By Charles K. Sentamu
President Yoweri Museveni had for months tried to prevent Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine’s Kyarenga concert from taking place. The organisers had initially tried to hold the concert at Namboole Stadium but this was denied after the authorities told them that the stadium would not be available till 2021, presumably after the presidential elections. The police kept cancelling the concert – which was originally scheduled to happen on 20th October – until it was given the go-ahead to hold it at the rather much smaller venue owned by the MP himself, One Love Beach in Busaabala on Saturday, 10 November.
The regime’s instincts were right. The event has been called a “resounding success” by people who were there. Indeed images, both in traditional and social media showed a sea of people at the concert, many donning the red shirts and berets that have become the signature attire of the People Power movement that seeks to show Museveni the exit door.
Here’s the undeniable truth that Museveni cannot deny venue: People Power and Bobi Wine have caught Uganda’s imagination: “ No beer sponsor. No media sponsor. No influencers. No radio ads. Just PeoplePower! Concert of the year is KyarengaConcert!” said one Sir Enywaru (@enywaru) in a tweet posted with a photograph of Bobi Wine performing before a sea of supporter-fans.
Museveni perceives these concerts to be dangerous because everyone there – including those who stayed home – knows that they are occasions to say goodbye to him. “Ayagale; agane, agenda!” This is the feeling especially sweeping through the youth who make up the vast majority of Ugandans. The resultant panic is forcing Museveni into unforced errors, such as the extraordinary measure to ban a Kenyan MP, Babu Owino of Embakasi East, from travelling to attend the concert of his good friend Bobi. The Kenyan MP described Museveni’s move to ban him from setting foot in Uganda as “backward and authoritarian.”
The dances are intended to pave way for the exit of the self-styled Uganda’s Grandpa. The drums are getting louder and clearer. Such concerts only confirm what a foregone conclusion it now is. What the mammoth crowds do is put Museveni on notice that he needs to reach the only avenue really available to him, unless it is his determination to bring the entire Ugandan edifice down with his long rule; a sort of contemporary, apres moi, les chaos, à l’Idi Amin after 1979. Further, they serve as a warning to the security forces – the army and police – to cut their losses before they are too implicated in Museveni’s violent efforts to hang on to power to the point of having to flee into exile in the days following the now inevitable end of his regime.
“A mammoth attendance at the concert would scare Museveni seriously, because he knows the People Power movement stands for regime-change, and multitudes of Ugandans, especially the youth are with PP,” said a veteran public servant who served in Amin’s government, and says that Museveni has morphed into Amin in his last days.
This is in reference to the heavy-handedness that Museveni has turned to of recent, that includes increasing resort to assassinations, torture, and intimidation to keep power using his presidential guard, the Special Force Command (SFC), yhe Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI). the Internal Security Organisation (ISO), and specialised units of the police.
On his part, MP Kyagulanyi has urged Ugandans to “forgive” the Police and Namboole for blocking his concert because, just like all other state institutions, they have been “hijacked by President Museveni”.
According to Uganda’s Observer newspaper, “there were fears within the government that allowing Bobi Wine, who commands a huge following among the majority youth, to host a concert within the city might create a “Tunisia-like situation” when thousands of protesters refused to leave the streets, which led to the ousting of long time president (Zine El Abidine) Ben Ali in January 2011.
One commenter on the Observer website said: “Why has Police and Army allowed to turn these bodies that should be national into his (Museveni) personal and family security robots that serve him, and not the people?” she asked, “These bodies have been turned against everybody: Opposition, tax-payers, the ordinary poor who don’t dare to come out to oppose.”
The frustrated Kenyan MP Babu Owino hit out hard at Museveni for the travel ban on him, “The draconian veto came just ahead of my trip to Kampala to attend the Kyarenga festival,” Mr. Owino wrote in a statement. “It is a backward, authoritarian response to my unequivocal support of Hon. Kyagulanyi and the young people of Uganda against the tyranny of President Yoweri Museveni.”
The youthful Kenyan MP said the ban indicates that the government of President Museveni is panicking:
“President Museveni must know that nothing lasts forever. He has overstayed his welcome and soon the popular wishes of the Ugandan people will outweigh his use of violence.”
If Museveni didn’t know this he would not block concerts; he doesn’t want those he condescendingly refers to as his Bazukkulu (grandchildren) to dance him to the exit. It is a lost cause that neither violence nor recently staged crude bribery of selected slum youths through bundles of cash still hot off the printing presses and still wrapped in Bank of Uganda plastic can stem.