In a country where the 78% of people are under 30, the president, Yoweri Museveni, is 74 years old. He has been the president of Uganda since 1986, 32 years later, he has met his match. Robert Kyagulany, better known as Bobi Wine, has threatened Museveni’s power by magnifying the voices of the youth. In retaliation, Wine is a victim of attempted murder, torture, and arrests. The tension between Bobi Wine and Museveni has been expanding since its initial start August 13th. During a campaign for the 2018 election, protesters (in support of Wine) threw stones at the president’s convoy, and in hours following, Wine’s driver was found dead, a homicide attempt by the NRM, Uganda’s primary political party. Two days later, Kyagulany was arrested, along with 32 others.
Uganda has recently become an independent country. It wasn’t until 1958 that it was granted internal self-government from Britain’s rule. Though legally Uganda was considered independent at the time, following this transition, the country battled serious government corruption with the presidency of militant Milton Obote and his successor militant Idi Amin. Amin is known as the “Butcher of Uganda”, due to his dangerous nationalism and tribalism. Almost 300, 000 people were killed in his rule, and even more cases of torture.
In 1986, The National Resistance movement combated Amin and he was replaced with Yoweri Museveni. This movement seemed to aid in the recovery of the country by installing more regulatory issues of government, and beginning the creation of a more democratic country.
In the eyes of many elders in the country, and undoubtedly Museveni himself, he is a hero. Many people believe that he transformed this country from a dictatorship to a democracy. And though he has made some positive changes in the country, he and the National Resistance Movement are highly corrupt. Museveni has been in office enough to currently be serving a completely new generation of people, one in which his outdated opinions are not taken lightly.
Bobi Wine’s antagonization from the government is not rare in the country. Social activist Stella Nyanzi has also been legally attacked from the National Resistance Movement. She was charged with the Mental Treatment Act for being outspoken about Women’s Rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and sexual freedom. She has also been arrested numerous times, though unsurprisingly, as the Ugandan government tried to ban mini skirts and impose life-sentences on LGBTQ+ activists.
Though both Wine and Nyanzi has faced similar charges, the government attempted to kill Wine and brutally beat him, which begs the question of why he is so threatening. Wine is a renowned singer/songwriter and a politician. He also publicly critiqued many of the governmental amendments that would further oppress the people Uganda. For example, he protested the social media tax that went into effect early July. In addition, he showed opposition toward the amendment that would change the presidential age limit to 75. Not only does Wine have the attraction of popular culture, in which he infuses his political thought, but he also has governmental ties as a politician. Candidates he has supported in elections have triumphed. He is only 36 years old, and now is representing an entire generation. He has coined the term “People Power”, and the National Resistance Movement tried to register the term as a national group so that he can no longer use it.
Bobi Wine argues most for social freedom and resistance, and his platform is primarily pro-people. Uganda is undergoing tremendous changes, as its independence is so recent. There are numerous battles with malaria, AIDS, and poverty. The primary argument of the youths in Uganda is job opportunity. The state of the household incomes in the country are particularly unstable and vulnerable because there are so few secure jobs available. Though it is normal to have discourse between the people and the government in any country, it is peculiar that there is such a stark controversy, when the issues are so universally accepted as problems.
Ultimately, the conflict between the young people and Museveni, and further, Wine and the president, seem to stem from generational disconnect and power. Museveni represents a more positive end to an extremely negative part of Uganda’s past, and Wine seems to represent the depth of societal thought in the country. Museveni has controlled the country for over three decades, and now, inevitably, it is slipping away from him. Now, only time will tell if power truly is in the people or the president.