What should deal be between the old and new opposition leadership?
Kampala, Uganda | GAAKI KIGAMBO | The manner in which the Police attacked and arrested popular musician cum politician Bobi Wine (real names Kyagulanyi Robert Sentamu) on April 22 was the same as when in 2011 they arrested Dr Kizza Besigye; a four-time presidential candidate against longtime President Yoweri Museveni. So why did Bobi Wine’s arrest not produce the same shock effect?
It could be because for most Ugandans such misconduct by the State has become so commonplace it hardly surprises anymore.
Yet if there is any one thing it underlined, it is the fact Besigye and Bobi Wine are birds of a feather who must hasten their flight together in their individual and collective struggles to end Museveni’s long rule.
The Police, with elements of the army in tow, shielded Bobi Wine’s car from prying journalists as they smashed its windows with batons and gun butts in order to arrest him for trying to access his One Love Beach.
He was there to hold a concert the Police had cleared five days earlier but had cancelled at the very last minute. Whereas the Police claimed he had not fulfilled their safety and security standards, it quickly became clear they were acting on the orders of Museveni who, according to Daily Monitor, has outlawed all Bobi Wine’s concerts.
Soon afterwards, they confined him in his house, which is illegal in Uganda, the same way they have repeatedly done Besigye, when he attempted to move out to his business. No two politicians have been treated in similar manner in Museveni’s Uganda.
On the face of it, the two men are aligned as regards their declared aim and they demonstrate the same resolute determination to see it through come hell or high waters.
Both have a way with the people gained, inadvertently, nearly over the same stretch of time: 2001 to date; Besigye through turning on Museveni while Bobi Wine through singing largely protest music against Museveni’s regime.
Both men are powered by the idea, carved in Article 1 of Uganda’s Constitution, that real power lies with the people. Thus, Bobi Wine’s formation is ‘People Power’ while Besigye’s is ‘People’s Government’, their looseness and vagueness, particularly the latter’s, notwithstanding.
A superficial contest
Yet rather than close ranks and harness their energies, the two have pitted themselves against each other since Bobi Wine’s instant rise to political stardom hardly two years ago. It is a clumsy superficial contest that, as all superficial contests go, benefits none of them.
Buoyed by a landslide victory in a 2017 parliamentary by-election that launched him into active politics, Bobi Wine has ridden the wave of those who have fashioned him as an able, fitting and timely successor to Besigye. The fashion owes to his charisma that likens to Besigye’s with which he quickly locked horns with Museveni. Many who intensely dislike Museveni admire those abrasive and unapologetic ways.
As with Museveni, people who wish Besigye off Uganda’s political stage do not necessarily dislike or undervalue his contributions to the country. They simply express a yearning for an orderly transition of power in national level politics, whether in the major opposition or the ruling NRM party, which in Uganda is rarer than rubies.
Bobi Wine has fuelled the clamour as Besigye’s successor by successfully backing a string of candidates in other by-elections that Besigye couldn’t support for one reason or another. He has jabbed him over largely misconstrued comments Besigye made over his slogan Twebereremu (Let’s All Get Involved), or his ability to defeat Museveni at the polls. Furthermore, he has aligned himself more with an odd coalition of small parties led by the grand old Democratic Party. Their vote haul in all previous elections is hardly a fraction of Besigye’s whom they have dedicated quite some time to attacking.