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Bobi Wine’s roaring campaign

Bobi Wine’s campaign photographs and videos are all over the internet. For all its great achievements, NRM has failed to master social media.  PHOTO BOBI WINE MEDIA TEAM

The things Museveni needs to look at as he battles a youthful musician out to oust him

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | I have just been re-reading President Yoweri Museveni’s 1981 masterpiece on why he chose a protracted armed struggle to fight the government of Milton Obote. It provides an incredible insight into how a weak group can employ its weaknesses as strengths and turn the strength of a powerful but oppressive state into handicaps. It is incredible how, even without strategic thought but sheer gut, Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine is using the same strategy and quite successfully against Museveni.

Over the last month, Bobi Wine has created a serious campaign. He has positioned himself as an underdog fighting an entrenched dictatorship. To many young Ugandans suffering from anxiety over the future: whether employed, underemployed or unemployed, he has a simple but powerful message: “I am fighting for your freedom; all of you have to become freedom fighters to fight for your freedom. Some of us will die but it will be for the greater cause.”

This message is resonating with many young people in urban and semi urban areas who clearly see him as their hero, and who also think this freedom (people power) is a ticket to happiness. Bobi Wine is short on policy and strategy, but he is sincere with his feelings, which resonate with this segment of our society. He is unlikely to win this election (even if it were free and fair) for reasons I will discuss another day. But for now he is the cool new kid on the block.

Here is Museveni’s real dilemma: Bobi Wine has branded him a dictator. So Bobi Wine needs proof of this. He has, without premeditation, lured Museveni into a series of street battles where more than 100 people have been killed. This slaughter has been captured live on social media, the platform where Bobi Wine’s base dominates. He has provoked a powerful enemy in control of the state to use arbitrary violence to prove his accusations of dictatorship. This is exactly what Museveni did to Obote in Luwero.

Museveni and his brother Salim Saleh in Bulemezi the early years of the Bush War that brought the NRA/NRM to power in the 80s. PHOTO WILLIAM PIKE

In the aforementioned article, Museveni argues that the role of the guerrilla should be to undermine a government’s credibility and legitimacy in both the domestic and international arena. By provoking state security forces to kill civilians, Bobi Wine is doing exactly that. Yet Museveni is not acting differently from how he has handled previous opponents, political or armed. Indeed, the NRM/A was much more uncouth and violent in its early years than today.

Bobi Wine’s success at branding Museveni has been due to three factors: the presence of new technologies of social mobilisation (social media), the decay of ideological commitment within NRM (death of siasa) and the collapse of the structures of demobilisation and counter mobilisation NRM used to have.

For all its great achievements, NRM has failed to master social media. This is not because it does not see its value but because it is ideologically exhausted; lacks committed cadres with passion to tell its story. Those it had, it has sidelined or ignored them because its core has been captured by self-seeking, money-minded elites looking for the next big job or deal. Museveni can pour billions at this problem but cash cannot replace ideological commitment as a platform for generating mass enthusiasm. Siasa needs a faith.

Second, the longer Museveni has stayed in power, the more authority has shifted to him individually. This authority is today radiated from him through a small circle of family, close kin and friends. There are no longer many people around him who are not family but who can exercise the influence people like Eriya Kategaya, James Wapakabhulo, Bidandi Ssali, Amanya Mushega, Kahinda Otafiire, Jim Muhwezi, Kale Kayihura, Amama Mbabazi or Noble Mayombo did. This is why the president’s campaign is a one-man-show starring Museveni alone.

Bobi Wine campaigning. He travels in a convoy of over 50 vehicles, hundreds of boda bodas, and an army of about 180 people, who provide a human shield around him. PHOTO BOBI WINE MEDIA TEAM

Hence there is internal paralysis in NRM, no creative thinking, too much inertia; everyone waits for “Mzee” to make things happen. But Museveni has grown old. He lacks energy and zest. He often postpones addressing critical issues because he is overburdened and exhausted. Thus many issues in need of attention remain unaddressed. His own style and approach makes matters worse. Museveni has little interest in young people. He finds them impatient and reckless.

