Uganda’s musician turned politician and MP for Kyaddondo East constituency, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu (a.k.a. Bobi Wine), has returned to the country following medical treatment in the US.
Bobi Wine had left Uganda because of the severe injuries he sustained when the regime’s security forces arrested him on trumped up charges of treason. He has come back to an environment of extensive security deployment. The airport had been tightly sealed off and all public gatherings forbidden, and Wine was escorted home by security forces. This approach did little to assuage widespread public resentment, even though renewed riots in Kampala were momentarily prevented.
Bobi Wine has become a recent symbol of protest against the country’s autocratic regime. He is particularly appealing to the country’s growing and disillusioned youth demographic which, bolstered by his popularity as a musician, also renders him more attractive to young voters than the opposition politicians who seem almost as tired as Museveni. Wine has stated that he was not seeking the Presidency in the near future and reminded President Yoweri Museveni that he, too, would eventually have to leave power.
Museveni — now serving his fifth term as president — was originally celebrated as part of a new era of African leadership when he first arrived in the Presidency in 1986. But since then he has clung onto power using a mix of an extensive network of political allies, security forces and legislative amendments. More problematic, however, is the growing concern that Uganda has no contingency plan for any transfer of power. Indeed, the country faces a legitimacy crisis in the medium term when Museveni does step down either forcibly, naturally or voluntarily. Such an eventuality would result in raised political and market insecurity. Investor confidence would drop amid increased sovereign risk.
Further periodical riots in Kampala will occur in the future. While the country’s security apparatus will contain the dissent in the short term, it is becoming clear that the level of underlying dissatisfaction with the Museveni regime is growing.