Bobi Wine’s meteoric rise to prominence in Ugandan politics was made possible, surely, by his previously earned popularity in the Afrobeat music, but this conclusion overlooks something much more important. For a few years now, Bobi Wine has been actively transitioning from entertainment (or “edutainment” as he likes to call it) to a position well within the realm of opposition politics — and many of his fans followed. From the outset of his political career, Bobi Wine’s opposition message has been clear, making him a long-time target of state-backed repressive measures. The relationship between the young parliamentarian and the State is emblematic of something much deeper in Uganda, and hopefully, the last two weeks are not a harbinger of even worse things to come.
Following a brief interaction in court, Wine’s lawyers reported that their client had been brutalized. His face was swollen; he had sustained multiple fractures; and he had been so badly beaten that he couldn’t sit, stand, or walk. His injuries were so grave, they said, that for much of the hearing he had not even been fully conscious.
In the face of this account, Ugandans at home and abroad are bracing for a new, more drastic sort of political crackdown in their country, where intimidation and harassment of political activists has been the norm for decades. Many are convinced that President Museveni—whose government receives more than $800 million a year in American aid as the U.S.’s foremost military ally on the African continent—wants Wine dead(…)
(…)Last Friday, August 17, Wine’s wife, Barbie Kyagulanyi, was at long last permitted to see her husband. Her subsequent description of their encounter was harrowing. In a statement to supporters, she wrote that Wine’s injuries had rendered him almost unrecognizable. Kyagulanyi described her husband being carried into the meeting room, still unable to walk or sit upright. “He has great pain in the left side ribs and hip,” she reported. “He bled a lot through the ears and through the nose. Blood stains are still visible!” She alleged that soldiers had beaten him unconscious and that he received “many injections and has no idea what they were for.”
Kyagulanyi concluded her statement with a desperate appeal. “Our request,” she wrote, “is that he is urgently allowed to access his doctors so that he gets the much needed medical attention. Especially since he highly suspects that he underwent internal bleeding. May God’s angels be with you, Bobi, in that military facility where I am not. May the God of heaven fight this battle for you and for all of us.” Her plea was rendered all the more urgent over the weekend by reports that Wine’s torture has left him with severe kidney damage.