CAIRO — Day by day that Bobi Wine units out on the marketing campaign path in his bid to unseat Uganda’s authoritarian president, Yoweri Museveni, his 5-year-old daughter, Suubi Nakaayi, asks him to make a promise: that he’ll come house alive.
“And I all the time make that promise, not figuring out whether or not or not I’ll fulfill it,” mentioned Wine, the 38-year-old pop star-turned-politician.
Wine, whose actual identify is Robert Kyagulanyi, has been arrested a number of occasions, and took to sporting a bulletproof vest in his ultimate marketing campaign rallies earlier than the election, which received underway Thursday. Polls shut at 4 p.m. native time (9 a.m. ET) and outcomes are anticipated inside 48 hours.
Wine mentioned on Twitter that his home was raided early Tuesday and that a number of members of his safety staff had been arrested. Kampala police spokesman Patrick Onyango denied that any arrests had been made, telling Reuters: “We had been simply rearranging our safety posture within the space close to his house, particularly eradicating some checkpoints.”
Social media websites had been taken offline throughout Uganda Wednesday, together with Fb and Twitter, based on the unbiased web freedom monitoring group NetBlocks.
Dozens of Wine’s supporters have been killed by Uganda’s safety forces, human rights groups and opposition activists say. Whereas it has confirmed a number of injuries and deaths at a number of demonstrations, the Uganda Police Drive didn’t reply to questions on Wine’s allegations that safety forces had been chargeable for a number of the deaths.
Wine, who was raised as certainly one of 34 siblings in a Kampala slum earlier than his socially aware lyrics lifted him to fame as certainly one of east Africa’s hottest singers, is decided to problem Museveni, who’s standing on a platform of safety and financial progress.
Museveni, who has loved the assist of successive U.S. administrations as a stabilizing drive in east Africa, has been in energy since 1986. He’s a part of an getting old circle of liberation fighters who toppled the notorious dictator Idi Amin.
Museveni, 76, guidelines over one of many world’s youngest nations — the median age is simply 16, and 80 % of the inhabitants is below 35.
Wine has positioned himself because the champion of these younger individuals who, like him, can’t keep in mind life below any chief apart from Museveni.
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“He is dealing with a whole technology that’s each indignant and hungry,” Wine mentioned, talking from Kampala through video hyperlink. “These similar younger folks wish to see higher. They consider they’re First World brains caught in a Third World nation. And we additionally know that our nation is simply being known as ‘Third World’ as a result of now we have Third World leaders.”
There is no such thing as a dependable polling in Uganda, so assist for Wine might be judged solely by the huge crowds who swarm his convoy at marketing campaign stops. He addresses them standing by his automotive’s sunroof, fists pumped within the air, with the identical bravado he as soon as delivered to his concert events. Typically he breaks into certainly one of his best-known lyrics:
Query: What was the aim of the liberation?
Once we cannot have a peaceable transition?
What’s the goal of the Structure?
When the federal government disrespects the Structure?
Uninterrupted days on the marketing campaign path are uncommon. Final week, Wine was attempting to carry a digital information convention for a world viewers from his automotive parked together with the street. As journalists watched on a livestream, Ugandan safety forces dragged him from the automobile. “As you’ll be able to see, I am being arrested,” he mentioned calmly. He was launched a couple of minutes later, telling the information convention that he had been tear-gassed.
Different days are far worse. Wine said certainly one of his bodyguards was killed after being run over by a navy truck in late December. A spokesperson for the Uganda Peoples’ Protection Drive denied the assertion, saying the bodyguard died after having fallen from a shifting automotive.
Wine was arrested and held for a number of days in November, sparking days of clashes between his supporters and police. Authorities said 28 folks had been killed and 577 others had been arrested.
The federal government didn’t reply to a request for remark. Authorities have beforehand denied harassing Wine, and so they have accused his marketing campaign of violating coronavirus restrictions and rioting.
“The federal government’s heavy-handed efforts to undermine any potential for a free and honest election have been clear,” mentioned Maria E. Burnett, a senior affiliate with the Africa program on the Heart for Strategic and Worldwide Research, a bipartisan assume tank in Washington. “These previous few months have laid naked a system designed to instill in voters a worry of holding divergent views from the federal government.”
Regardless of accusations of human rights abuses, Uganda receives greater than $970 million a yr in U.S. assist, together with greater than $100 million in navy support from the Protection Division.
“I actually consider that the Western nations have been hoodwinked by Basic Museveni, who presents himself in a go well with, however certainly he’s a dictator in a go well with,” Wine mentioned.
Wine has known as for the U.S. to deliver sanctions towards Museveni below the Magnitsky Act, which targets human rights violators. He additionally urges the Biden administration to make respect for the rule of regulation a situation of support funds.
When authorities lately arrested Uganda’s prime human rights lawyer, Nicholas Opiyo, Jake Sullivan, Biden’s choose for nationwide safety adviser, tweeted his concern about what he known as “repression of civil society and the opposition prematurely of Uganda’s election.”
Wine mentioned he doesn’t count on Museveni to step down even when the Electoral Fee — managed by his allies — says he has misplaced. Wine has advised his supporters to organize for large however peaceable demonstrations.
“We all know he can’t kill all of us. We all know he can kill a couple of folks. We all know he can jail a couple of folks. However these jails will not be sufficiently big to accommodate all of us,” he mentioned. “That is going to be only one section in an enormous liberation battle.”