the internet shut off across the country. The 76-year-old Museveni easily clinched a sixth term in office, as official results showed he took nearly 59 percent of the vote to Wine’s 34 percent. The opposition challenger, who spent 11 days after the election under house arrest, cried foul and accused the government of vote-rigging.
Wine’s party, the National Unity Platform, or NUP, now estimates more than 600 of their supporters have disappeared and believe the true number of missing people could be much higher. While the abductions are seemingly concentrated around Wine’s political stronghold in central Uganda, senior NUP members told me that a hotline they set up rings multiple times a day, as callers from across the country report missing relatives.
“The objective of the regime is to create fear, to make sure that people are so scared of saying anything,” Wine told World Politics Review in an interview, his voice hoarse at times with sorrow and fatigue.
Those who do reemerge are often found on the side of the road, bearing signs of torture. In images compiled by Wine’s legal team, the victims’ bodies are marked by scars, apparently from being whipped with electric wires. Some of their wounds appear black with necrosis.
The government has made few attempts to disguise this recent clampdown, according to Leonce Byimana, executive director of the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International, a Washington-based NGO that recently published its own report on torture in Uganda. “Everybody can see,” Byimana said.
The wave of abductions seemingly began in December, picking up in frequency in the wake of the election. The victims, whose only known crime was supporting the opposition, include men and women, young and old. Some of them monitored the polls and collected evidence of alleged vote-tampering. Others simply endorsed Wine publicly.
Ronald Segawa says he was abducted in late January, shortly after the election. He had posted a video on Facebook telling people to vote for Wine. His assailants beat him with what he suspects were rifle butts, pulled out his fingernails and electrocuted his back and arms, all while questioning him about Wine and the video. They then dumped him at the gate of the mortuary of the government-run Mulago Hospital.
Fabian Luuka was allegedly kidnapped on the outskirts of Kampala in late February along with two other young men, reportedly for being in possession of NUP membership cards. He was discovered on the side of a highway in late February, with the flesh of his buttocks and leg gouged out. Luuka was rushed to a Kampala hospital where he died of his injuries in March, leaving behind two young children.
“The objective of the regime is to create fear, to make sure that people are so scared of saying anything.”
“He is the only one who had the honor of having a grave,” Wine said when asked about Luuka, noting that the men captured alongside him are still missing.
“During his burial, they were saying, ‘At least this one has been buried,’” recalled Lina Zedriga, a lawyer and vice chairperson of the NUP. The mourners, she added, had haunting questions.
“Ours, in the next village, we now don’t know where he is. Are these people dead? Are they living? How long are we going to live without closure?”
Zedriga knows their pain all too well. In 2001, her husband, a supporter of veteran opposition leader and then-presidential candidate Kizza Besigye, vanished without a trace.
“I have a missing husband myself. It is my reality,” Zedriga told me. “The experience of mothers whose sons are missing, women whose husbands are missing, young men whose wives are missing is very devastating. It is so devastating that I don’t know what to say.”
The government has acknowledged detaining only a small fraction of the disappeared. In mid-April, Internal Affairs Minister Jeje Odongo said that security forces had arrested roughly 1,300 people in relation to the election, including the November violence, but claimed most of the people the NUP says are missing are instead hiding in rural villages.
Odongo’s comments echoed a revelation Museveni made in March: that 51 people reported missing by their relatives were being held by the Special Forces Command, an elite unit of the military headed by Museveni’s son, Muhoozi Kainerugaba. The president bragged that these detainees had become supporters of his party, the National Resistance Movement, or NRM. “Too bad for the traitors, these poor youth gave up the whole scheme and are now our friends,” he boasted of the captives in a statement to Uganda’s Daily Monitor.
However, in the same speech, he denied that the government is abducting civilians. “The talk of disappearances should be ignored because it cannot happen under the NRM,” Museveni said. “We never cover up. There’s nothing which we do and hide.”
Ugandan bureaucrats have scoffed at such rebukes. “We are partners, equals, and none of us should act as if you are superior to the other,” Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa said at a tense meeting with European diplomats in the city of Entebbe earlier this year.