It is in this context that Bobi Wine has surprised the system. The way he has rolled out his campaign plan across all the districts he has visited shows that he had been underestimated, grossly. The political and security apparatus lack both the political and the security smarts to handle him, hence the arbitrary use of violence. So the biggest coverage about Museveni is not what he is campaigning to do but the violence and brutality he has unleashed on Bobi Wine.

The NRM is not able to change its ways because it has governed Uganda for 35 years using particular methods, which have served it well. However, Uganda has radically changed: its economy, the population, the level of education and exposure and its lifestyle and attitudes. Bobi Wine is a representative of this change. The previous candidates against Museveni came from the old political order (Paul Ssemogerere, Sebana Kizito) or from Museveni’s own camp (Kizza Besigye). NRM knew how to handle them. But they are clueless on how to handle Bobi Wine.

So the people in charge of the system are using old ways to cope with an entirely new phenomenon. And this is at a time when they have suffered deep institutional atrophy, terrible loss of energy, passion and morale, and a grievous decline in faith in their mission. It is a government led by a political party that has degenerated into a cash and carry mentality. Without faith in its mission, the NRM no longer seeks to convince but to bribe and/or coerce. This explains the retreat to violence as the one and only tool.

Now Bobi Wine is doing something politically dangerous: he is demonstrating actual power. He travels in a convoy of over 50 vehicles, hundreds of boda bodas, and an army of about 180 people, who provide a human shield around him. His convoy is larger and seemingly more powerful than that of Museveni. It closes the entire highway turning it into a one-way road as police watch helplessly, often just escorting him. This projects him as a president in waiting. No one should lose sight of the symbolic significance of this especially among our peasant population. Bobi Wine is not an existential threat to the NRM and Museveni’s power. But he is, without doubt, a strategic threat.



  1. Thank you so much for this genuine insight. Your discussion is critical and we’ll balanced. Its is very difficult to fight ideas and/indoctrination. Bobi has successfully indoctrinated the public with his ideas which are seekingly the solution to the public. Mwenda let our people in NRM read these things in the media they could be a solution to the detorieting support for us. NRM is genuinely loosing out let us no predent. We need to act. Thank you Andrew.

  2. There is one in history and yes in scripture, on whose path, the NUP Principal is treading and here’s a quote about and on him:

    2 Samuel 15:5-6 Contemporary English Version
    5 Whenever anyone would come to Absalom and start bowing down, he would reach out and hug and kiss them. 6 That’s how he treated everyone from Israel who brought a complaint to the king. Soon everyone in Israel liked Absalom better than they liked David.

  3. I think Mwenda too has been beaten into reality. I can’t wait to read you say “Bobi was actually an existential threat to NRM/Museveni.”

  4. The slogan “We are removing a dictator” is very ironic because what we have been witnessing during these campaigns seems to be the formation of an actual dictator through cult of personality.

    One of the main issues challenging our democracy seems to be political illiteracy among the electorate, which accommodates such things as cult of personality and political bankruptcy among candidates.

    We have to pray very hard for our Uganda.

    • Correction:

      *ideological bankruptcy (not political bankruptcy)

      It would be nice to have the options of editing and deleting one’s comments.

  5. The slogan “We are removing a dictator” is very ironic because what we have been witnessing during these campaigns seems to be the formation of an actual dictator through cult of personality.

    One of the main issues challenging our democracy seems to be political illiteracy among the electorate, which accommodates such things as *cult of personality* and *ideological bankruptcy* among candidates.

    We have to pray very hard for our Uganda.

    • A snippet of common discourse during these campaigns exposing current levels of political illiteracy, ideological bankruptcy, cult of personality:

      Inquiring minds: “Supposing he still smokes and he legalizes ganja?”
      Enchanted electorate: “…omuyaye abeere…”

      Inquiring minds: “Supposing he is being supported by the gays and in return he allows gay marriage?”
      Enchanted electorate: “…enewe… tugobe obunyarwanda munsi yaffe…”

      Inquiring minds: “Supposing he reduces taxes and gives very many free things as he has been promising, how will government remain afloat?”
      Enchanted electorate: “…tumbavu…”

      This is the level of discourse among the electorate, who are supposed to be deciding who the president will be, just one month to elections.

