Presidential candidate Robert Ssentamu Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine was recently interviewed by CNN international host Christiane Amanpour. There has widespread interest since the programme aired on Dec.07. We reproduce a transcript of the interview due to public demand.
Christiane Amanpour : So, now to another country, another continent where democracy is under attack. And that’s in Uganda. President Yoweri Museveni has been in power there longer than many Ugandans have been alive, nearly 35 years.
In the beginning, Yoweri won praise from the international community for bringing stability to that East African nation. But, over time, he has tightened his grip on power, squashed the opposition, and cracked down on dissent.
With elections due in January, Museveni is now facing an unlikely challenger, pop star turned politician of the people Bobi Wine. He was elected to Parliament in 2017. And he says he’s been tortured for his outspoken criticism of Museveni and he’s now dodging death for daring to run for president. He was arrested last month. His car’s been shot at. And he now wears a bulletproof vest to campaign. And Bobi Wine is joining us from the Ugandan capital, Kampala. Welcome to the program.
How difficult is it for you? I have just read a list, a litany of the pressure you’re under and the very real bullets that have been fired your way. Tell me why you’re taking this risk.
WINE: Thank you very much for having me, Christiane. And pardon me if I looked too spaced. I have just been forced out of three districts tonight, where the police officers are not allowing me to sleep in those districts.
Right now, I’m in Arua, and the only hotel that was willing to take me for a night is a hotel where my driver was shot dead, and I also survived death on the 13th of August in 2018. But I’m happy to be here.
I am taking this risk because it is worth it, and because nobody else is going to do it other than we ourselves. And in any case, not taking the risk is even taking a bigger risk, because nobody is safe, those that stay at home and keep silent about the enslavement and we who speak out. That is why I dare represent my people in this trouble.
AMANPOUR: So, you know, I said many people are — weren’t even born when the president first came to power. In fact, 80 percent of the Ugandan people are under the age of 35, which is how long he, Museveni, has been in power. But what is it that makes you believe that somebody who’s held onto power for this number of years is ripe for a challenge and potentially could be defeated by somebody such as yourself?
WINE: Well, I was also 4 years when President Museveni took charge of our country. But, like you mentioned, the biggest part of our population is under the age of 35. Precisely over 80 percent of our population is my age and below. These are the disconnected young people, the unemployed, the excluded. They have no — our country has been divided into the haves and have-nots. So, these are the masses looking and searching for a different – searching for better, searching for change, but, most importantly, wanting to be free in their country, wanting their voice to be heard. That is the constituency that I am representing.
What gives me confidence that we can overwhelm the dictatorship is the history, the recent history in Africa. The young people did it in the Gambia. The young people did it in the Sudan. The young people have done it all through history. That is why I believe that, if we stick by the law, if we come out massively and vote, we can be able to overwhelm the dictatorship of President Museveni, and, for the first time in our life, also have a taste of true freedom.
AMANPOUR: So, look, I have interviewed the president several times. The last time was a few years ago, admittedly, but he insisted to me that the opposition is free to operate in his country. This is a little bit of what he said: (Plays video) YOWERI MUSEVENI, PRESIDENT OF UGANDA: The opposition in Uganda competes on a level playing field. There is no opposition which we stifle. Otherwise, we never restrain the opposition at all. (End of video clip).
AMANPOUR: So, level playing field, no restraint. Bobi Wine, tell me, apart from the very real danger, which is obviously, I guess, your overriding concern, are you able to campaign? Do you have access to the media? What are the issues that you’re facing trying to mount a credible campaign?
WINE: Well, it is funny for President Museveni to say there’s a playing — a level playing field for the opposition. First of all, I was arrested on the day of nomination, on the nomination ground. I was beaten, pepper-sprayed, and driven straight to my home. I have been blocked from using the main roads by the police and the military. Just tonight, I was denied accommodation from three districts. And, like I say, the only hotel that was willing to take me in is this hotel owned by my friend, the same hotel where my driver was murdered two years ago.
I am not allowed to speak on radio station. The military has literally taken over the campaign — the campaign process. I am not allowed to access any town. And whenever I try to campaign, I am driven in very, very remote areas, where there are no people. Thanks to the dynamics the way they are, because the people, especially young people, have had to walk miles and miles to access us. The only media that I can be allowed on is social media. That is the only media that we have that we can use to communicate to our people. I — as you mentioned, I have to put on a bulletproof for me to be able to campaign. I have survived two assassination attempts in the last two weeks, where bullets have been shot in my car and on the tires and in the windscreen. Tear gas canisters are thrown at us every time. We are tear-gassed brutalised and even shot with live bullets by the police and the military. That is the ground that President Museveni calls leveled.