Despite the brutal crackdown on his supporters, Wine has not given up hope. “The absence of an alternative keeps me going, because I know that there is no other life other than a free life. We are in chains everywhere,” Wine said. “We want to have a right to life. That’s why we dedicate anything and everything to that freedom.”
Researched by Sophie Neiman, a freelance reporter and photojournalist, covering politics, conflict and human rights in East and Central Africa. Her work has appeared in numerous outlets, including African Arguments, The Christian Science Monitor and The New Humanitarian.
FIRST REPORT ON HOW MUSEVENI RIGGED THE 14TH JAN GENERAL ELECTIONS WHICH HIS OPPONET BOBIWINE HAD WON.
On the 14th of January 2021, Ugandans went to the polls. As an election it involves the before during and after. This report highlights clearly with concrete facts before during and after the polls, How Dictator Museveni rigged Bobiwine’s Victory. Here is the PDF of the report.
Uganda can only progress without Museveni, says H.E. Bobi Wine
Dailyt Monitor’s Derrick Wandera caught up with NUP’s Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, aka Bobi Wine, about the post-election period, the speakership race, and his stake on maybe another Museveni era.
Bobi wine You recently said you took part of the government in the elections. Does that mean you have finally conceded defeat?
No. We were not defeated, we won this election, but not everything we won was given to us. For example, I won the President seat. I am the president-elect of Uganda, but I was not declared courtesy of the military, the Electoral Commission and other machinations. And Gen Museveni is still holding my lawful position using guns.
But not only [was] the presidency [stolen]. Other positions like Member of Parliament (MP) … mayors like in Entebbe and others were not declared [winners]. But because of too much vigilance, the loopholes in the [ruling National Resistance Movement] NRM [were exposed and] some of our people were declared [victors].
Bobi wine, Are you happy with what you got? Of course, I am not happy. I have said it in the beginning and still say it now that for as long as we still have Gen Museveni ruling over this country, everything else is in vain. We are not happy because I am supposed to be preparing to swear in [as President] and move to Entebbe [State House]. But look, I am stuck in Magere.
Bobi wine, What did you expect the outcome of the elections to be? I expected two things. I was not blind to the fact that all institutions have been compromised, but I knew that we would be announced [winners] because we were winning with an overwhelming majority and everyone saw that.
Two, we also expected to be able to expose the reality that is on ground. We won but we were not announced. But we succeeded in exposing the truth about Mr Museveni. You have seen many nations in the international community castigating Mr Museveni’s regime.
The European Union and the United States have not recognised Mr Museveni and they have slapped sanctions on his officials … not just for human rights violation, but for the disrespect for the democracy. This means that they don’t recognise him as the President of Uganda and that is a win for the people of Uganda.
Bobi Wine, After elections, you called the country into mass peaceful demonstrations, what was your objective? The objective was to constantly and continuously show the dissatisfaction of the people of Uganda to gun-rule and we largely succeeded. Of course, the Museveni regime has always responded to every peaceful statement with violence but I must tell you that peaceful protests in various ways continue up to now in Uganda and other parts of the world.
For example, those visa sanctions are because of the peaceful protests that have been put all over the world. Our ICC (International Criminal Court) petition is being supported by those protests and we know that there will soon be more fruits.
Bobi wine, And how does that help a Ugandan? Everything that contributes to breaking down dictatorship in Uganda, everything that elevated people over guns is a success to the people of Uganda. I believe that the sanctions will certainly help. All dictators begin by sanction because one sanction comes after another and ultimately the dictators come down crumbling like a pack of cards.
Bobi wine, Shortly after the elections, you posted on your Facebook page that friends had gifted you an armoured car. As we speak, it has been slapped with fresh taxes of more than Shs300m. Had they/you evaded taxes? The problem here in Uganda is persecution [by] Museveni and his hangers-on. That car was bought for me by friends and family and the taxes were fully paid in the names of the person who shipped it here.
