The following statement was delivered by Bobi Wine during a press conference held in Kampala on September 24, 2018.
Fellow Ugandans home and abroad, and our comrades in the struggle all over the world,
I greet you all and thank you for your standing firm and remaining steadfast in these hard times.
As you all know, more than a month ago on 13th August, many things happened which I do not wish to recount here. I must however say that whatever the enemy intended for evil, God has turned out for good in many ways. The torture, indignities and brutal treatment which my comrades and I endured at the hands of some in our security forces have made us understand the depth of the problem we have at hand, strengthened our resolve and focused the attention of the world on Uganda. Our officials have always duped the world into thinking that they are democratic and some innocently believed them- not anymore. They have been exposed to the core.
I am eternally hurt by the senseless murder of our brother Yasin Kawuma, who was gunned down by those who we pay to protect us. There are other people who were shot dead by security officers during peaceful protests in Kampala and Mityana. On the day I was released on bail, as we traveled back to Kampala, two young people who were among those gathered in towns to express their solidarity with me, were knocked dead by police vehicles. While we pray that the departed comrades rest in peace, we must remember that no one has the right to take the life of another. Article 22 of our country’s Constitution guarantees the right to life, yet like the entire constitutional order, this provision is so liberally violated with impunity by the same people who swear to uphold the Constitution and defend Ugandans. There is no respect for human life whatsoever.
Many more Ugandans were violently arrested, tortured and many of them are still languishing in jails without charge. My friend Eddy Mutwe tells of how he was arrested by the military, blind folded for many days, and tortured while some security personnel tried to extract information from him. Our legal teams are doing everything possible to follow up on these cases in very hard circumstances. As the whole world knows, our very lawyers who are trained to defend the oppressed, have been intimidated and efforts to compromise some of them are ongoing. We appreciate the Uganda Law Society for speaking out against the bullying and intimidation of their members. I can only pray that the entire legal fraternity joins the leadership of the Society in fighting for the right of advocates to practice their calling without being targeted or receiving threatening calls.
The killers of our people must be condemned by all. Those who torture and maim the citizens of this nation must be called to order. Those who give such orders are cowards who must be exposed. They should remember that throughout history, those who found joy in killing and causing pain to fellow human beings did not go far. No matter how fearsome the forces of darkness seem, they never win in the end.
My call to the citizens of Uganda is to realise that we are in this together. When we allow these extra judicial killings to go on unchallenged, sooner than later, even you who is disinterested in politics will get affected. Regardless of our different political opinions and any other classifications, we must all continue to unanimously challenge and condemn the torture and murder of our people. It is not enough to watch with consternation the kinds of videos we’ve been watching these past days- showing soldiers and police officers doing unimaginable things to fellow citizens. I implore us to do more in every small way. Whether you are a lawyer, doctor, student, farmer or boda boda rider, we all can play a role in ending this madness.
I send special thanks to the journalists and the media fraternity who have remained courageous and steadfast in their work. Many times you have put yourselves in the face of extreme danger, trying to tell the story. You have been bartered, tortured, intimidated and yes, many of you jailed for doing your work. The images of journalists being whipped on the streets of Kampala shocked the world. I can assure you that we are with you. Uganda stands with you. And indeed, part of our struggle is to restore media freedom in this nation so that you work in a free and safe environment. That is what you deserve. You did not go to journalism school so that you are bruised for doing your work.
I have said time and again that we have many professional and patriotic security officers. Not all of them are rogue. Not all of them are brutal. And we must appreciate many of them for doing their best in tough conditions to keep us safe. At various times, I have interacted with several officers from the top to the lowest ranks in the UPDF and the Uganda Police Force. I have met officers who are very disgusted and frustrated by the system. They understand that they too are prisoners. They fully appreciate that as a result of bad governance, they earn peanuts in a failing economy and cannot raise their children in a befitting manner. They know that as a result of bad politics, they do not live in dignity. My message to them remains the same- we are not fighting them. We are fighting for them.
Let me repeat my call to them- those who put on our uniform. It doesn’t help you to keep quiet as some rogue elements amongst you, taking orders from desperate regime elements, kill and maim your brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers. You should not allow the regime to turn you against the population. You are citizens of Uganda first, before and after you put on that uniform. Learn from those who came before you that from the population you came and to the population you will return! Those who still have values- please set yourselves apart. Restore confidence that you are pro-people! You put on our national flag and that should be a source of honor and pride; not a source of condemnation from those who watch your colleagues torture and kill their own people.
