As the head of the court martial; Lt. Gen. Andrew Gutti, has already said, Bobi Wine got himself into a latch and should not expect much sympathy from his court.
Scared status quo
These events are the peak of a fluid political situation in Arua which, observers say reflects the situation around the country. Anything can happen; especially, the unexpected.
Even though he did not carry the FDC flag in this poll, Wadri used the FDC’s V-sign throughout the three weeks campaign. But he also draped himself in red – the colour of the so-called “People Power movement” whose poster face; the first term young MP Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine is accused of related crimes to Wadri’s.
It is a sign of the times that Wadri could run as an independent, ride on the popularity of Bobi Wine’s red army but still use the symbols of a registered opposition party; FDC, which also had its official candidate in the race. Bobi Wine and his group back the winning bull. They are not bound by party allegiance or ideology. Theirs is a footloose wave that scares any status quo.
Equally significant is the reality that, just about 20 months to the 2021 general elections campaigns, Museveni and his ruling NRM party have not yet devised the means to defeat the new force in an election. The red wave has the momentum, and neither Museveni nor the mainstream opposition parties have a containment strategy, and time is running out.
Although the red wave emerged around the September 2017 skirmishes in parliament between security forces and MPs opposed to the lifting of the presidential age limit to allow President Museveni to be eligible to contest elections, Bobi Wine who had just won the Kyadondo East seat in June 2017, appears to have installed himself as its de facto leader. Associates under this group stand out for their red scarfs, overalls, beret, shirt or T-shirt, and red anything really and their boldness. It has been growing in strength and, some would say, notoriety.
After riding on youth discontent with NRM and his popularity as a music superstar to win in Kyadondo, Bobi Wine has led his red army to support winning candidates in three byelections in Jinja East, Bugiri, and Arua.
In most cases, it has been a case of the apprentice beating the master as Bobi Wine’s camp has trounced candidates supported by his mentor; the opposition FDC stalwart Kizza Besigye. In all cases Bobi Wine’s camp has also defeated candidates backed by Museveni. And, in a major break from the past that is threatening the old order and parties like FDC and NRM, Bobi Wine’s camp appears to win not through vote rigging, intimidation, or bribery but through mobilisation of voters.
Bobi Wine targeted
Voters appear captivated by Bobi Wine’s boyish charm and charisma which belies the hardened calculative street smarts of someone who grew up in some of the toughest neighbourhoods of poverty and drugs, conquered them to become the “Gheto President”, built a music and business brand, and reinvented himself as a politician. These traits of Bobi Wine were on show in Arua. But while they have in the past helped him elude the brutal force of Museveni’ssecurity agents, he was this time caught in their net.
According to people who have observed Bobi Wine, he lives life as a marked man, constantly devising ways to evade capture. In Arua, for example, although his entourage reserved several rooms at Hotel Pacific, Bobi Wine did not stay in any of the rooms. Instead he would sneak away to a secret room. His tendency to avoid doing the obvious also might have saved his life when his driver was shot dead in Arua. At the time, the driver was reportedly seated in the co-driver’s seat – where Bobi Wine would otherwise have been.
As the straight-talking Senior Presidential Advisor, John Nagenda, put it in his column in the Saturday vision, “was the killer trying to kill Kyagulanyi?
But despite his attempts at hiding, Bobi Wine was ferreted out of his cover, allegedly after a member of his team was threatened and betrayed him. He and the other MPs and detainees were tortured battered badly in a case that has attracted international attention and left Museveni attempting an image clean-up.
Bobi Wine and another young MP, Francis Zaake (Mityana Municipality) appear to have got the hardest end of the stick. Both could barely speak, sit, or stand when their condition first became public. Bobi Wine had to be airlifted from Gulu to Kampala, where President Museveni says his condition was assessed by army doctors to ensure that his life is out danger. Zaake who gory torture photos were the first to shock on social media ended up in a private clinic, breathing on oxygen tanks. Reports that he had died sparked riots in his constituency on Aug.19 and one person was shot dead and several injured, including police officers. Earlier, on Aug.18 the police had running battles with youth burning tyres and barricading roads in Bobi Wine’s Kamwokya suburb of Kampala city. Teargas was fired and several were injured and arrested. On Aug. 20, riots broke out and teargas and bullets rung out in downtown Kissekka town area and other parts of the country.
The Arua Municipality election fiasco has since spawned the hashtag #freebobiwine on Twitter.
Museveni has personally responded with missive after missive in an overdrive of damage control. In a statement released by the presidential press unit on Aug.15 and attributed to the President, he said elements of the Opposition, including Wadri, Bobi Wine and others who stoned his convoy, and shattered the rear glass window of his car, which is not armoured caused the problem.
He blamed opposition leaders who take processions of supporters through congested streets. The President referenced Bugiri where another person was killed during a byelection there.
“We went to the bush to fight for the right of making political decisions by Ugandans without intimidation by word or action. Anybody who threatens this will have himself to blame,” he said.