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Well over thirty-six years ago, in 1982, the year Bobi Wine was born, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni was busy commanding the war that eventually led him to power. At 36, Museveni had run for president in 1980 as a rabble-rouser representing the new Uganda Patriotic Movement (UPM).
His party did not even stand an outside chance of winning the election, with Milton Obote’s Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) and Paul Ssemogerere’s Democratic Party (DP) being the hot favourites. In the end, Museveni even failed to win his own parliamentary seat. During the campaigns, he had warned that he would start a war should the election be rigged, and he did indeed start a war after UPC controversially claimed the election for itself amidst claims that DP had won.
Paulo Muwanga, who was the head of the interim Military Commission government on which Museveni served as Deputy Minister for Defence, had arrogated himself the powers that were entrusted in the Electoral Commission to announce election results, returning UPC as the winner, with Obote proceeding to form a government for the second time, having been earlier deposed by Idi Amin in 1971.
Museveni had watched the intrigue and power play and how the gun had emerged as the decisive factor in Ugandan politics since 1966. He had decided early in life that his route to power would be through the barrel of the gun. His determination to employ the gun became manifest when he launched a war against Amin’s new government in the early 1970s.
Museveni’s Fronasa fighters were part of the combined forces that was backed by the Tanzanian army to flush out Amin in 1979. Also among the fighting forces was a group that was loyal to Obote. Museveni’s and Obote’s forces and other groups were looking for ways to outsmart one another as they fought the war. It was a time when Bobi Wine was not yet born.
As a young rebel leader, Museveni helped topple dictator Idi Amin in 1979 before retreating to the bush to wage a guerrilla war against his repressive successor, Milton Obote. Shortly after ousting the government and taking power in 1986, Museveni declared:
‘The problem of Africa in general, and Uganda in particular, is not the people, but leaders who want to overstay in power.’
Museveni received early praise for returning some stability and prosperity to Uganda, which after years of coups, violent tyrants and civil war was among the world’s poorest countries.
He was returned to office in 1996 in the country’s first direct presidential election since independence from Britain in 1962. Uganda’s economy grew rapidly in the 1990s as Museveni undertook sweeping reforms, pleasing foreign donors and financial lenders keen to sponsor a burgeoning African success story.
Museveni’s early successes combating the HIV/AIDS epidemic and reducing poverty burnished this image in the West as a modern African leader committed to good governance. But his moral standing took a particular hit when Uganda and Rwanda invaded the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) twice in the late 1990s. Both armies were later charged in The Hague with looting Congo’s resources, killings, torturing civilians, and using child soldiers. Museveni would also be accused of supporting rebels in the region, an allegation that would resurface time and time again during his long tenure.
In 2001, Museveni defeated his main opposition rival Kizza Besigye at the ballot box, and committed to standing down at the next election.
But instead, he changed the constitution in 2005 to do away with presidential term limits.
The following year, his 20th in power, he defeated a popular Besigye again in a vote marred by violence and irregularities.
That same year, the Lord’s Resistance Army was largely driven out of northern Uganda after a grinding and brutal 20-year insurgency, although Ugandan troops hunted the rebel leadership in Sudan, DRC and Central African Republic for another decade.
Museveni pleased Washington, a close friend that provided Uganda billions in foreign aid, by sending troops to serve under the US in Iraq and to Somalia, where they formed the backbone of an African Union mission to confront the Al-Qaeda linked jihadists Al-Shabaab.
In 2010 the UN accused Ugandan troops of war crimes in eastern Congo. Kampala threatened to withdraw its peacekeepers from Somalia, South Sudan, Darfur, Ivory Coast and East Timor — a trump card it would use again in future when accused of further meddling in DRC.
Museveni won a fourth term in 2011 over Besigye, who again decried the vote as a sham. Not long after, security forces were deployed to violently suppress major street protests as food and fuel prices soared and the economy teetered. Ugandan troops fought alongside South Sudan’s forces as the new country descended into civil war in 2013. At home, the crackdown on critics intensified, with radio stations being taken off air and newspapers raided for airing suggestions that Museveni was grooming his son for succession.
