By Edna Chepkurui
Bobi Wine has been a household name in Uganda and East Africa long before his sudden appearance on the political scene following a win in last year’s parliamentary election in Kampala. His rise to fame was through his music career which he started in 2005 affording him a flashy and celebrity status. Kampala locals always know he is passing when his Cadillac Escalade roars past in the crowded streets making it his signature.
The flamboyant musician has history of confrontation with authorities which is attributed to getting into brawls with his rivals but it was never of political nature.
On August 14th this year, Bobi officially rubbed on the authorities politically when he was arrested for brewing a confrontation with the police in Arua where he had gone to campaign for independent candidate Kassiano Wadri. President Museveni claimed Wine and the candidate blocked motorcade leading to a shooting in which “an Attacker” who happened to be Bobi’s driver died.
He was charged with possession of illegal arm in a martial court in Gulu together with others before being detained in a military prison in Kampala. This triggered series of protests across Kampala in throughout the week as Bobi awaited court martial this Thursday 23rd. But the most interesting outcome of Bobi’s arrest has been the solidarity shown by Kenyans throughout the week
Officially known as Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, his political sunrise came about during Uganda’s election in 2016. Mr. Wine was observed to have stayed away from a pool of top Ugandan artistes who had collaborated to perform a song for the incumbent and long serving President Yorweri Museveni. In June 29, 2017, the musician joined mainstream politics when won the Kyadondo East parliamentary seat as an independent candidate after trouncing four other candidates including one from the ruling party NRM.
His speeches afterwards, pointed clearly on a man who wanted to go further in his political career to change the country. They rang a revolutionary bell across Uganda which probably rising alarm with the government.
“The people of Uganda are ready for a new kind of leadership, a leadership which truly represents them. A leadership of the people, by the people and for the people in its true meaning,” he echoed in his victory speech last year.
Following his weeklong time in custody, #FreeBobiWine broke the internet from all corners of the world. In Kenyans especially on Twitter, the momentum culminated into a show hosted by PAWA254 and a protest by multiple civil society organizations on Wednesday and Thursday respectively. During the show which hosted local musicians both famous and underground especially from the famous Dandora ‘Hip Hop City’, young people from in attendance showed not only solidarity but signs of very high hopes of change in East Africa and the continent hopefully. The occasion was set on momentum by Juliani with his social and political consciousness hit Utawala.
Most talked about a new dawn in politics which begged the question of the relevance of Bobi Wine in Kenyan politics which many argue is no better than Uganda’s. But the young people at the show expressed that Bobi is a trendsetter and representative who has dared to question status quo which mirrors across the continent. It might be argued that there has been a salient urge for revolution in Africa as witnessed in Togo and Ethiopia whose long standing regimes have been confronted and brought down respectively though Togo is still on a standoff. The Kenyan interest in Bobi Wine has been argued by others as providing a space for opposition after the figure of opposition had the infamous handshake with the president.
As Kenyans joined in the Thursday, good news of Bobi being released without charges by the military court in Kampala stream in. A few hours later, disappointment reigned again as news to the contrary hit the headlines that he had been rearrested for fresh charges by a civilian court. He remains in a ‘health prison’ until his appearance in court next Thursday to answer to charges of treason.
Edna Chepkurui is a freelance digital media political & civic commentator