But as soon as the car was transferred to my name, the regime came for it. The regime has come for everything that bears my name; my properties in [city suburbs of] Kamwokya and Busabala even recently here [in Magere], they are trying to use people to throw me out of my house.
That is persecution. The right prices were paid for that car, but because it is my car, they impounded it and slapped me with new taxes. These are some of the things that dictators do. If you read a book titled, Dictatorland, (The men who stole Africa, authored by Mr Paul Kenyon), you will discover that all dictators have the same tricks and same script from which they read.
Bobi wine, You say you are still fighting to reclaim your stolen ‘victory’. What are the timelines and how do you measure success (when Mr Museveni is due to be sworn in for the new term)? In the fight for freedom, there can never be a time frame. When I got into the struggle three years ago, I didn’t know that I would be a president-elect in such a short time. [Electoral Commission results for the January 14, 2021 poll show that Mr Museveni was re-elected with 58 per cent while Bobi got 35 per cent of total valid votes – Editor]. When I went into the elections, I knew that I would win but I also knew that Gen Museveni would use his machinations to do what he did, but little did I know that he would go to these heights.
So, I will tell you that as always, dictators never know when they will fall but they always do. The fight for freedom is not a sprint, but it is a marathon and … I know [he will] fall sooner than later.
Bobi Wine, If this pushing out the dictator drags on until 2026, will you run for President again? I am not looking at running for president. I was elected in 2021; so, that is what we are fighting for now. Before we even think of five years, we should think of now. Five years is way too much time to give to Gen Museveni. Because every day, month, or year that Mr Museveni rules us, more children die, more unrealistic taxes are slapped on people, more people are abducted, sectarianism [worsens] and so many other things happen.
Bobi Wine, We are a few days away from ushering in a new Parliament and by virtue of your victories in the parliamentary elections, your National Unity Platform (NUP) party is supposed to take Leader of Opposition in Parliament slot. Who is that potential LOP? When I was elected to Parliament in 2017, I knew that I was going to a Parliament that is rotten and it is the same thing that I have been telling my colleagues in my party and in the wider Opposition that they are going to a Parliament, but [they] should not look at it as an alpha and omega. They should consider it as one of the fronts. The common people who are the true freedom fighters must be involved as well as the Parliament. In the times of slavery, as the congressmen and women went to articulate issues, the slaves in the plantations confronted the vice head-on. The question of who will become LoP is not for me to answer now because my party has an executive board that sits and makes such decisions.
The Political Parties and Other Organisations Act and the NUP constitution vest the powers of appointing an LoP in the President of the party with a majority in Parliament. Are you running away from your obligations? No, I am not running away. As President of NUP, I am the chief executive. Being a servant leader and believing in consensus, there is the executive board that makes important decisions and that being a sensitive matter, the board will soon make a decision on it.
Bobi wine, What qualities of LoP would you like to see in the next Parliament? The values have to be in the same line with what we espouse. The values include discipline, reliability, integrity, fidelity, and service. Those are the values of NUP. That person must have a national mind and looks at people as equal before and under the law.
Bobi wine, As a govt in waiting, what is your agenda in Parliament? Our number one agenda in Parliament is to elevate the will and voice of the people of Uganda. It is clear that the leadership and administration of this country have neglected the voice of the people. The people of Uganda just spoke loudly and [un] equivocally, but that was not respected. Instead, everything that is being done is in total contrast to what the people want.
Bobi wine, There have been rumours that you have directed your MPs to back Speaker Rebecca Kadaga. Why aren’t you supporting a candidate of the ruling NRM party?
Just treat that as a rumour. We formed a committee which is doing research and it will bring to us a report about the same. According to us, the problem and, therefore, the solution is not about who becomes Speaker [of Parliament]. Many members are in that Parliament illegitimately because they were forced on to the people of Uganda. We are not looking at Speakers per say, what we are looking for is changing the whole government. We didn’t endorse anybody for the position.
