“Freedom Fighters Become Dictators”

Today’s edition of The New York Times has published an extensive and detailed profile of Bobi Wine. Excerpt below:


Mr. Wine’s songs were played not on radio, but in nightclubs and on cassette tapes and CDs. “I never really got into trouble with Museveni, because for a long time there was a disconnect between the common people and the elite,” he said. “I was not important to them, and that was advantageous for me.”

Then things began to change.

“Many of the elite did not know me until about 2016,” he said, “when they were looking out for who is popular and who is influential among the common people, so they could bribe them and put them on their side.”

Mr. Wine decided to go into politics that year because “the election was stolen and people were being beaten and others killed — I realized it was about time.” (…)

One group, from the Busoga Kingdom in eastern Uganda, presented him with an 18th-century spear and shield. “We give you this power, this shield to protect the country,” the leader of the group said solemnly as Mr. Wine struggled to his feet with the aid of a walking stick. Others offered pineapples, trunks of plantains and a goat. Someone offered him a Bible.

“People power, our power,” they chanted.

Young men wearing self-styled revolutionary gear — bright red jumpsuits and red berets, the color of blood and brotherhood, they said — loitered around, taking selfies. David Kitoro, a villager, was such a fan of Mr. Wine that he pledged to only wear red from now on. He recently ordered three new jumpsuits and is planning to change his bedsheets to red, too.

Nearby, young men and women from Mr. Museveni’s National Resistance Movement waited anxiously. They were switching allegiance. And students from Makerere University listened to Mr. Wine rapturously, holding placards comparing him to Nelson Mandela.

“These guys are so scared of us, man,” he told them. “You have no idea, you have no idea, these guys are so freaked out. And they get uncomfortable, because they know that this is our power.”

But Mr. Wine also gave them an ominous warning of what could lie ahead.

“It’s not going to be easy,” he said, clutching his walking stick. “They’re going to tear gas us. They’re going to whip us. They’re going to imprison some of us.”

“And, yes, they will kill some of us.”

Read the full article on the New York Times.