Using excessive displays of force, Ugandan security forces again strong-armed Bobi Wine into cancelling one of his performances last week. Disgruntled fans of his music, supporters of his politics and everyone in between made their frustration with the unequivocal demonstration of political repression immediately clear. Writing for the East African, political scientist Frederick Golooba-Mutebi worries that the public’s outrage, even when echoed in a recent declaration from Uganda’s parliament, may not be enough to handle President Yoweri Museveni’s “gloves off mode.”
As we enter a new year, it is imperative that the global community take responsibility and watch Uganda very closely. President Yoweri Museveni – despite his protest – is the greatest present and future threat to Ugandan democracy.
A good debate could be had about whether being a popular opposition politician in Museveni’s Uganda is more or less hazardous than it was before he seized power 33 years ago. What is difficult to dispute, however, is that it isn’t anyone’s idea of “healthy living.”
From the way things look, Museveni has now moved into gloves-off mode, the same approach he has invariably used to see off opponents who in and outside Uganda have touted as “the greatest threat to his hold on power.”
One need not look for proof any farther than the recent declaration by parliament that blocking Bobi Wine’s concerts is unconstitutional.
In countries where the idea of checks and balances means what it should mean, the declaration would have been enough to protect the musician-turned-Member of Parliament from this kind of harassment. In Uganda, it has made no difference.
Here, respect for parliament by the executive is optional. When push comes to shove, large numbers of MPs can be cajoled, bought, or intimidated into doing as they are told. Which is why Bobi Wine should expect no relief from his appeals to parliament.
And, if history is anything to go by, cancellation of his concerts is only the initial step in a series of measures that will be deployed to neutralise him.