The Kyadondo East Member of Parliament Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu aka Bobi Wine has revealed that he no longer takes tea for fear of being poisoned.
‘ ‘I love tea but I can’t have any. “I’ve been warned it could be poisoned,” Bobi Wine told Laura Secorun Palet.
This is the price Kyagulanyi pays for being one of Uganda’s most vocal opposition leaders. Best known by his stage name, Bobi Wine, the 36-year-old singer turned politician represents a triple threat to the country’s status quo. He is young, he is wildly famous, and he knows how to fire up a crowd.
In June of last year, when Kyagulanyi unexpectedly won a seat in Uganda’s Parliament, the anti-establishment pop star instantly became a political hero to his fans, and a target for the establishment. Police began canceling his concerts without explanation, and the new MP started receiving anonymous death threats.
Then, in October, his home was attacked with hand grenades. Kyagulanyi regrets that his family now lives in fear, and claims to know who is coming after them. “I have no doubt the attack was sanctioned by the government,” he says.
Kyagulanyi won a landslide victory in his home constituency, thanks largely to the youth vote. Almost 80 percent of Uganda’s population is under 30, meaning they were not even born when Museveni was first elected president. According to Jeffrey Smith, executive director of the pro-democracy nonprofit Vanguard Africa, this demographic tension bodes well for Kyagulanyi. “If he’s able to build a campaign structure to effectively channel this energy,” says Smith, “Uganda’s ruling class could be in for a shock.”
Fellow MPs are not too fond of Kyagulanyi either, with some members of the opposition accusing him of being reckless and unqualified. “I got my education on the streets,” he responds. “I don’t need to go to school to learn what the problems of my people are.”
Granted, it’s been a long time since Kyagulanyi lived like his people do. His fleet of tinted-window rides, a large country house and collection of gold watches set him far apart from the reality of his constituents struggling to access jobs and drinking water.
So far, his supporters don’t seem to mind the dissonance. His celebrity status may actually help him overcome some of the limitations of his office. When the state did not have sufficient funds to purchase hospital supplies, Kyagulanyi threw a concert to raise the money. And when they needed to undertake a road expansion, he personally asked neighbors to donate part of their land for the venture. Everyone said yes.
Still, some suspect that fame and popularity are not enough to sustain political momentum. Especially if the current government generates the kind of economic growth that will appease the unemployed youth. “Bobi Wine needs to do more than say what he’s against. He needs to present a new vision,” argues Ugandan political analyst Angelo Izama.
Kyagulanyi says his current focus is improving the lives of his 200,000 constituents and that he does have a vision for Uganda — starting with profound institutional reforms and much stronger anti-corruption laws. “Power always corrupts,” he says, “so we must limit ourselves.” The singer-slash-legislator says he learned this valuable lesson from his childhood hero, Museveni.
Read full article here: Can This Pop Star Topple Uganda’s Strongman President?