Museveni Struggles to Muzzle Bobi Wine, Uganda’s Pop Star-Turned-Politician

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, WPR Senior Editor Robbie Corey-Boulet curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s bid to position himself for a new term got a boost earlier this month when the Supreme Court upheld the removal of a constitutional age limit that would otherwise have barred him from staying in office. If all goes according to plan, Museveni, who is 74 and has been president since 1986, would be able to run again in 2021 and, assuming he wins another five-year mandate, see his tenure hit the 40-year mark.

Yet whether Ugandans will allow that to happen is an open question. This week offered fresh evidence that the authorities are worried about popular frustration with Museveni’s long rule, and specifically about a politician who’s been able to channel it effectively: pop star Robert Kyagulanyi, better known as Bobi Wine.

Earlier this week, Kyagulanyi called for Ugandans to participate in mass protests against police abuses, writing on Facebook that he drew inspiration from protests in Sudan and Algeria. Evoking two African countries whose longtime leaders have recently been ousted amid widespread protests did not sit well with the police, who reportedly surrounded his vehicle as he tried to make his way to a press briefing about the protests. Kyagulanyi then said he had been placed under house arrest, something local police eventually confirmed, describing the move as “preventive,” according to local media.

This is not the first run-in with the authorities for Kyagulanyi, who won a seat in parliament in 2017. Last year, amid campaigning for a parliamentary by-election, he was arrested, charged with treason and allegedly tortured. Writing at the time for WPR, Andrew Green described Kyagulanyi’s appeal to young people. “Kyagulanyi’s songs speak to the generation of youth who grew up under a regime that promised that if they studied and worked hard, they would have opportunities well beyond previous generations,” Green wrote. “So they finished school and flooded Uganda’s cities, only to find that the jobs they had been promised didn’t exist.”

The government’s treatment of Kyagulanyi and his supporters is increasingly drawing international criticism. “We join the many Ugandans asking why their government has recently blocked musical concerts and radio talk shows, disrupted peaceful demonstrations and rallies, and deployed heavy-handed security forces against peaceful citizens,” the U.S. Embassy in Kampala said in a statement Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Kyagulanyi seemed to be trying to make the most of his time confined at home. On Thursday he posted on Twitter a song he said he’d written for “our men and women in uniform,” perhaps hoping to win over a key source of support for Museveni—one the president might increasingly be forced to rely on if his popular legitimacy wanes further.

Keep up to date on Africa news with our daily curated Africa news wire.

Here’s a rundown of news from elsewhere on the continent:

West Africa

Mali: Boubou Cisse, who had been serving as finance minister, was named prime minister after the government of his predecessor, Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga, resigned last week. The resignation was widely attributed to the government’s inability to address worsening insecurity in the center of the country and elsewhere. In the latest high-profile attack, gunmen killed 11 soldiers at an army base. Anna Pujol-Mazzini wrote about what’s driving insecurity in central Mali in an in-depth report in January.

North Africa

Sudan: Civilian protesters and members of the military council that overthrew longtime President Omar al-Bashir remained at odds over whether and when civilians would take over the government. Though three members of the military council submitted resignations on Wednesday, they did not appease the protesters, who proceeded with another large rally in Khartoum on Thursday. Following a meeting in Cairo on Tuesday, African leaders said the council would have three months to hand over control. In a briefing earlier this month, Richard Downie wrote about the complicated nature of the transition away from 30 years under Bashir.

Libya: In phone calls with Khalifa Haftar, head of the breakaway Libyan National Army, U.S. President Donald Trump and John Bolton, his national security adviser, endorsed Haftar’s assault on Tripoli, which has left more than 200 people dead so far, Bloomberg reported. The fighting is increasingly threatening African migrants held in Tripoli, where Libya’s U.N.-backed government is based. Hundreds of migrants have been moved to relatively safer areas. “The dangers for refugees and migrants in Tripoli have never been greater than they are at present,” Matthew Brook, the U.N. refugee agency’s deputy chief of mission in Libya, said in a statement. “It is vital that refugees in danger can be released and evacuated to safety.”

Demonstrators rally near the military headquarters in
Khartoum, Sudan, April 15, 2019 (AP photo by Salih Basheer).

East Africa

South Sudan: The opposition is pushing for a six-month extension on implementation of the latest peace deal, citing inadequate arrangements to guarantee the security of opposition leader Riek Machar. The government says such an extension is unacceptable. Ismail Wais, the South Sudan envoy for the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, a regional group, has called for a meeting to take place next week between Machar and President Salva Kiir. John Hursh assessed the prospects of the deal’s success in a briefing in January.

Southern Africa

Mozambique: Cyclone Kenneth has made landfall in northern Mozambique, and The Associated Press reported Friday that at least three people had been killed. The country is still recovering from Cyclone Idai, which hit central Mozambique last month, killing hundreds of people and displacing tens of thousands. We recently examined the political and economic factors that made Mozambique especially vulnerable to Idai’s destruction. Human Rights Watch reported this week that some people affected by Idai had been forced to pay for humanitarian aid, and that some women were “coerced into engaging in sex with local leaders in exchange for a bag of rice.”

Central Africa

Democratic Republic of Congo: Doctors and other health workers responding to the Ebola outbreak staged a protest Wednesday and threatened to strike if steps weren’t taken to improve their safety. Multiple treatment centers have come under attack in the Ebola zone; a World Health Organization epidemiologist was killed in one such incident in the city of Butembo last Friday. We wrote about the outbreak, the worst in Congo’s history, in last week’s Africa Watch newsletter.

Cameroon: The Norwegian Refugee Council is sounding the alarm about the humanitarian situation in Cameroon’s western Anglophone regions, where more than half a million people have been displaced. The group said Thursday that tens of thousands of people were “living in the bush,” according to The Associated Press, and that the international response had been inadequate. We wrote about the conflict as part of a broader look at deteriorating conditions in the country since President Paul Biya’s reelection last October.

Top Reads From Around the Web

Kalashnikovs and No-Go Zones: East Burkina Faso Falls to Militants: Reporting for The Guardian, Ruth Maclean describes life in eastern Burkina Faso, where armed groups are reordering society and the government “has no control.” Allied with extremist groups like the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara and JNIM, Mali’s al-Qaida branch, the groups have shut down schools and executed people who have violated bans on activities like smoking and prostitution. Yet Maclean notes that not all the militants are motivated by ideology. In the east, she writes, “the groups are made up of ordinary Burkinabe taking up arms against a ‘predatory’ government seen as taking land and mineral wealth while offering nothing in return.”

After Years of Repression, Ethiopia’s Media Is Free—and Fanning the Flames of Ethnic Tension: Ethiopia climbed 40 spots in this year’s World Press Freedom Index from Reporters Without Borders, more than any other country. The opening of the media sector aligns with the reform agenda of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who took power last year, yet the results aren’t exclusively positive. “The changes have also prompted conflicts and unearthed long-buried grievances, often revolving around land and ethnicity,” Paul Schemm writes in this piece for The Washington Post. “To many, a newly polarized press is making things worse.”

Coming up on WPR: Reports on Malian politics and the violence in Libya.

Robbie Corey-Boulet is the senior editor of World Politics Review.


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Publish date : 2019-04-26 19:34:49

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