Before I move from this point, let me thank the world for keeping their eyes on Uganda. The government has for long committed grave atrocities on our people and tried to keep them in the dark. Uganda is part of the global community and we know that we cannot be free if some are not free. My plea to the world is to keep your eyes on Uganda, and on our struggle for freedom. As surely as the Lord lives, our nation will once again sit on the table of nations with pride.
To the people of this nation, I know your struggles, the shuttered hopes and the frustrations which stare most of you in the face every day. But here is the good news. I feel that your cry for freedom has reached the heavens. That God who throughout history delivers the weak from their mighty oppressors will surely redeem us by His strong and mighty hand. We only need to play our part. Remain steadfast. Remain committed. Remain devoted. Mwebelelemu. Don’t look to the right, or to the left. The day of redemption is at hand.
To President Yoweri Museveni, how do you feel when you do this to your people? I have read and watched your numerous communications to the nation since the events in Arua. Instead of calling your troops to order- the same troops which have murdered Ugandans and tortured me and others to near death, you have patted them on the back and thanked them for a job well done. Would I be wrong to say that these violations are sanctioned by you? Mr. President, you refer to yourself as jaja, and call us bazukulu. Most Ugandans who have their grandparents alive always speak fondly of them, because the jajas love, protect, and cherish their bazukulu. They are not always hunting them down for voicing a contrary opinion. But you have become a tyrant and turned us into fugitives in our own country. Last Thursday as I returned to Uganda, you turned Entebbe and Kampala into a war zone and our people were once again brutalized. It has now become a crime to put on a red t-shirt or say the words “People Power.” You and your lieutenants have described us as inconsequential, indisciplined hooligans. Why is the state very afraid of someone they have labelled as an ‘inconsequential muyaaye from the ghetto?’ How quickly did you forget that the regimes of the past described you and the guerillas you led in the 80s as bandits and lumpens? Respect the rights of the people because just like them, you too was once not in power, and you will not be in power forever. Treat Ugandans the way you would love to be treated. Be a statesman. Concern yourself not with the next election but with the next generation which is demanding for freedom. I hope you can redeem yourself before it is too late. As things stand, history may treat you worse than Uganda’s past leaders who you like to disparage. You are a good Bible reader. I will repeat to you what Moses told Pharaoh of Egypt on God’s orders- “Let my People go.” You have the option of heeding this message or continuing to stiffen your neck.
Let me now address a few questions about our struggle.
Some people have not yet understood what People Power stands for. I have addressed this before but I want to address it yet again. I want to address this so that all of us and our genuine allies can speak with a clear, solid and consistent voice.
People Power is not Bobi Wine. It is not about me or anyone else. People Power is not a political organization- at least not now. People Power is an idea! It is the idea that all power belongs to the people as guaranteed by Article 1 of our Constitution. The state abdicated its constitutional duty to promote and propagate the teaching of the constitution to all citizens of Uganda. What we are doing is simply do that- remind the citizens of this nation that all power belongs to them, and not to the President, any soldier or minister. We are raising the consciousness of the people who have been stepped on for such a long time, and turned into slaves in their own country. So far we are succeeding!
Therefore the state’s efforts to stop us will not yield much and I advise them to stop attempting because they will certainly fail. With or without me, the people of Uganda will reclaim their sovereignty and authority. No one can stop an idea whose time has come!
We are aware that the state has attempted to use some people to reserve and register the name People Power as a political organization with the Electoral Commission. The intention is to hijack this name and prevent us from using it further. We also have information that the state is planning to invoke Section 56 of the Penal Code Act and declare People Power an unlawful society. We have also heard state officials declare People Power a terrorist organization. We are aware of all these antics but we are not bothered about them. We are not even surprised- despots throughout history manipulate the law to oppress their people. We know that what we are doing is legal, moral and right. No one can hijack People Power because People Power is the People of Uganda. People Power is you and me.
