There has by no means been a peaceable handover of energy in Uganda, however pop star-turned-politician Bobi Wine is hoping to alter that by unseating long-serving President Yoweri Museveni in Thursday’s vote. BBC Africa correspondent Catherine Byaruhanga takes a have a look at the challenger.
A number of weeks earlier than the final election and what may very well be the largest day of Bobi Wine’s life, he introduced his presidential marketing campaign to his household’s ancestral house.
The 38-year-old pop star, whose actual identify is Robert Kyagulanyi, made his fame within the casual settlements of the capital, Kampala, however right here in Kanoni, a sleepy rural city in central Uganda, his help is simply as evident.
Lots of of younger folks, principally males wearing pink, appear to emerge from the bushes and gardens and encompass his motorcade. Bobi Wine, also called the “ghetto president”, climbed by the sunroof of his white Toyota Landcruiser and waved on the crowds – they frantically reply.
In an unlikely sartorial transfer for a presidential candidate, he has began carrying a bullet-proof vest and protecting helmet.
In December, a bullet was shot by his car’s windscreen narrowly lacking a passenger. Bobi Wine stated that he thought his life was in peril.
In Kanoni, as had occurred numerous instances throughout the marketing campaign, he ran right into a police and army blockade – teargas and bullets have been fired. The authorities stated they have been merely attempting to disperse crowds and implement Covid-19 pointers.
However Bobi Wine believed this was yet one more signal of intimidation. He has been constant in saying that it’s going to not succeed as he feels that he’s on the head of a mass motion.
“Persons are not simply following me. Persons are following a great that I signify,” he informed the BBC in 2019.
“I didn’t begin it and I cannot finish it. I am simply one of many hundreds of thousands and hundreds of thousands of Ugandans that need higher.”
The manifesto of his Nationwide Unity Platform (NUP) social gathering is geared in direction of primary wants like enhancing entry to healthcare, training, clear water and justice. All of this, the NUP says, can solely be achieved by eradicating President Museveni from energy.
During the last 20 years Bobi Wine’s musical output has been stuffed with songs about these points and so they have impressed a fervent following.
‘He understands us’
Twenty-three-year-old regulation pupil Marion Kirabo is vying to be a neighborhood councillor and he or she is one in every of his supporters.
“Even earlier than his political life he was somebody the youth may establish with,” she says.
“Particularly by his music, you may clearly see that he understood the social points that younger folks have been going through, particularly younger folks from the ghetto.”
When President Museveni got here to energy in 1986, Bobi Wine was nearly to show 4, and dwelling in Kanoni.
Central Uganda had been the battleground of the bush struggle that introduced Mr Museveni’s insurgent Nationwide Resistance Military, and its political wing, the Nationwide Resistance Motion (NRM), to energy.
Bobi Wine’s grandfather, Yozefu Walakira, was a part of a special insurgent contingent however now and again throughout the battle hosted Mr Museveni in his home.
Walakira died throughout the civil struggle after being injured when his house was bombed – an assault which additionally killed three members of the family.
Bobi Wine’s household later moved to Kampala, his mom Margaret Nalunkuuma, a nurse, was the principle breadwinner and purchased land within the Kamwokya slum the place the musician lived and constructed his now world-famous recording studio.
A few of his main and secondary faculties have been typically inside strolling distance from Kamwokya.
As an adolescent he found a ardour for the humanities, however when he first attended the distinguished Makerere College he began out finding out for a social sciences diploma. After one semester he switched programs and took on music, dance and drama, incomes a diploma from the college in 2003.
‘Campaigning all my profession’
In 2017, the reggae star turned his hand to politics as he noticed it because the logical subsequent step.
“You already know, all by my musical profession, I have been singing concerning the challenges that… folks undergo,” he informed the BBC.
“So it is as if I have been campaigning, all my musical profession.”
His music Tuliyambala Engule (We Shall Put on the Victor’s Crown) has grow to be one of many marketing campaign’s unofficial anthems.
He received a by-election to grow to be MP for Kyaddondo-East, a constituency to the north of the capital and despite the fact that an unbiased he aligned himself with the opposition. In a collection of by-elections he campaigned for candidates who defeated hopefuls from the NRM.
There was a sound of remorse in Bobi Wine’s voice when he mirrored on his rival’s profession in a BBC interview in 2019.
“Why did such a prized revolutionary determine to grow to be one of many world’s most despised dictators?” he requested.
“Nevertheless it’s additionally a lesson to many people, understanding that we’re saying what President Museveni was saying when he was in our instances. And in addition to keep in mind that it is just the thought of constructing robust establishments that may save us from ourselves.”
The comparisons between a youthful Mr Museveni – charismatic, energetic and galvanizing – with as we speak’s Bobi Wine are exhausting to flee.
The insurgent commander was simply 41 years previous when he seized energy, promising Ugandans safety, a stronger economic system and a greater future.
Some do wonder if his new challenger stuffed with idealism and populist rhetoric may not make the identical errors.
Activist Siperia Mollie Saasirabo, 24, who says she is now in “political exile” in Kenya, is disillusioned with Bobi Wine.
In 2019, she grew to become the face of pupil protests over a price hike at Makerere College. For that, she was kidnapped by folks she believed have been plain-clothed troopers, badly overwhelmed and left barely acutely aware.
‘He lacks an ideology’
On the finish of that 12 months, she briefly joined Bobi Wine’s social gathering however left due to what she noticed as an absence of ideological grounding.
“He was requested about his financial system when he’s president,” she says, referring to a July 2020 interview Bobi Wine gave to a neighborhood radio station.
“He was requested whether or not he was on the left or the proper of the ideological setting, and his reply was he was neither on the proper or the left and he’ll simply use what works. It simply doesn’t make sense for me.”
Aside from the big crowds that collect to help him, just like the one in Kanoni, it’s exhausting to inform how really well-liked he’s and whether or not the cheers will probably be become votes. Knowledge on registered voters and their voting patterns are very restricted.
Francis Kibirige, nationwide co-ordinator for the Afrobarometer survey in Uganda, has been finishing up opinion polls and research in Uganda since 2000.
He says the query stays as as to if Bobi Wine has achieved sufficient to transcend opposition politics and chip away on the big vote that President Museveni and the NRM have gained in earlier elections.
He argues that NRM supporters see the social gathering and the president as “the guarantor of peace” and Bobi Wine’s NUP has not achieved sufficient to influence them in any other case.
Simply as in many of the earlier 5 elections beneath Mr Museveni, this one has been marred by allegations of violence towards the opposition, press and civil society activists. In November, no less than 54 folks have been left lifeless after police and troopers moved in to interrupt up protests over Bobi Wine’s arrest.
On this context there are some who’re already questioning the validity of the vote.
Bobi Wine, nevertheless, has inspired folks to forged their ballots and says voters ought to be sure that there is no such thing as a rigging at polling stations.
He’s beneath no phantasm that unseating Mr Museveni will probably be simple. “Whereas we all know that we’re up towards a brute power, we’re assured,” he informed the BBC in a 2020 interview.
“We’re assured as a result of the folks of Uganda are on our facet. And we’re assured as a result of historical past is on our facet.”