Bobi Wine, During the campaigns, you supported Speaker Kadaga and promised her a position in your cabinet if you were elected. Now she is seeking to become a Speaker where you have a big say on who takes the position. Will you back her candidature? I know that there are people in the NRM who would not act as wicked as they do if they were not taking express orders from President Museveni. Many have been able to stand on the side of the people like Hon Patrick Nsamba, Hon John Baptist Nambeshe, who is my deputy president, and others. So, my thoughts of electing Ms Kadaga in my government is not nepotistic or based on the fact that she is my ‘senga’ (vernacular reverence for aunt or marriage counsellor, depending on tribe and context – editor). She is one of the people who could play a role from eastern Uganda. But whether or not, she [retains her] Speaker [position], that is entirely for the parliamentarians to decide.
Bobi wine, You have been a parliamentarian in the 10th Parliament that is concluding business this week. Did you, during this time, see the Speaker as one who suits the position? I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly about Ms Kadaga. It would be unfair for me to give my comment right now because if I talk about the good, I will be elevating her unfairly above others and if I spoke the bad about her, I would be undoing her efforts. But everybody knows that she presided over the abrogation of our Constitution.
Bobi wine, Uganda is on the brink of breaking the debt ceiling. What should be done to solve the debt crisis in the country? Remove Museveni. If we still have a leader who is a thief, who does not care about whether he mortgages the entire State to remain in power, we shall have problems and we shall move from bad to worse. We have people that don’t care about the future of Uganda, we have seen leaders that don’t care about their country’s assets. Some of them have had parts of their sovereignty taken over by some countries they owe and we are on the brink of that.
The government does not care about empowering the productivity of the country, we are not productive anymore. We are only exporting housemaids and security guards. We are not producing our own food and natives are being reduced to liability to the State. So, the first recovery to our nation is the removal of a government that does not work towards economic recovery. Gen Museveni and his government are doing everything to sink deep into the mud that we are stuck in.
Bobi wine, After he is removed, what next and how would you recover the economy? I don’t want to brag about being such an astute economist, but I know that many proposals have been presented for our recovery by very knowledgeable and well-researched individuals. Unfortunately for us to recover, we must stop the thieving, corruption, misuse, and wastage.
Bobi wine, What is your say on the new taxes? They are oppressive and they will just continue to be restrictive. They are a burden to the economy, development, and the country. But it is clear Museveni wants to impoverish Ugandans even more.
Bobi wine, One could argue that the new taxes are to plug the financial hole and improve the debt situation … That is a joke. All the taxes that have been introduced are doing nothing, but impoverishing Ugandans more. The taxes that have been collected have not been put to proper use. They have ended in a few hands of the people in government. So, you cannot tell me that you are going to strangle businesses with huge taxes in a bid to elevate the economy while giving tax holidays and exempting foreigners. It doesn’t make sense.
Bobi wine, You have been invited to the swearing-in ceremony. Do we hope attend the inauguration on Wednesday? What swearing-in? That is illegal and I don’t take part in illegalities. I am the president-elect, so who is going to be swearing-in? That whole function is fraudulent. Only that Museveni has guns around him, but he should be arrested. I am the right president who was elected by the people. That would be a betrayal for the people that elected me President.
Thank you H.E. Bobiwine for Your Time.
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*THE STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM AND DEMOCRACY: LESSONS FROM FOOTBALL AND BOXING* I was here reflecting on what I can compare our struggle to.
The struggle for freedom and democracy in Uganda is like a football game or a boxing match.In these games, there are four categories of people. You have the coaches, the spectators, the referees and the players.
The coaches are mostly those who came before us, whether here in Uganda or other places in the world. Some of them are alive, while others are long dead. They used to be good players before, but they are now retired and are cheering us on from the side. They want to see us succeed, and so, they give us guidance and follow us with their blessings. For me, these people include Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Morgan Tsvangrai, Andrew Kayiira, Dr. Paul Kawanga Ssemwogerere, etc. Each one of us has his or her own coaches.
