By Lisa Vives
He’s elusive. He escapes, he hides. Police keep chasing him like a video game character or a superhero in a movie.
But despite their best efforts, authorities have been unable to stop Robert Kyagulanyi – a member of parliament and a popular reggae singer who records under the stage name Bobi Wine. He plans to seize the seat held by aging President Yoweri Museveni when elections are held in 2021.
Wine has been jailed dozens of times as police step up efforts to end his presidential aspirations. “It certainly cannot be safe to run against a dictator,” he told a member of the press, “but it’s even more dangerous to sit down and resign to fate.”
Not long ago, while campaigning for another independent candidate, Wine suffered a particularly brutal beating. With international support, he was allowed to seek treatment in a hospital in the U.S.
“They beat me so hard they thought I’d died,” Wine recalled. “They cursed me because I’m an ordinary ghetto youth who thought he could unseat the president.”
Today, united by the slogan “People Power, Our Power,” millions of young militant Ugandans dissatisfied with life under Mr. Museveni have been given a voice by the Afrobeat artist.
For the Kampala regime, however, Wine has become Uganda’s “new nightmare”. In a bid to halt this juggernaut, President Museveni empowered his army officers by placing them in top administration and legislative positions. He had an age-limit for presidents lifted, allowing him to rule until 2034 when he reaches 92.
“He’s waging war on our prosperity,” complained Museveni about Wine in a TV interview. “He’s telling foreigners not to come and invest.”
Having already served 33 years in office, Museveni cites “still unfinished business in Uganda as president” and would only leave if asked to do so by his National Resistance Movement party.
Meanwhile, militant youth have been gravitating towards Wine and away from long time opposition leader Kizza Besigye who, despite his long history of combat including four runs against Museveni, has been unable to make headway against the incumbent.
Uganda has the world’s second-youngest population, about three-quarters of people are under the age of 30, and Museveni’s government has struggled to deliver the jobs, opportunities and progress they are demanding.
“This struggle is not limited to Uganda,” Wine says. “It’s a struggle for all people, especially young people and particularly in Africa.”