      I don’t know what churches have been doing all this time or even how things have managed to reach where they have now reached, but what I know is that very serious prayers are needed for Uganda.

  6. Tunku Abdul Rahman

    Does anyone believe Museveni & Co. will take heed? What they can’t get fairly, they will get by cheating, by bribery, and by force!

  7. ejakait engoraton

    The biggest of all ironies is what M7 claimed he went to the bush to fight, costing probably up to a million lives.
    He claimed to have gone to fight corruption, rigged elections, secterianism, dictatorship and all kinds of ills only for him to end up doing a lot worse.
    I have noted before that M7 was not against corruption, dictatorship, rigged elections etc per se, it is just that it is him who wanted to be doing those things. So in his twisted mind all these things are OK, and he actually defines them in his own way, as long as it is him who is doing them.

    • “We are given to the cult of personality; when things go badly we look to some messiah to save us. If by chance we think we have found one, it will not be long before we destroy him.” – Constantine Karamanlis

    • Museveni needed to be in control so as to have a base through which he and his Tutsis can have resources and means to topple the Rwandese Hutu government that had overthrown the Tutsis before. That is why he was shocked to learn that he was not popular in the 1980 elections which was organised by the interim government that he was part of. So his claim of a rigged election was unfounded. His constituency where he campaigned, did not vote for him, despite the massive army recruitment from Western Uganda soon after liberation of Uganda from Idi Amin. Museveni trained in Mozambique in gorrila war, so he had planned the guerilla war much earlier. So to cut the long story short, look at the plane crash of Hybreimana, enlisting Kagame as Chief of Staff in Uganda Army, etc. So Uganda has been bled a lot to fund the Tutsis war to install Kagame in Power. So Museveni has achieved his main political agenda.
      Because he had partnered with the Babaganda in the Luwero area, and he infiltrated the Obote Govt. through the weak old Okellos (which he did not honour), he was able to establish his government. Now that the Baganda, have broken ranks with him, his secrets are now being exposed and he is scared of the exposure. So he will not leave government until death.
      What is surprising is the fact that the people who have benefited the most from any government at all, the people who are tribalistic, are the ones now rising against Museveni government. Ugandans have already forgotten that it’s the Baganda, who are the main problem in Uganda. They are the ones, who gave an ultimatum to the Obote Govt. in the 60s to vacate their land. Prompting Obote to send Idi Amin to arrest the Kabaka. It’s them who welcomed Idi Amin to power. It’s them who always get jobs as thty live in industrial zones. It’s them who always loot Kampala dry at every government change. It’s the Baganda who shut down all vehicles from leaving Kampala, from taking people of the North and East or West who are fleeing to their villages, forcing them to walk on foot. Even in the diaspora, the Baganda do not mix with other Ugandans. All child sacrifices, happen only on Buganda region. So am surprised that Bobi Wine, a multi-millionaire is complaining of sufferring under Museveni Govt. Popular as he is, he has no political policy just like Museveni did. He needs to clarify whether he is on the side of Labor/Democrats or Conservatism, so he can attract the right support internationally.

  8. Someone has smelled the coffee.

  9. I think clarity already existed before bibi called Museveni a dictator, it’s just to what degree are you benefiting or close to m7 that you will see it. If we were more critical museveni is a trans generational dictator or pseudo dictator.
    Bobi may not have a proper ideology of leading the nation but his better than the rest who spit venom on museveni government and can’t stand for change. So Mwenda sit back, do your daily routine and talk facts, don’t close one eye and white wash the darkness in our government.
    Remember opposition is a fault any governance. let’s enjoy our nation so as our fore generation will not remember us as hypocrites

  10. All illusionary acts causing mayhem in the Sevolution era is well known to be a one man ideology he himself talks about.almost 80% of his cabinet members are nurtured and ill inflicted with corruption at the expense of the vulnerable population.
    Once a fish gets rotten from the head,the other parts automatically becomes a Waste.
    We have reached a break even point whereby through force or by nature, a regime change is at the door step.