The second category are spectators. These are people who simply see things happening. They are as oppressed as everyone else, and sometimes even more oppressed, but they will take no part in trying to change or improve the situation. They wait for the news every evening to see what Bobi Wine or Dr. Besigye has done today. Each day, they pass by the stalls and see headlines of the worst corruption scandals lining the streets of Kampala, but they look the other way. They know how much money is stolen every year and see the poverty all over, but they don’t want to land themselves in any trouble with the regime. At best, they make a short prayer and keep wishing that things will change some day. They are spectators. They know how the election was rigged and how countless innocent Ugandans are in prisons or killed. They feel bad at how terrible their country is being run. But they will not do anything beyond what they feel. They are angry and hungry, but they have chosen to remain complacent. They follow the goings on and talk so much about politics with their friends. But at the end of each day, they return home unbothered or unwilling to get involved.
The third category is that of referees. These people are neither players nor spectators, but they are very busy on the pitch. They spend all their time criticising everyone for not playing right, but they will never set foot into the football pitch or the boxing ring. Their duty is to judge all the people all the time. When there is a protest, they keep home, and in the evening post on Facebook how the protest could have been done better. They will not show up to guard the vote but will ask why you did not do this or that to guard the vote. They know how to give yellow cards and red cards to everyone else except themselves. Their preferred statements are, “You should have done this or done that.” You ask them why they did not come in to do that which they say was right, but well, they are referees! When they appear on television or write articles, they ask why you did not this or that! They never come in when the players need advice; they only come in when the players make mistakes. They rarely notice the achievements- they only notice the faults and sing their voices hoarse. They are experts at pointing out mistakes. If they do not find any mistake, they will try their best to create it!
Finally, the fourth category is that of players. These are comrades who are right into the game. They are sweating all over, fighting very hard to win the prize. When they get knocked down, they rise up again. When the spectators boo them, they strive to better their game. In a struggle like ours, these are men and women who have sacrificed everything in order to be participants in the liberation of their country. They come up with all sorts of ideas and try them out. Some of their ideas may be amateurish or even reckless, but their passion drives them to try out anything to further the cause. Their joy is seeing the struggle advances to the next stage. When they fail today, they return tomorrow. Some of them have injuries, others have scars. Yet, they soldier on. Their glory and joy lies in nothing else, but seeing the struggle succeed or at least move forward each day. Their eyes do not leave the ball. They follow it wherever it goes- their aim is simply scoring goals.
Of course, as in football, some players are often compromised by the opposing camp and deliberately score “own goals”. But these do not go far. They are soon exposed by their actions, because if their actions are to the advantage of the opponent, then you don’t ask who they work for. To you who is reading this, my question is, where do you fall? Comrades who are truly in the struggle for freedom must be players! That is what we are called to do. Leave the referees alone. Their job description is to find fault, even where it is not. BUT NEITHER THE REFEREES NOR THE SPECTATORS EVER GET THE TROPHY. The trophy is won by the players. When they win it, they will often run and hand it over to the coach!
Of course the sad irony is that when victory is eventually won, the referees and spectators will often ask for the best seat at the high table. But the player is not even bothered by this- all he wants is to smell the sweet scent of victory.
The president of the national unity platform, H.E. Kyagulanyi ssentamu Robert aka Bobiwine wrote to leaders of different political parties congratulating them on coming out of the recent elections alive despite the numerous challenges encountered. He also proposed meetings between the leadership of the National Unity Platform and the leadership of different parties, The leadership of NUP shall pay official visits to these comrades and speak with them about the trajectory of the struggle for freedom and democracy.
He said Ours is the National Unity Platform. That this is not just our name- it is our DNA. It is our solid belief that all Ugandans, regardless of their religion, ethnicity, gender, economic status or political affiliation will need to come together and work for the redemption of our nation. That is why we are not deterred by the challenges encountered in the past. We continue to reach out to our brothers and sisters across the board to build a true front for the liberation of Uganda.
Yesterday H.E Bobiwine other NUP leaders including Spokes person Joel, General Secretary Lewis, Dep. G.S Aisha Kabanda etc met the leadership of JEEMA.
