Amidst another arrest of Bobi Wine, Ugandan President employs all means to thwart opposition, even weaponizing homophobia, in desperation to hold onto Power
As I commenced writing my article below, I received this message, which is now on Social Media: “Today yet again, Museveni's regime of blood and national shame attacked us in Kalangala! As soon as we landed on the islands for our campaign, we found lots of military police, regular UPDF and police officers who were deployed to arrest us on arrival! As soon as we arrived, they started arresting our people one by one. All our security team members were arrested, then the media team, and then the team close to me, including Nubian Li, Dan Magic and Eddy Mutwe. Journalists too were arrested. Eventually, they also arrested me and pushed me into a 'mobile prison', which was teargassed! They drove me to a military chopper which was pre-arranged! These cowards separated me from my team and flew me to Kololo airstrip where the police put me in a police truck and drove me to Magere. Our legal team has already embarked on the process of securing freedom for our people! While Museveni is campaigning, he is determined to block us from campaigning everywhere. How shameless! How cowardly! My message to all of you Ugandans is, let us all keep keeping on. Let us not give up. Let us keep praying. Let us keep working hard. The present trials and tribulations are preparing for us a massive victory against one of the world's most brutal war-lords! Museveni will soon be history! Uganda will be free “ Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, known by his stage name Bobi Wine.
Photo: Hon. Robert Kyagulanyi, Bobi Wine Wine, 2019 , By Melanie Nathan © All rights reserved
Last week a prominent Ugandan human rights lawyer, one of very few who takes on the fight against oppression in Uganda, Nicholas Opiyo, was seized by Ugandan security forces, in Kampala. The manner in which he was taken was not fit to be called a usual arrest- for what would later be alleged a white collar crime. The ploy is to intimidate and send messages, all at the behest of an ageing dictator trying desperately to hold onto power, during an election period. Some weeks before President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in office for over 30 years, detained his opposition, Member of Parliament Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine. Wine, since announcing his candidacy for president in 2019, has been detained numerous times, and now today, yet again, as the January elections loom closer, and Museveni is faced with a very real and popular opponent. At this time several dozen members of the opposition party, lawyers, journalists, supporters have also been unlawfully detained, some beaten, and ultimately in each instance, facing bogus charges.
This is not unusual for Uganda during an election cycle. In the past 30 years, since Museveni, came into power, he has held onto what became his dictatorship with a cruel and brutal vehemence.
Critics of Museveni, otherwise known as M7, and his NRM Government, have tried to pit him against the past governments of Idi Amin and Milton Obote. This is hard to do, especially given the overtly visible cruelty of the notorious Amin, seen as a genocidal maniac, and Museveni once seen a savior. However Museveni has certainly earned his place in that very line of Ugandan brutal power mongers, given the persecution of opponents, leading to extreme suppression of a purported democracy.
While many steer away from these comparisons, the man once deemed Uganda’s savior from cruelty and oppression, has in fact fallen into lockstep with his overthrown predecessors. The only difference is that Museveni has managed a furtivity that shields his methods from regional and global scrutiny. His ability to do this has been masterful. He has utilized scapegoating, diversion, denial and all the while, unlike Amin, reflects an external countenance of paternalism and warm affection. Where in fact disappearances, army seizures, hidden torture houses, shootings on back streets, ongoing for decades, are barely spoken. However now it is in our faces and the world must respond. And the response must be appropriate, not in line with the seasoned divergences that Museveni will create though scapegoating minorities, and weaponizing of morality asserting divisive issues. Although Museveni is poised to use old methods, in some ways this election cycle is vastly different to those of the past. This time the opposition to Museveni seems way more viable and determined than any in the past. In the hands of Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, a true freedom fighter, who with popular song his weapon, a true mastery of the issues, and a poignant message of truth and reform helming his campaign, will not give up! Bobi Wine is not intimidated, as others have been in the past. Known by his stage name Bobi Wine, this contender is a man of the people and very much a man for the people. He is not a military man as those of bygone years. He became a Ugandan politician after a popular career as a singer, actor and businessman. He went on to become a Member of the Ugandan Parliament for Kyadondo County East constituency in Wakiso District, in Uganda's Central Region. He has lead the People Power movement in opposition to President Yoweri Museveni, and formed the liberation Party, National Unity Platform (NUP), using an umbrella as his party symbol, reflective of a candidacy which hopes to unite the past fragmented opposition seeking to oust Museveni. It would seem that the idea has been largely successful. Many different political factions who have sought to oust Museveni since his 1986 takeover of the Ugandan Presidency.
A youthful candidate, the 38 year old Wine, has said in a past statement : “We believe in having a platform that will bring in all oppressed Ugandans. ” Contrasting the reign of the 75 year old Museveni, who is eligible to seek another term only because lawmakers removed, at his behest, the constitutional age limits on the presidency.
But now Bobi Wine has been dealt with in true Museveni form: He has been arrested and subjected to beatings and torture, several times. In November, at least 54 people died after protests erupted following Wine's detention over alleged violation of Covid-19-related social distancing measures, and the trumped up charges were dismissed by Chief Magistrate Jessica Chemeri who ordered his release on November 20.