In 2014, Museveni signed a controversial anti-homosexual bill into law, drawing resounding criticism from around the globe, and attracting US sanctions and a freeze on EU donor funds.
‘I am not power-hungry, but mission-hungry’ Museveni said in 2015, describing the economic transformation of Uganda as his only purpose, and vowing to return to cattle-keeping should he lose the election the following year.
But he won that, too, and proceeded in 2017 to change the constitution once more. This time he removed age limits for presidential candidates, clearing his path to run for a sixth term in 2021, aged 76, and and reinforcing fears that he plans to rule for life.
Bobi Wine (real name Robert Kyagulanyi), who has been a Member of Parliament for just a year, has followed a different path. He is one of those Ugandans who believe that Museveni should be the last Ugandan leader to access power through the barrel of the gun. He wants future leaders to work their way into the hearts of Ugandans and convince them that they can take the country forward.
Bobi Wine first rose to popularity through music. He has for over a decade been disseminating political messages through his songs, in which he positions himself as a poor man’s freedom fighter. Through his music, he criticised the government when he felt it sold the people short; he also castigated the Kampala City authorities over throwing vendors and other poor people off the streets; and he sought to encourage Ugandans, especially the youth, to take charge of their destiny.
‘When freedom of expression becomes the target of oppression,’ Bobi Wine said in one of his songs, ‘opposition becomes our position.’ That was before he joined active politics.
When he married in 2011, he made sure that the marriage was celebrated by the Archbishop of the Catholic Church in the capital. When he was incarcerated recently, there were prayers for him at Rubaga Cathedral, the seat of the Catholic Church in Uganda. Catholics are the biggest religious grouping in the country.
Bobi Wine was born in Gomba, one of the counties of Buganda, the biggest ethnic group in Uganda. He has worked his way into the Buganda king’s heart, dubbing himself ‘Omubanda wa Kabaka’ (the King’s Rasta man).
In Uganda’s music industry, Bobi Wine and his ‘Fire Base Crew’ rose to the very top in their category, with Bobi Wine calling himself the ‘Ghetto President’, whose retinue included a ‘Vice President’, a cabinet and other members. He also has a security detail. Bobi Wine has over the past decade traversed the country where he has been performing as an artiste. Then, shortly after his election to Parliament, he travelled to many places within the country to introduce himself this time as a politician. He enjoys name recognition across the country that no Ugandan politician of his age and experience can command.
Sunday, 17th of January, 2021 saw President Museveni Yowesi re-emerging winner of the Ugandan Presidential elections after a hot contest from the younger Bobi Wine. This would be his sixth term at the helm of affairs in Uganda.
For decades a U.S. ally on regional security, Museveni now finds himself increasingly at odds with an outside world he sees as hellbent on regime change. Wine has urged the international community, including the United States, to suspend the billions of dollars in foreign aid that he says props up a brutal regime.
Museveni, in response, has called Wine a foreign agent and says he will not tolerate interference from the international partners whose money helps his government provide important public services.
‘The Bazungu. I don’t want to be racist, but they are the ones who are mostly involved’ in meddling, Museveni said in a televised address on Saturday after he was declared the election winner, using a Swahili word for white people. ‘Foreign meddling will not be tolerated.’
On Monday, the U.S. ambassador to Uganda was blocked by security forces from visiting Wine at his home, which is surrounded by soldiers. Police say the deployment is to prevent Wine’s presence in the public from inspiring riots after the disputed polls.
Museveni won Thursday’s election with 58% of the vote while Wine had 34%, according to official results. That’s Museveni’s lowest share of the vote since his government first organised elections in 1996, when he won 75%. Many members of Museveni’s government, including the vice president, lost or failed to win parliamentary seats. Many of the losses were to candidates from Wine’s party, which swept the central region that includes the capital, Kampala, as well as an enclave that once was the launchpad of the war that brought Museveni to power.
