BOBI WIN: Will banning the legislator’s concerts cripple him politically?
Kampala, Uganda | HAGGAI MATSIKO | Young. Muganda. Catholic. Pop star. This combo makes singer turned politician Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine the most complicated political opponent President Yoweri Museveni faces ahead of the 2021 elections.
But while the first three place Bobi Wine in the three biggest political constituencies, the last—pop star— it has become clear, is the fuel that powers the legislator’s political potency. This is why, experts say, President Museveni’s government has made it their biggest target.
At 37, Bobi Wine appeals to the youth who could easily be 70 percent of the voters come 2021. And as a catholic and a Muganda, Bobi Wine belongs to Uganda’s biggest political constituencies.
Indeed, while there were many other significant politicians in attendance at Rubaga Cathedral on Christmas Eve, Buganda Prime Minister, Peter Mayiga took time to recognise mainly Bobi Wine who was accompanied by his wife Babra Kyagulanyi.
“At one point,” Mayiga noted looking at Bobi Wine, “We were worried about what was happening to our legislator Kyagulanyi Sentamu.” He was referring to the events of October last year that saw Bobi Wine arrested, beaten and detained for allegedly disrupting the president’s convoy during the Arua by-election campaigns in which he was campaigning for Kassiano Wadri, who later won the Arua by-election.
Bobi Wine’s touch is credited for Wadri’s victory and that of three other legislators, part of the reason many see him as a kingmaker hardly a year after he joined elective politics—becoming the Kyadondo East legislator– through a landslide victory in which he trounced both the ruling party NRM and the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), also the biggest opposition political party.
But more than anything, what has got Bobi Wine this far is undoubtedly his music. While most of his music has always been socially conscious, it was always largely apolitical.
Then in the build up to the 2016 elections, he made the switch focusing mainly on political music, and targeting President Yoweri Museveni’s government. In just two years, he has been christened Uganda’s king of protest music in Uganda.
In a country of growing discontent over President Museveni’s overstay in power, Bobi Wine’s music has become a lethal mobilisation tool. And the musician who could not fill a small venue on his own now pulls crowds that can fill several stadiums. His November Kyarenga concert at the One Love Beach in Busabala, which he owns, is to-date the biggest concert by any Ugandan artist.
“Seems @HEBobiWine doesn’t understand the “treason” he committed with his Nov. 10 Kyarenga Concert & and why his Boxing Day show is being blocked,” Tweeted political commentator Charles Onyango Obbo, “He got easily the largest PAYING crowd in Ugandan history & @KagutaMuseveni might never get such numbers even if he paid them.”
Obbo was commenting after police forcefully blocked another of Bobi Wine’s concerts accusing him of using his music to push a political agenda and incite violence.
But it appears no one is fooled. Many say President Museveni is looking to cripple Bobi Wine both financially and politically by banning his concerts because he now sees him as the biggest political threat ahead of the 2021 elections.
Indeed, over the last 32 years he has been in power, President Museveni has deployed a number of methods to kill off competition and frustrating their business, business partners and blocking their mobilisation efforts continues to top the list.