People Power is you, young person who finished school five years ago but continue to struggle to find employment. People Power is you student who is in school studying very hard but you know that you will not get a decent job if nobody knows you
People Power is you Ugandan who left your country against your will and are living as a slave in a foreign land, doing odd jobs so that at the end of the year you can send some money home
People Power is you, young lady who is right now in labor but you are very worried about becoming added to the statistics of mothers who die in labor every day because of our ailing health care system. People Power is you who lost a loved one because there was no oxygen in hospital, or you couldn’t find an ambulance to save his or her life.
People Power is you journalist who is beaten on the street for doing your work; the lawyer who is told to back off if a case involves ‘abanene mu gavumenti’; the doctor who has been promised every year that things will get better only for them to get worse; the teacher who educates other people’s children but cannot afford to educate his or her own children because of very poor pay- that is People Power.
People Power is the religious leader who is branded an enemy of the state for preaching against injustice and oppression- who is constantly told to only preach about the spiritual needs of his flock and forget about their physical needs.
People Power is you who is struggling to run a business but the state is imposing heavy taxes on you with little to show for it in terms of service delivery. People Power is that market woman selling vegetables but cannot make ends meet because of the high market dues.
People Power is the ghetto youth who doesn’t know what the future holds for him or her. These past days, the ghetto youth have seen government officials come with brown envelopes, with handouts telling them to stop supporting People Power. The wise ghetto youth knows that for 32 years he has been neglected. He has always heard about the youth fund but the money is stolen before it gets to the ghetto. The ghetto youth knows that the voice which is speaking for him is now being silenced. He is not willing to be used, but the uncertain future still stares at him.
People Power is the elite who is employed today but is not guaranteed of employment tomorrow because of the continuous lay-offs in companies as the economy continues to bite.
People Power is that wealthy investor whose investments are under threat because of the bad politics of those steering the ship called Uganda.
People Power is that politician who belongs to the NRM party but is bothered by the way things are going, and yet has no voice within the party to raise those issues without being labelled a rebel and fought by the state.
People Power is the several opposition members who have time and again been labeled terrorists simply because they don’t agree with the policies of the current establishment.
People Power is the artiste, the entertainer, the blogger, the boda boda rider, the taxi driver, the conductor, the electrician, the hair dresser.
Ladies and Gentlemen, People Power is every Ugandan who is interested in a better country. Many will come and claim to be leaders of People Power. Some are already using this to get money from the state and thereafter cause disruption. Ignore such people and remain focused on the cause. You shall know them by their fruits. People Power is all of us. Even myself, I am just like the rest of you- only lucky that you have given me a platform to speak with a louder voice. So just like you, I am also People Power.
I urge my fellow Ugandans to continue to strive for a better country. Use every opportunity to work for a free Uganda. The odds against us are many, but let us not tire. One American leader once said that ‘Even in the face of impossible odds, people who love their country can change it.” I have never been more hopeful that this country will rise from its current state of injustice and greed by those who govern us. Let us together work towards achieving a Uganda that works for all Ugandans. And that is our vision for the future. A Uganda where leaders don’t cheat their way to power. Where leaders are servants and not lords over citizens. A country whose economy thrives. A country whose people are proud to be called Ugandans. A country where citizens hold their leaders accountable. A country whose people are not oppressed and bartered, A Uganda that works for all Ugandans. A Uganda that provides equal opportunities for all, regardless of who they are.
I call upon all of us to be peaceful and non-violent in our quest for a better country. Let us not respond to state inspired violence with violence- we would have given them their desire to kill, maim and destroy. But we must be assertive. We must assert our rights peacefully, boldly and courageously. We must reject injustice, oppression, suppression and exploitation with one voice. One day, we shall be free.
I cannot end this address without once again sending sympathies to the family of my late brother and friend, afande Muhammad Kirumira. His brutal murder only tells us how much we have to do to heal our nation. I also once again send sympathies to the people of Tanzania for the loss of over 200 citizens in a ferry accident on Lake Victoria. I will soon announce plans to reach out and thank all those who have stood and continue to stand with us in this struggle against dictatorship. Specifically, let me assure our dear brothers and sisters in Kenya, as well as other fraternal African countries that I have read your countless messages of solidarity. Very soon, I will announce plans for us to meet, interact and sing songs of freedom.
For God and my Country
Your brother and comrade in the struggle,
Kyagulanyi Ssentamu Robert [Bobi Wine]