“To face Museveni is like a death sentence,” said Joel Ssenyonyi, press spokesman for the opposition National Unity Platform (NUP), to “Al-Jazeera”. Shortly before the elections on January 14th, the military is patrolling the capital Kampala, some of them with heavy armored vehicles, to ensure security. Ten candidates want to challenge President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in office since 1986, and his National Resistance Movement (NRM). Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu from the progressive National Unity Platform (NUP) is particularly promising. The singer, who is known by the name of Bobi Wine and is celebrated by the poor as the “ghetto president”, repeatedly came into conflict with the security authorities in the course of his election campaign. They accused him of disregarding the guidelines for protection against Covid-19 at his events. “Unfortunately, some of our competitors didn’t follow the rules,” said Museveni. “They have gathered large numbers of people, which favors infections.” For Wine, however, the measures are just another means of stifling political competition. The army reportedly carried out a raid on Wine’s house on Tuesday, but this is officially denied.
The repression that opposition members have to live with in Uganda is not new. Kizza Besigye, founder of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), who had run four elections against Museveni since 2001, was arrested 1,023 times without being convicted once. During Museveni’s fight against the Milton Obote dictatorship, Besigye was his personal physician. In 1999, however, there was a rift. This year he finally decided not to run again because there were no fair terms. Instead, he now wants to use other means to mobilize against the incumbent. “If the constitutional framework is not in place, the people must stand up and fight to restore constitutionality,” Besigye told NTV Uganda. His successor Patrick Amuriat, who is now running for the FDC, has been arrested nine times since November, the last time on Sunday, according to reports in the Ugandan newspaper “Daily Monitor”. A few days earlier, a police officer shot at Amuriat’s convoy but was then placed under arrest.
The number one target for the government is Wine’s following. In protests against his arrest in November, more than 50 people died in clashes with the police within a few days. It wasn’t until the end of December that his bodyguard was run over by a police car. Economy Minister Baltazar Kasirivu-Atwooki barely survived an attack on Wednesday night. In the primary elections he was unable to prevail within Museveni’s NRM and is now running independently for a parliamentary mandate.
Since Tuesday, the mobile phone providers have also been blocking access to the Internet and social media at the behest of the national government commission for communications. Wine was only able to participate in a conversation about the elections with the German Africa Foundation with VPN. Facebook previously deleted allegedly fake accounts related to the government and involved in a campaign against Bobi Wine. Museveni said media opposing the NRM would not be tolerated in Uganda. One more reason to see Bobi Wine as an agent of foreign powers.
When asked about Museveni’s suspected foreign relationships and homosexual ties on an NBS Television program, Wine replied that it was a shame to ask this question to a married man. “I’d rather use my time to talk about our plans for this country,” he countered. “We are supported by Ugandans,” said Wine. “Museveni can talk what he wants, because he has nothing else to say.”
Boaz Murema, founder of the »Bantu« association, which supports development projects in Uganda, admires Bobi Wine for showing »the importance of the role of youth«. Many of the middle class have since given up on politics and do other things. “The current government promises a future that it has not been able to offer for 30 years,” the student told the “nd”. At an event organized by the Afro-German Academic Network last year, he had the opportunity to ask Bobi Wine about his political perspective. The most important task is first to overthrow the president, Wine would have replied. For Murema, however, Museveni is not the real problem, but his party and the system that created it. He lacks a specific program at Wine.