In Uganda, it is a deputy who is called “the Honorable Robert Kyagulanyi”. But most of his fellow citizens know him under his artist name: Bobi Wine. Because our guest is both an opponent of President Museveni and a singer adept of afrobeat and reggae. His political activism cost him dearly. His songs are forbidden on the air and their author – when he is not under house arrest – regularly ends up in court.
Last April, he was arrested and charged for organizing an illegal rally in 2018. After three days in detention, he was released on bail. On tour in Europe, Bobi Wine has just performed in Denmark and the Netherlands and is scheduled to perform in Sweden and Germany. While in Paris, he answers questions from RFI.
💧RFI: Hello, how do you prefer to be called, Bobi Wine or Robert Kyagulanyi?
Bobi Wine: I prefer simplicity, people call me what they want, as long as they keep my message.
💧What would this message be?
It is a message of freedom, of liberation, but perhaps, above all, that we can achieve it ourselves as a people.
💧You criticize in your songs President Museveni and what you call his ” military regime “. What do you blame him exactly?
President Museveni has been in power for 33 years. He came to power by force of arms, and his dictatorship is maintained by the force of arms. Anyone who opposes Museveni, the president for life, is targeted and destroyed.
You must know that President Museveni has silenced his opponents. He arrested and imprisoned many opposition leaders. Many of them were killed.
What I and my friends advocate is a revolution of youth, a peaceful revolution. We want to bring together all Ugandans, all Ugandans who are fed up with dictatorship and military rule, to claim what is theirs: freedom, democracy and the rule of law.
We want to see the end of this military regime so that Ugandans can finally exercise their sovereignty as citizens.
💧Why do you say it’s a military regime ? Yet there have been elections …
We note that during these elections, President Museveni deploys the army – people are beaten – and he organizes electoral fraud. At the last presidential election, in 2016, the military took over the polling stations and the main opposition candidate, Kizza Bessigye, was arrested and placed under house arrest. He was even prevented from going to court.
All of this is the fact of President Museveni. Abroad, he presents himself as a democrat. This is why many people say of him that he is an “enlightened dictator”. But you should know that my songs are forbidden, that I do not have the right to attend any public gathering, simply because I criticize President Museveni – because I and my team are planning to run for the presidency.
In Uganda, the mere fact of wanting to run for a presidential election is almost a crime.
💧Do you want to be President of Uganda ?
Yes, I already said it and I repeat it. My team and I are seriously considering opposing President Museveni in the next election. It’s less than two years old. It will not be surprising if, on behalf of my team, I am a candidate – if my team agrees.
💧Why would a singer like you want to be president?
I represent the younger generation. I represent the forgotten, slum dwellers. There is so much poverty in Uganda. More than 80% of the population lives below the poverty line. What I and my friends defend is a revolutionary idea: the idea that ordinary people must have full citizenship.
We keep repeating that Uganda belongs to its citizens, not to President Museveni and his family.
💧An opposition coalition is being formed. When should it see the light of day ?
Discussions continue with all the forces for change. We know that in the past we have never been able to overcome our political and social divisions, to ignore our political parties and our social classes. Now, Uganda is divided between oppressors and oppressed. God willing, we will come up with only one opposition candidate. This should be announced soon.
💧A first case of Ebola has been confirmed in Uganda. A little Congolese boy of 5 years old. What should Uganda do?
Hospitality is at the heart of the values upheld by Uganda. It is a characteristic of our people. And we can not close our door to strangers. However, the health system needs to be more vigilant. This is not the first Ebola outbreak. We need to invest more in our health centers to control and combat new epidemics.
💧Should we close the border?
Certainly not ! We can not refuse to welcome a neighbor whose house is in flames. No, we believe in hospitality, fraternity. And if there is an epidemic on the other side of the border, we need to come to the help of our brothers and sisters.