Fact of the matter, all this is directed towards ending Dictator Museveni and his dictatorship
But who’s responsible for dictators like Museveni? Is it Bobiwine, NRM, Opposition or me and you?
You see, there will always be people whose personality makeup predisposes them to dictatorship. Many past and contemporary dictators like Museveni suffer from extraordinarily high levels of narcissism, that excessive interest in themselves and paranoia. They have an inflated sense of self-importance. First They lack empathy, guilt that’s why they commit unspeakable atrocities, including murder of innocent civilians.
But while it is easy to vilify dictators, we should also realise that, in many ways, we (the people, me and you) are the ones enabling them. After all, dictators like Museveni cannot function without followers. The good news is, however, that although we enable dictators maybe directly or indirectly, we can also disable them, and that’s one of the many valid reasons why our President sought and continues to seeks Unity btn me and you, amongst all opposition political parties. Unity is one of the powerful tools while fighting a dictator especially when it meets countries like Uganda, composed of over 56 tribes, each speaking totally a different language, such a demographic in a dictatorship is always split along tribal lines, fueled and perpetuated by the dictator himself, it works for him. Because it can cause a section of them to sink deep in waters of submission to fighting dictatorship. But with genuine Unity all those chains can easily be broken to no repair.
H.E. Bobiwine Sticking to the ideology of Unity regardless of our differences is being smart just like he has always, removing a dictator isn’t a hard task however it is not a walk over. You can remove Museveni and Musevenism remains, You can remove a dictator and dictatorship remains functioning like In Ecuador where the dictator was removed but the polls a year later showed the dictatorial apparatus as the politically strongest of the country. Similarly, in Bolivia, the dictator -but not the dictatorship- was ousted and it remains functioning and enjoying impunity, controlling the legislative, judicial, electoral, and constitutional institutions, zimababwe under Munangagwa the same story and a lot more live examples, so
under these circumstances especially here in Uganda, what is desirable is non other than the unity of all leaders opposing the dictatorship, and those having Uganda at heart. It hasn’t happened, but it has not failed. Actually by contrast the visible split and confrontation between members of the opposition and the supporters not only in Uganda is basically a characteristic feature that enables the dictatorial system to remain in power (recently i saw Munygwa degrading fellow opposition saying Museveni is comfortable because of “weak opposition”, really. I wasn’t perplexed especially from a man who just lost an election but it proves a point). Its been and is still a a big task bringing everyone on board, people pretend to explain and justify UNITY by citing ideological, programmatic, strategic, personal (ambitions), and partisan differences that only create greater confusion in the people that need a non-fictional social economic and political change in this country Uganda. But we don’t give up on that step as well, we shall continue pushing till we win that as well.
Facts reveal that the UNITY needed to defeat dictators like Museveni is constantly sabotaged by “functional opposition members” those who respond to the regime’s interests -which turn out to be their own interests as well- helping to maintain the dictatorial status quo. Take an example from personal freedoms and family safety to important dealings, political perks (those special benefits that are given to these people), positions of power (Like leader of opposition in parliament and a lot more spots), these all seem to be “compelling reasons” for some opposition members to permanently weaken the possibility of ending the dictatorship because of those political perks.
Of course coming together as one force regardless of our political, class, age and tribal differences, fronting Uganda at heart as a force that opposes this ruthless dictator not only speeds up the process but also breeds a well-oiled chain of command at all levels of different opinions.
Because the absence of this unity of command and strategy weakens democracy’s options and portrays the dictators’ false image of strength, of which Museveni operates on divide and rule strategy, a transnational strategy to retain power at any cost as well as with the region’s destabilization that’s why he is allover but very fragile, he is too weak, his real weakness is huge due to the popular rejection, the failings of his 36 years rule, his criminal system, and the evidence of its crimes that is all over. Dictators like him have no chance of surviving but seek ways of prolonging their usurpation of power with persistent damage to the nations they oppress.
We have to finish this assignment. Uganda must be Free