Bobi Wine’s return to Uganda from the US was not without fanfare. Hundreds of supporters flooded the streets of Kampala to welcome the “ghetto president” of Uganda after his trip to the US to receive medical treatment for the injuries he sustained while in custody. The violent arrest and detention of Bobi Wine and several other opposition parliamentarians last month has galvanized the Uganda’s youth, a demographic largely disillusioned with President Yoweri Museveni’s now 32-years long rule.
The police banned any planned rallies to welcome Mr Wine. “I have come to continue exactly where I stopped,” he told reporters at his home. “I am going to fight on and, like I said, we must get our freedom or we will die trying to get our freedom.”
Elected to parliament last year, the pop star represents an unprecedented threat to Mr Museveni as he captures the imagination of young, disaffected Ugandans. “The emergence of Bobi Wine and the fact that he represents young people that feel marginalised represents a nightmare scenario for the regime,” said Godber Tumushabe, associate director of the Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies, a policy think-tank in Kampala.
“This a large movement that feels aggrieved with the regime. It is more than just some disgruntled urban people,” Mr Tumushabe said.
Uganda’s median age is 16. Mr Museveni is 74, while Mr Wine is 36. Around three quarters of Uganda’s population is under the age of 30, meaning they were not even born when the president came to power.
Government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo defended the government’s decision to ban rallies to welcome Mr Wine on security grounds, and said the pop star was seeking to use opposition among the youth for his own political ambitions.
“Bobi Wine is depending on wild eggs to hatch for him,” Mr Opondo told a Ugandan television station. Mr Wine, the self-styled “ghetto president” and one of the country’s most popular musicians, has long criticised Mr Museveni’s tight control of Ugandan politics in his lyrics.