Wine insists he won the election and says he will prove allegations the military was stuffing ballot boxes, casting ballots for people and chasing voters away from polling stations. He has posted a video on Facebook purporting to show a police officer stuffing a box with ballots in an undisclosed location.
‘I know many of you were brutalised for trying to record evidence of rigging, but those who succeeded, please send in the videos,’ Wine said on Tuesday. ‘The whole world must see Museveni for who he is — a shameless, ruthless election thief who is yet again trying to suppress the will of the citizens.’
Museveni has dismissed allegations of vote-rigging. ‘I think this may turn out to be the most cheating-free election since 1962,’ when Uganda won independence from Britain, he said in his national address.
Wine, who is effectively under house arrest, can challenge the election results in Uganda’s highest court. But judges in the past have been reluctant to rule against Museveni, dismissing allegations of irregularities as not being substantial enough to affect the overall election outcome.
This election has proven to outside spectators that President Museveni Yoweri is just another African dictator who is scared of his high and mighty power because of the financial and personal gratifications it brings to him.
The dictator seized power by the sword, something many Ugandans forgave him and supported him for; however, he has lived by the sword, something most Ugandans now denounce him for, and will never forgive him for. As a result of his naked brutal militarism, millions of Africans have died. All combined, the victims of armed atrocities ordered by Museveni number at least 10 million; 1 million Uganda; 1 million Rwanda; 7 million Congo; and, 1 million or more for South Sudan, Burundi; Somalia, and the Central African Republic.
Museveni is an illegitimate president, having lost a number of past nationally-organised presidential elections, but then always refusing to concede. He has no moral claim to the presidency. His rationale for seizing power was allegedly to end dictatorship and government imposed by election-rigging under Milton Obote. Museveni’s election-rigging and dictatorial repression is peerless and unrivalled in African history.
Museveni has turned the country into a personal ATM for himself, his family, and cronies and acolytes. He has also has made corruption, including embezzlement of foreign aid the normal way of life in Uganda; people who are not corrupt are viewed with suspicion. Even funds dedicated to healthcare services, including for combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, have been embezzled by his ministers. Museveni himself has purchased a private Gulfstream jet costing tens of millions of dollars; this money did not come from his family inheritance. Even the U.S., his regime’s key sponsor with $750 million annually, last year condemned official embezzlement.
These embezzlements and pervasive corruption have deprived Ugandans of resources and services that they are entitled to, including decent education and healthcare delivery. Instead, children attend classes sitting under the shade of trees, with insufficient books and educational supplies–meanwhile, hospitals lack medicines. The Daily Monitor, the nation’s leading independent newspaper published an expose where dead bodies were left on hospital beds for several days; this is abominable. In his usual routine, he has also engineered domestic turmoil by promoting land grabs throughout Uganda in order to seize land for himself, his family members, and foreign investors. The latest hotspot, where inter-ethnic violence is being fueled by the regime in order to depopulate and seize the land, is Apaa in the northern part of Uganda. The pattern of displacement has occurred elsewhere around the country.
He has destroyed the process of democratisation and derailed the rule of law. He subverted the constitution by engineering the removal of presidential term-limits and the lifting of the age 75 ceiling to enable him to run again. He seemingly hopes to extend his regime until he dies in office or is succeeded by a family member, presumably his son. Gen. Muhoozi Kaenerugaba.
Museveni has created instability since the country lacks the mechanism for, and history of, peaceful transfer of power; meaning his incapacitation or death could trigger a violent power struggle. His dictatorship has turned Uganda into a political pariah in East Africa. Serious movement towards political integration has stalled and by doing this he has destroyed prospects for a better future for the youth of Uganda. Youth unemployment, shamefully, is the highest in Africa and stands at an estimated staggering 83%. Dictator Museveni now spends all his energy hatching new schemes to extend his regime rather than creating jobs, wealth and prosperity for the youth of Uganda.
Although this is the same pattern with numerous other African countries, Muesevi seems to have paved the way for a new form of Dictatorship under the guise of Democracy.
AFRICA DAILY NEWS, NEW YORK