The Conversation has published a fascinating interview with Jimmy Spire Ssentongo, an Associate Dean at the School of Postgraduate Studies and Research at Uganda Martyrs University. Among his comments, Mr Ssentongo explains why Bobi Wine is particularly feared by the Museveni regime.
How serious a political challenge does Bobi Wine pose to Museveni?
This is best answered by understanding what Bobi Wine represents.
There’s a tendency to focus simplistically on Bobi Wine in terms of his moral, academic, and other experiential credentials. But this fails to place him contextually within Uganda’s political landscape.
Museveni is still popular among some section of Ugandans, who argue that in spite of his failings, he is still better than most of his seven predecessors. A lurking fear of “going back to the past” still plays in his favour. He has some achievements to show too.
But this narrative holds no sway with the younger generation, many of whom were born after 1986, the year Museveni became president.
Before entering formal politics, Bobi Wine enjoyed significant clout in the music industry. He entered the political arena through a defiant ghetto card with a relatively consistent background of politically critical music. Last year he stood for parliament, arriving on the political scene with a bang that surprised many. His catch phrase was:
Since parliament has failed to come to the ghetto, then we shall bring the ghetto to parliament.
The state’s panicky mistake was to react to his popular entry by openly persecuting him – initially through banning his music shows. Museveni showed early on that he’d noticed the young man had a following, by writing direct responses to him in the newspapers.
Then there was the ruckus in parliament over a vote to remove the age restriction on the presidency. Bobi Wine was among those who fought hard to stop it.
Bobi Wine makes his feelings known during an altercation in Parliament.
What seemed to draw Museveni’s attention even more was that candidates supported by Bobi Wine started to beat those backed by Museveni hands down.
Gradually Bobi Wine began to build a more conspicuous political identity around a very catchy slogan “people power, our power”, unmistakably dressing in red attire plus berets, emulating Julius Malema’s militant Economic Freedom Fighters party in South Africa.
It became clear that Bobi Wine was winning the hearts of youths as well as some earlier sceptics.
Given the widespread public desperation in Uganda, all many people want is a person who shows the potential of removing Museveni. All else is secondary.
In this sense Bobi Wine poses a real threat to Museveni, more so in consideration that young Ugandans, many of whom are unemployed, constitute a huge percentage of the active electorate.