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.
Just a few weeks earlier than the overall election and what could possibly be the most important 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 title is Robert Kyagulanyi, made his popularity within the casual settlements of the capital, Kampala, however right here in Kanoni, a sleepy rural city in central Uganda, his assist is simply as evident.
A whole bunch of younger folks, largely males wearing pink, appear to emerge from the bushes and gardens and encompass his motorcade. Bobi Wine, also called the “ghetto president”, climbed by way of 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 way of his automobile’s windscreen narrowly lacking a passenger. Bobi Wine stated that he thought his life was in peril.
In Kanoni, as had occurred numerous instances in the course of the marketing campaign, he ran right into a police and navy blockade – teargas and bullets have been fired. The authorities stated they have been merely making an attempt 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’ll 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 super that I signify,” he instructed the BBC in 2019.
“I didn’t begin it and I can’t finish it. I am simply one of many thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of Ugandans that need higher.”
The manifesto of his Nationwide Unity Platform (NUP) occasion is geared in direction of primary wants like bettering entry to healthcare, training, clear water and justice. All of this, the NUP says, can solely be accomplished by eradicating President Museveni from energy.
Over the past 20 years Bobi Wine’s musical output has been stuffed with songs about these points they usually 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 certainly one of his supporters.
“Even earlier than his political life he was somebody the youth might establish with,” she says.
“Particularly by way of his music, you would 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 conflict 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 every now and then in the course of the battle hosted Mr Museveni in his home.
Walakira died in the course of the civil conflict 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 primary breadwinner and acquired land within the Kamwokya slum the place the musician lived and constructed his now world-famous recording studio.
A few of his major and secondary faculties have been usually inside strolling distance from Kamwokya.
As a teen he found a ardour for the humanities, however when he first attended the celebrated Makerere College he began out learning 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 way of my musical profession, I have been singing concerning the challenges that… folks undergo,” he instructed the BBC.
“So it is as if I have been campaigning, all my musical profession.”
His track Tuliyambala Engule (We Shall Put on the Victor’s Crown) has turn out to be one of many marketing campaign’s unofficial anthems.
He gained a by-election to turn out to be MP for Kyaddondo-East, a constituency to the north of the capital and although an impartial he aligned himself with the opposition. In a sequence 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 resolve to turn out to be one of many world’s most despised dictators?” he requested.
“Nevertheless it’s additionally a lesson to many people, realizing that we’re saying what President Museveni was saying when he was in our instances. And likewise to do not forget that it is just the concept of constructing sturdy establishments that may save us from ourselves.”
The comparisons between a youthful Mr Museveni – charismatic, energetic and galvanizing – with at present’s Bobi Wine are onerous to flee.
The insurgent commander was simply 41 years previous when he seized energy, promising Ugandans safety, a stronger financial system and a greater future.
Some do ponder whether 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 payment 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 occasion 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 precise of the ideological setting, and his reply was he was neither on the precise 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 assist him, just like the one in Kanoni, it’s onerous to inform how really in style he’s and whether or not the cheers might be became 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 whether Bobi Wine has accomplished sufficient to transcend opposition politics and chip away on the large vote that President Museveni and the NRM have gained in earlier elections.
He argues that NRM supporters see the occasion and the president as “the guarantor of peace” and Bobi Wine’s NUP has not accomplished sufficient to steer 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, at the least 54 folks have been left useless 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, nonetheless, has inspired folks to solid their ballots and says voters ought to be certain that there isn’t a rigging at polling stations.
He’s beneath no phantasm that unseating Mr Museveni might be straightforward. “Whereas we all know that we’re up towards a brute pressure, we’re assured,” he instructed 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.”