  11. Aljazeera Stream – Uganda is bleeding
    Bwana Mwenda – it was nice to see you debating freely with others on the current situation in Uganda, something impossible to do there without being arrested and tortured. I believe the NUP spokesman is a victim of the police state beating and humiliation.
    The UTube stroll poll of Bobi Wine winning over 60% of vote is interesting as it demolishes your thesis that Bobi cannot win free and fair elections. Indeed Besigye has been winning only to be robbed of victory through state violence and rigging – General Sejusa I believe can one day confirm this in his overdue bibliography.

    You came under fire for over praising the regime over GDP performance and the danger of using one indicator. One of the speakers countered about the lack opportunities, high unemployment and income distribution- many Ugandans surviving on less than $ a day.

    Credit for mentioning the social media and the free publicity it’s giving to Bobi Wine.

    On the whole it was an interesting debate and the whole world is watching Uganda.

    • “The UTube stroll poll of Bobi Wine winning over 60% of vote is interesting as it demolishes your thesis that Bobi cannot win free and fair elections.”

      Actually, I’d be cautious about drawing such hasty conclusions as internet polls and statistics can be deceptive.

      Firstly, that 60% is representative of only particular demographic groups that can access the internet and engage in such polls.

      Secondly, a good chunk of Bobi Wine’s online support comprises underage fans and foreign fans particularly from Kenya, Nigeria, and other countries that are amused by his candidacy… basically, non-voters.

      Thirdly, the internet is awash with fake accounts and individuals with multiple accounts created specifically for purposes of trolling and skewing internet based statistics and polls… it’s no secret that such things form part of social media strategies employed during campaigns across the world, and social media campainging is undeniably Bobi’s turf.

      What I find interesting is that social media has not been blocked despite what could arguably be seen as widespread abuse of freedom of expression including posts and comments that are clearly inciting violence.

      So, all those things considered… 60% actually seems a bit modest and shaky for one to claim that it demolishes Mwenda’s thesis that Bobi cannot win free and fair elections.

      He definitely has achieved cult status, but at the same time, one cannot completely ignore the “silent majority” concept and how it may play out on election day.

      Only time will tell how free and fair elections will be, and what the outcome of the elections will be.

  12. I find it very interesting to note that Bobi Wine was able to campaign in Yumbe for NRM candidate and the reason he gave for doing so. The security agencies were left not knowing how to react simply because he Bobi aligned himself with the youthful Doctor.

    I think this is very strategic and NOT for one who does not know a thing. Remember a country is not managed by one person but allowing institutions of governance to function in accordance to the conditions provided in the constitution onstitution.

  13. 1.Witchcraft is real!Bobi’s camp is using simple IT technology during campaigns but government seems overwhelmed.
    2.I am shocked by the behaviour of the security forces in this day and age;gone are the days when people would disappear without any trace.
    3.This is the most delicate election in Uganda’s History;why do i say so?under dogs really surprise people;Bobi may need a little bit of polishing but his supporters who are the biggest in number can not wait any more.
    4.We live in an era where most of the hard working presidents have set the dinning table.The question is who do they want at the dinning table?
    5.M7 may win the election but he has really been shaken which is good.
    6.Uganda’s economic progress has made her a centre of attention and attraction ;thats why the power of Bobi can not be underestimated.
    7.If case Bobi wins the election;he may be overwhelmed and he will be overthrown in a coup.
    8.How prepared is Uganda for a political transition?
    9.We need physchological healing coz 35 years of NRM is too long.
    10.I know this what the Common wealth thinks.
    11.NRM has to be politely requested to prepare to hand over power not the rude NUP style of demand.

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