Wine, undeterred, continued to crisscross the country with his campaign, drawing large crowds of ‘People Power,’ despite harassment, threats, closures of roads by military trucks and other ploys by Museveni. As writing this, one hour ago, Bobi Wine and his team were arrested yet again, as reflected in HIS opening statement to this article. This is an ongoing overt act of Museveni, terrified of defeat, in deliberate attempts to thwart Wine’s candidacy.
Joel Senyonyi, spokesman for Wine's party, NUM confirmed: "Yes police arrested him together with his whole campaign team. They (police) put them in police trucks and started driving but we don't know where they are taking them."
Police said at the time they had arrested nearly 600 people and accused protesters, whom authorities had enlisted the help of the military to disperse, of rioting and looting. As the facts present this is not a true reflection of the reality on the ground. Troops are forcefully dispersing peaceful political rallies when voters show up to greet Bobi Wine. This is Museveni lashing out to squish and thwart opposition. On Tuesday, United Nations human rights experts called on Uganda to rein in violent security forces and drop charges against political opponents and activists arrested in what the experts called an election clampdown.
What is important to note is that Bobi Wine, albeit the most significant challenger to Museveni yet, has faced repeated accusations of homophobia. However while many of us who have met him and had discussions with him, believe he may have a full human rights stance, understanding the full umbrella of all human rights and how it intersects with his responsibilities to all Ugandans. Atbthis time this is not a subject he should be pushed on, nor criticized for, if one truly understands Uganda and the stakes. The possibilities with Bobi Wine leading will change Uganda for all.Lest we forget that Museveni has been a brutal anti-gay force, not only signing the now defunct 'Kill the Gays Bill' in 2014, but weaponizing homophobia in political ploys and actual oppression.
One must note the timing of the Opiyo arrests and how his representative human rights work taps into this larger picture. One must note the accusation of corruption against Opiyo, as written in my prior article , American Jewish World Services Implicated in the Allegations against Ugandan Lawyer Nicholas Opiyo, December 26, 2020, because all this is part of a set up to divert and weaponize THAT which binds Ugandans, the very popular notion that any attachment to LGBTQI causes is ‘demonic and dangerous to Uganda.’ And at the same time, human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, opposition, and activists are intimidated into silence, through these arrests, because with the few brave human rights lawyers under arrest, even on trumped up charges, Museveni is free to order the surge in his assault, and such will go unchallenged.
It is for this reason that the global LGBTQI community must step in and step back – both at the same time: to find the balance for what they buy into and what they will oppose. We must allow the fight to be on a level playing field when it comes to the issue of LGBTQI civil and human rights:
In other words this is not the time for us to create any issues around homophobia, and nor to buy into the scapegoating that is being laid out by Museveni and his cohorts, including complicit media. Not yet! Bobi Wine has an horrendous and dangerous battle ahead, as evidenced by the past detentions and now newest arrest. He is Uganda’s only hope to rid itself of this cruel dictator. This danger extends to all his campaigners, his supporters, and the voting public at large. Museveni is trying to bring the LGBTQI issue into the picture as he has done in the past, evidenced by recent statements and the excuse for arresting human rights lawyer Nichols Opiyo, accusations of financial support to Wine from global LGBTQI activists, accusations involving funding of non-profits and so much more. We the global community should not buy into this.
This is a very dangerous time and while the world must tread with caution, we must speak out about the oppression of political opposition and the resulting persecution: Given the above, we must call on the world to speak out against the oppression of democracy and Museveni’s violent and brutal stranglehold on Uganda, using security forces to squash legitimate political opposition. This is unacceptable and Museveni must be called out. He thinks the world is not watching. He thinks he can use the gay issue to divert and gain a perception of moral high ground. We cannot allow this to happen. The lives and futures of ALL Ugandans are at stake. MORE PICTURES HERE. We shall update as we hear more about the current arrest. BOBI WINE UNDER ATTACK BY MUSEVENI FORCES HERE: https://www.facebook.com/ghettopressUg/videos/754474448500745/
BY Melanie Nathan
pronouns: she / her / hers
American Jewish World Services Implicated in the Allegations against Ugandan Lawyer Nicholas Opiyo December 26, 2020, By Melanie Nathan, ED African Human Rights Coalition
Museveni seeks to scapegoat Gays again for his political purposes… weaponizing anti-gay sentiment to rally the vote – while brutally oppressing opposition Last week Ugandan Human Rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo was seized by security forces in Kampala. Some days thereafter it was alleged by Ugandan police that he has been arrested on corruption related charges.
Renowned Human Rights Attorney Abducted or Detained in Uganda December 23, 2020, By Melanie Nathan, ED African Human Rights Coalition
This week we received word from Uganda that renowned human rights lawyer and Executive Director of Chapter Four, Nicholas Opiyo, has been abducted and is being held in some form of unlawful detention by Ugandan security forces. There are disputing reports about the nature of the detention. This comes on the heels of several