YEAR IN REVIEW: Bobi Wine and his new party continued to dominate the news in 2021 amidst persecution from government
Kampala, Uganda | IAN KATUSIIME | A presidential election. A new majority opposition party. A spate of kidnaps and torture. That was the script of 2021 stemming from Bobi Wine’s presidential bid that jolted President Museveni’s 35-year long hold on power. Few in Uganda expected a different result other than Museveni extending his hold onto power but it was not without a fight unseen before.
The result was an ugly crackdown that saw hundreds of youths who support Bobi Wine and his party, the National Unity Platform (NUP), kidnapped, tortured and languish in dungeons- many never heard from again.
Others lived to tell the tale. One such example was David Lule, aka Selector Davie, a long time friend of Bobi Wine and musical partner. After being hauled from his home two days to the January elections by over three dozen military men, he became part of a bulging statistic of those that were paying the high cost of an association with Bobi Wine, Museveni’s nemesis.
“I am not even a NUP mobiliser, I don’t have any position in the party. I have been helping Bobi with his music business which he is not even involved in any more to be honest,” Lule told The Independent early this year. Lule says he was charged at the military court at Makindye with an offence related to wearing a military cap on November 19, 2020, the day protests broke out in Uganda after the arrest of Bobi Wine in Luuka, at the height of the presidential election campaign.
“I went to Makindye military barracks where there was a daily dose of caning, beating, endless and pointless interrogation,” Lule said.
Many of those kidnapped for similar reasons as Lule were taken to Kitalya Prison which fast made a name as a detention centre for political prisoners. Bobi’s close compatriots like Nubian Li, another musical partner of the singer turned politician, and Eddy Mutwe, Bobi’s head of security were detained there.
They did not have the opportunity to vote for Bobi Wine. The two among other NUP supporters were released later in the year and narrated their torture ordeals at the hands of prison warders.
In an address a month after the elections, President Museveni said a special commando unit from Somalia was in charge of those being held incommunicado. Despite angry criticism from the public and international condemnation of the torture and kidnaps, the government remained unrepentant.
The government tightened the noose on NUP when it charged two MPs who are members of the party; Mohammed Ssegirinya (Kawempe North) and Allan Ssewanyana (Makindye West) with murder and terrorism in connection with killings in Masaka where 30 people were reported dead by end of August. The MPs have been denied bail repeatedly in what looks like a concerted effort to tie them to the mysterious killings in the rural areas of the Greater Masaka region.
Judges have shied away from hearing their bail applications and the first time both lawmakers were released on bail, they were promptly pounced on by security operatives and taken back to jail.
Ssegirinya was one of the most visible members of parliament going by his acts of philanthropy in his constituency until he was stopped in his tracks by the arrest and a murder charge.
Sanctions for torture
Torture of Museveni’s political opponents has had repercussions for the alleged perpetrators. On Dec. 7, the U.S. placed sanctions on Maj. Gen. Abel Kandiho, the commander of Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI), which has been responsible for some of the worst human rights abuses in the country. “As commander of the Ugandan Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI), Major General Abel Kandiho (Kandiho) and other CMI officers have arrested, detained, and physically abused persons in Uganda,” the statement from the U.S. Department of Treasury read.
The statement added “Individuals were taken into custody and held, often without legal proceedings, at CMI detention facilities where they were subjected to horrific beatings and other egregious acts by CMI officials, including sexual abuse and electrocutions, often resulting in significant long-term injury and even death.”
The U.S. sanctioned Kandiho saying he was personally involved in some of the interrogations.
Meanwhile the showdown between NUP and NRM went on. There was an end of year clash over the LCV by-election in Kayunga. On the day Bobi Wine was headed to the district for campaigns, the police and military pre-empted him: his home was cordoned off.
NUP hopes to increase its political influence one day at a time. It has mayoral divisions in Kampala occupied by its members and other positions outside of Kampala.
