Bobi Wine is detained again as his political star keeps rising in Uganda

A musician of the people.
A musician of the people.
Image: AP Photo/Brian Inganga
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When a politician is a musician, concerts are de facto rallies, even when they’re cancelled.

This is something Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni has failed to understand when it comes to his most popular political opponent, Robert Kyagulanyi, known by his stage name Bobi Wine.

The musician, popularly called the “Ghetto President” was again detained on Tuesday (Apr. 23), after Ugandan police accused him of failing to comply with safety precautions ahead of a concert on Monday (April 22). Police in helmets and armed with riot shields surrounded Wine’s One Love Beach Busaabala venue, and set up roadblocks along the way ahead of the event.

A defiant Wine made his way to the concert, saying he was prevented from performing due to political reasons. Even on his way to the venue, Wine was met with cheering crowds on roadside, until his convoy was stopped by a row of riot police, in a report on NTV Kenya. Wine was bundled into a van along with a colleague and driven back to his home in the back of a police van. Police fired teargas and water canon on his fans, in full view of television news cameras.

Later, in a statement from his home, Wine vowed to peacefully stand up to the government’s repressive tactics. On Tuesday, police still parked outside of Wine’s home in Kampala informed the lawmaker that he was under house arrest. By detaining Wine again, Museveni’s government is unwittingly amplifying his position as a man of the people.

In August last year, Wine was charged with illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition after his protestors clashed and then released after international uproar. His fans protested on his behalf—mostly young Ugandans who come from the same kinds of impoverished neighborhoods where Wine grew up, and near where his One Love Beach Busaabala is located.

As young people rile against a system that has failed to provide jobs, Uganda’s court. scrapped presidential age limits capped at 75, allowing the 74-year-old Museveni to run for another term in 2021. Museveni has been ruled Uganda for over three decades, in a country where the median age is 15.

The last time Wine was detained, his profile grew beyond Uganda with the hashtag #FreeBobiWine, that even drew in Uganda’s diaspora. This time, steely and resolute from his house arrest, Wine has learned to use Museveni’s own tactics against him.

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