‘All the pieces Is Value Freedom’: Uganda’s Opposition Chief Faces the Future

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KAMPALA, Uganda — Bobi Wine’s eyes had been bloodshot from little sleep. When he spoke, his ideas trailed off, and his sentences typically lacked the precision and eloquence he employed whereas operating for president. At instances, he forgot to sip his espresso, even after bringing the mug to his lips.

Mr. Wine, 39, rose from a slum in Kampala, the capital, to change into the foremost image of nationwide resistance in Uganda, nicknamed the “Ghetto President.” However after an electrifying marketing campaign that drew massive crowds nationwide, the musician-turned-politician misplaced to President Yoweri Museveni in January’s election. He obtained 34 p.c of the vote to the incumbent’s practically 59 p.c, in response to Uganda’s electoral fee, regardless of accusations of vote tampering and rigging.

Now, three months after the tip of a violent and bloody marketing campaign season, Mr. Wine appeared practically damaged.

Amongst different issues, Mr. Wine stated his thoughts was on the federal government crackdown in opposition to his marketing campaign, which began even earlier than the election season and intensified within the weeks after the outcomes had been introduced, when he filed a petition contesting them.

Mr. Wine’s supporters have been forcibly detained and held incommunicado for weeks on finish and tortured, and his marketing campaign aides have all been jailed. Simply days earlier than this interview, his 15-year-old nephew was kidnapped by unknown gunmen.

In his residence, alongside a winding and potholed highway named Freedom Drive, Mr. Wine was appraising the successes of his anti-government marketing campaign whereas questioning find out how to construct again an opposition motion that had been systemically assailed by Uganda’s president.

“All the pieces is value freedom,” Mr. Wine stated.

He was additionally fast to confess that his more and more lonely and uphill struggle had left him psychologically and bodily exhausted. “It drains you if you do the best factor,” he stated.

Mr. Wine, whose actual title is Robert Kyagulanyi, rose to fame as a dreadlocked artist whose music — a mix of dance corridor, reggae and Afrobeat — drew a large following and was featured in a Disney film.

After successful a seat in Parliament in 2017, he reworked himself into a number one opposition determine, opposing the lifting of presidential age limits and efforts to tax social media. Final yr, when he filed to run for president, he turned probably the most potent challenger to Mr. Museveni, who has dominated Uganda since 1986.

Mr. Wine’s political actions have been largely curtailed by the fixed risk of arrest.

Regardless of all the things, he stated, his presidential run was profitable in reaching its most important goal: turning the world’s consideration to Mr. Museveni’s oppressive authorities.

“We’re glad that he did this within the full glare of the world, not like ever earlier than.” he stated of Mr. Museveni’s actions. “The world is watching.”

In January, Mr. Wine filed a grievance with the Worldwide Prison Courtroom, accusing the Ugandan authorities of human rights abuses in opposition to protesters, human rights attorneys and political figures, himself included. He additionally accused Mr. Museveni of making an attempt to kill him.

“What is occurring in Uganda appears to be a silent genocide,” Mr. Wine stated.

Within the streets of Kampala, Mr. Wine’s election posters stay on show, his critical face and raised fist nonetheless drawing assist from his followers.

Sseguya Mukasa Kenneth, 27, knew Mr. Wine for years and even practiced boxing with him. In January, Mr. Kenneth was kidnapped and overwhelmed by safety officers, he stated, and was supplied cash in alternate for spying on Mr. Wine, which he refused. Mr. Wine, he stated, has proven that “the present technology is the hope for the long run.”

The opposition chief has confronted his personal share of criticism, particularly his use of a bulletproof automotive and his determination to withdraw the petition difficult the election outcomes.

Mr. Wine stated the armored car was meant to guard his life — he says he has survived three “assassination makes an attempt” — and cited “bias” and “impunity” within the Supreme Courtroom as the explanations for pulling the swimsuit.

At one level in the course of the interview, his 5-year-old daughter, Suubi Shine Nakaayi, approached him. Protectively clinging to him, she stated: “I don’t need my father to return to jail.”

Mr. Wine can also be contemplating a return to the studio, although his longtime collaborator is in detention and his producer was injured in December.

“I’ve needed to be taught to proceed even when my associates are held again,” he stated. “And the subsequent time I’m supplied a louder microphone, which is the studio microphone, I’ll categorical precisely what’s on my thoughts.”

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