The party has 61 MPs making it the majority opposition parliament. Although it cannot overwhelm the ruling NRM which boasts five times that number- 323, the new opposition party has had its moments.
NUP lawmakers forced the Deputy Speaker Anita Among to postpone proceedings when the MPs pressed government about the continued detention of their colleagues; Ssewanyana and Ssegirinya.
In June, Museveni named a new cabinet with the surprise picks of Jessica Alupo as Vice President and Robinah Nabbanja as Prime Minister. It included the usual poaching from the opposition with Joyce Ssebugwawo, a former FDC vice president as minister of state for ICT.
After Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga fell out of favour with her party, she was forced to settle for crumbs in Museveni’s cabinet as Deputy Prime Minister and minister for East African Affairs.
YEAR IN REVIEW
2nd President Museveni directs Ministry of Finance to halt activates of DGF, a huge donor facility, with a Shs500 billion fund over its operations in the country without Cabinet approval.
14th Uganda holds presidential and parliamentary elections. President Museveni contests against several candidates with main rival Bobi Wine, a singer-turned politician.
17th – The Electoral Commission declares Museveni winner with 58% victory against Bobi Wine who polled 35%. Bobi declares he is going to the Supreme Court to challenge results.
24th Outrage in Uganda after scores of Bobi Wine supporters are kidnapped by the military in ‘drone’ vehicles.
13th President Museveni said some of the abductions were carried out by a highly trained commando unit brought in from the UPDF mission in Somalia.
22nd – Bobi Wine withdraws presidential election petition citing Supreme Court bias against him. Prior, the former presidential candidate, and head of the court; chief justice Owiny-Dollo, were involved in a war of words.
23rd Ned Price, the US State Department spokesperson, during a briefing said there would be consequences for those who may have perpetrated abuse during the Jan. 14 presidential elections.
4th Internal Affairs Minister Jeje Odong presents to parliament a list of 177 ‘missing’ people who were kidnapped by the military.
9th – Bobi Wine calls for protests citing election fraud by incumbent President Museveni. At a press conference in Kamwokya, Kampala, Bobi assembled an avalanche of files where he said he won with 54.19% of the vote cast.
18th– Constitutional Court rules it is unconstitutional for judges to be appointed to the Executive branch forcing Jane Abodo, the DPP, into an unexpected relinquishing of office.
31st Supreme Court issues an interim order staying the execution of the ruling after the Attorney General appealed.
3rd Kampala Archbishop Cypriano Lwanga dies mysteriously at his house in Rubaga, Kampala.
8th Pope Francis names Luweero Diocese Bishop Paul Ssemogerere as the acting Apostolic Administrator for Kampala Archdiocese to replace Lwanga.
11th– Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu signs major oil pipeline agreement with President Museveni.
12th-President Museveni swears in for a seventh successive term. While taking his oath at Kololo, Museveni told off critics in the West saying he does not need lectures on democracy and human rights.
17th Members of the eleventh parliament start taking oaths in a week-long ceremony. There are 529 in total.
24th– Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga is defeated in the race for a third term in the office by Deputy Jacob Oulanyah. Anita Among is elected as deputy speaker.
28th– Mathias Mpuuga is appointed Leader of Opposition in parliament by NUP leader Bobi Wine. John Nambeshe gets Chief Whip position.
1st -Works minister Gen. Edward Katumba is shot at while driving in Kisaasi. His driver and daughter are killed in the attempted assassination that government blames on ADF.
8th – Museveni announces new cabinet naming Jessica Alupo as Vice President and Robina Nabbanja as Prime Minister. Surprises included former FDC vice president Joyce Ssebugwawo who is named state minister for ICT. Ruhakana Rugunda is appointed Special Envoy in the Office of the President.
18th – President Museveni announces 42 day total lockdown as a deadly covid19 second wave hits Uganda. Car movements are prohibited, curfew brought forward to 7pm.
