Ugandan opposition figure Bobi Wine is shown wearing a gray blazer an speaking into severla microphones.

Ugandan opposition figure Bobi Wine, whose real name is Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, speaks at a press conference in Kampala, Uganda, Feb. 22, 2021.

Credit:

Nicholas Bamulanzeki/AP/File photo

Since 2018, the Ugandan government has been playing a game of catch and release with opposition leader and pop music star Bobi Wine, the stage name of Robert Kyagulanyi. The 39-year-old's latest detention — which lasted a matter of hours — happened on March 15, as Wine led a protest in Kampala.

Wine, a member of the Ugandan parliament, also leads the National Unity Platform, a political party deeply at odds with President Yoweri Museveni. In January, Wine lost to Museveni in a disputed presidential election but he is not letting up on his quest to unseat Museveni, who has been in power since 1986. Marco Werman speaks with Bobi Wine about his political plans.

TRANSCRIPT:

Marco Werman:
In Uganda, Bobby Wine has been kicked around for as long as he can remember. The 39-year-old musician and opposition leader, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, has a huge following, especially among young Ugandans. Wine has been relentless in his quest to unseat Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who has held power for 35 years. Wine lost a disputed presidential election in January. During his campaign, Bobi Wine was shot at, beaten and thrown in jail many times. Bobby Wine joins us from Uganda's capital, Kampala. Bobi Wine, nice to have you back on the show.

Bobi Wine:
Thank you very much for having me. And greetings to all the listeners.

Marco Werman:
I mentioned the numerous times you were detained during the campaign, not just during the campaign. And this past Monday, you were briefly detained again in Kampala while taking part in a protest. What was that protest about?

Bobi Wine:
Well, we called for protests, peaceful protests, against the continued abduction of the people of Uganda, particularly my supporters — the supporters of the National Unity Platform.

Marco Werman:
So, on Monday, when you were detained, were you told why you were detained?

Bobi Wine:
Yeah, I was detained. I was arrested on Monday, taken to the police station, but again, immediately driven and dumped at my house. And then on Tuesday, I was arrested from my office and driven by the police and military back to my house, detained, and my house surrounded. So as we speak right now, I'm under house arrest and my house is surrounded by police and the military. I am not allowed to leave my house.

Marco Werman:
So if you look out your window right now, you see police and soldiers.

Bobi Wine:
Yes, police and soldiers surround my house. And they are blocking any car that tries to come in. And they actually blocked me when I tried to leave my house.

Marco Werman:
So, Bobbi, one, aside from these reports of abductions of your supporters, what are the fundamental differences you have with President Museveni?

Bobi Wine:
The fundamental difference that I have is the respect for the rule of law on our side and the lack of the same on his side — for enforced disappearances, for the elections, for disrespect of human rights and the rule of law. The free media was taken over. The courts are largely in the pockets of the president, and the military has taken over everything. So that's mainly the difference between us. General Museveni, he said that Uganda's problem, in particular, Africa's problem in general are the leaders that over are overstaying power. He said that 1986, 35 five years later, he is still president of Uganda and using brute force to cling to the presidency.

Marco Werman:
Bobi Wine, let me ask you this — as you know, homophobia has been weaponized by politicians in Uganda. President Museveni blames outside LGBTQ groups for interfering in Uganda. When it comes to homophobia, we can also look to your past specifically in song lyrics — that past prevented you, in fact, from receiving a visa to the UK in 2014. Today, where do you stand on LGBTQ rights?

Bobi Wine:
Thank you. First of all, I want to say that as a person that's going through oppression and as a growing leader, I am learning every day that human rights are human rights, regardless of who the person is or what private interests are. Therefore, it must be that all human rights are respected. All people of Uganda and the world are respected and their rights protected. But also to agree with you, that this issue, well knowing that we have [inaudible] population, General Museveni tries to use it against anybody that stands against his rule to claim that we are agents of the West. And he has claimed quite a few times that we are being funded by LGBT communities, which is not true. We are being supported by all Ugandans here and abroad. So, General Museveni uses that as a smokescreen for a bigger problem.

Marco Werman:
But you had some pretty oppressive lyrics back in the day. Can the LGBTQ community count on you, Bobi Wine, to defend their rights? Male and female homosexuality in Uganda, as you know, is still a crime. Would you invalidate that legislation if you became president someday?

Bobi Wine:
Like I said, I believe in human rights and that it is my duty as a leader, and also the duty of all Ugandans to respect all rights of all people regardless.

Marco Werman:
Bobi Wine, after all the setbacks and detentions and political losses for you, what keeps you going today?

Bobi Wine:
Well, what keeps me going is the fact that good has always risen over evil. To know that love has always won [over] hate. To know that nonviolence has always trumped violence. Knowing that an oppressed people cannot be oppressed forever, you know. And also knowing that, we as the people of Uganda we have no option, we have been under subjugation for 35 years. And now that we are all united, we are more united than ever before. We are united by the oppression that we go through. We are united by the marginalization we face. We are united by the effects of bad governance and antipathy that we face as humanity as a whole. That keeps me going. Knowing that I'm not alone while I'm paying prices or being put under house arrest. Many people are incarcerated in unknown places. While I am imprisoned and beaten and pushed around, many other people have actually paid the ultimate price with their lives. So that alone keeps me going. Knowing that we have friends here in Uganda and abroad that stand for the same thing. Equal rights and justice, freedom for all humanity.

Marco Werman:
Bobi Wine, Ugandan opposition leader and pop singer speaking with us from Kampala. Thank you very much for your time.

Bobi Wine:
Thank you for having me.

 

 

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