24th – Gen. Wilson Mbadi is named new Chief of Defence Forces and Muhoozi Kainerugaba Commander of Land Forces in army reshuffle.
9th – Fight breaks out between Covidex maker Prof. Ogwang and his employer Mbarara University of Sceicne and Technology (MUST) over copyright issues. Covidex, a covid19 remedy, became popular among Ugandans for its healing properties when cases spiked during the second wave.
15th Museveni names new permanent secretaries. Economist Ramadhan Ggoobi is named Permanent Secretary at Ministry of Finance, Lucy Nakyobe is appointed Head of Public Service and Beti Kamya IGG among changes.
19th -Global media investigations reveal that the phones of Uganda’s ex-Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, former foreign affairs minister Sam Kutesa, former Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) were tapped using Israeli spyware called Pegasus.
30th Lockdown partially lifted with noted reduction in cases. Inter district travel is opened, cars allowed to move and boda bodas allowed to operate. Schools remain closed.
3rd– Ugandan Turkish-based vlogger Fred Lumbuye goes missing in Istanbul. His disappearance raises a storm with fears arising of him having been targeted by government because of his viral videos announcing the death of President Museveni.
7th- 14 UPDF Generals are retired from the army alongside hundreds of other junior officers. Notable names included Ivan Koreta, Pecos Kutesa, Jim Owoyesigire, Robert Rusoke, and Fred Mugisha who had long clamoured for retirement.
23rd – Gen. Paul Lokech dies mysteriously at his home in Kampala after eight months as deputy Inspector general of Police. Post mortem report cites blood clot but speculation abounds on what felled the battle tested General at his prime.
30th Silverbacks, the national basketball team get stuck at a hotel in Kigali, Rwanda after they run out of cash while at a tournament.
5th Guinea President Alpha Conde is toppled in a coup. First Son Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba fires off controversial tweet about UPDF intervening to save deposed leader.
7th – Two prominent opposition MPS; Allan Ssewanyana and Mohammed Ssegirinya are charged with murder in the Masaka Magistrates Court in connection with mysterious killings in the district.
27th Security re-arrests Ssegirinya over alleged treason, just after being granted bail by the High Court.
28th – Museveni meets NRM caucus over a proposal to scrap bail. The meeting happened amid the detention of two opposition MPs denied bail while facing terrorism and murder charges.
7th -Veteran politician Dr. Kizza Besigye launches Peoples Front for Transition, a new political vehicle aimed at fighting for a political transition in Uganda. With a symbol of a red card, the Front is made up of old Besigye allies and it was notable for its snub of Bobi Wine’s NUP.
23rd – An explosion goes off at a pork joint in Komamboga, a Kampala suburb killing a waitress and sparking fear in Kampala. This was days after a UK-issued terror alert.
25th Another explosion goes off inside a bus on the Uganda-Masaka Highway killing the suicide bomber
6th– Medical interns go on strike over delayed pay of their allowances. There are over 1400 medical interns in the country including doctors, graduate nurses and pharmacists in the country.
16th – Two bombs go off in Kampala killing six people including three suicide bombers. Bombers struck in front of Central Police Station and near the parliament building. Over 30 are reported injured.
27th Nsenene vendor aboard Uganda Airlines causes storm. The vendor, a Ugandan Dubai trader says it was all for a TikTok video.
30th – Uganda launches revenge bombings on the ADF in retaliation for killings of Ugandans and bombs in Kampala in recent months.
7th– CMI boss Maj. Gen Kandiho is sanctioned by the US over alleged torture of Museveni opponents and other human rights abuses.
7th– Omicron, the new covid19 variant, is detected in Uganda.
12th– Museveni reshuffles ambassadors appointing Maj. Gen Rusoke as new envoy to Rwanda. Lt. Gen. Charles Angina is sent to Egypt.
13th– Senior Doctors at Makerere University declare their intention to join the medical doctors strike countrywide