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Bobi Wine: I can oust Museveni in an election

The quickest path to end President Museveni’s decades-long firm grip on power is through the ballot and no other means, not even violence, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu aka Bobi Wine has said.

The Kyadondo East MP said in a recent interview with Baker Batte Lule and Simon Rasmussen, that he believes President Museveni can be ousted like former Gambian president Yahya Jammeh through an election, and not violence.

Bobi Wine, who through the People Power Movement has excited a very young electorate, may have to walk a precarious path to oust Museveni in 2021 because in his over 30-year-rule, the president has won five presidential elections in 1996, 2001, 2006, 2011 and 2016. He has beaten off stiff challenges in the past from Paul Kawanga Semogerere and Col (rtd) Dr Warren Kizza Besigye Kifefe among others.

Police has stopped all your music concerts; have they given you any reasons?

Police have not given me any reason whatsoever.

What are you going to do to counter this blockade?

It should be known to everybody that the police are operating in an illegal manner and they are the number one perpetrators of impunity and injustice. They are charged with keeping law and order but now they are the custodians of unlawfulness and disorder.

It should be remembered that last year when police first blocked my concerts, I went to court but that case is yet to be heard up to now. I have written protest letters to the Inspector General of Police [Martin Okoth Ochola] but he has not responded.

I have walked to his office and I was made to wait for four hours without seeing him. Even when the director of operations [Asuman Mugenyi] came to see me, all he said was that he couldn’t give us answers to all our questions and that the orders they were effecting were orders from above. We are intending to petition all human rights platforms and seek redress from the floor of parliament.

But in your mind do you think you will get justice from those bodies if orders [blocking you] are from above?

There are two things; we are either going to get justice or we are going to expose injustice wherever it is. Orders from above in Uganda means orders from President Museveni and indeed he told Hon Asuman Basalirwa [during the Interparty Organisation for Dialogue a fortnight ago] that he will not allow me to freely exercise and practice my profession.

I don’t know where he gets that power from. One thing I know is that our institutions have crumbled and can no longer act independently. But we won’t give up because we believe in right over wrong, in good over evil, and we believe justice will prevail no matter how long it takes.

I’m not looking at an option of failure; I’m not going to communicate to you in anticipation of failure because that is not what we expect. We have seen injustices being unleashed on many other leaders and this is not unique to us. One thing we want to guarantee is that we are the last generation that is going to suffer this injustice because we are going to end it.

When you decided to take on President Museveni, did you expect this to happen to you?

I didn’t expect the regime would be so scared of me to this extent. Looking at the men and women ruling this country, I thought they would be a little sophisticated. But I would be lying to say that all this impunity and highhandedness were not expected.

You have seen how Museveni has treated all voices of dissent and I’m not any different. But the only difference is that we are the generation that is going to send Museveni home and all this impunity is going to end with him.

Bobi Wine during the interview

This is the generation that is sending Museveni home: is that the same as saying you want to be president?

I’m already leading this struggle to end the impunity.  But people get it wrong when they start making it all about Bobi Wine or any other individual. We all want to be free. We want to get the liberty to end the gun rule, lawlessness, family rule, tribalism and impunity.

All of us want that; not me [alone]; so, stop putting only me at the forefront because it’s not my struggle but, rather, a struggle for all Ugandans.

But ultimately only one person from the 40 million can be president…do you want that person to be you?

I agree with you that there can only be one president but still our struggle is not about the presidency because even the presidency we have currently is useless. We don’t want to have a kingly president.

An MP, an RDC, an LC-I chairman will be equally powerful and important in our kind of world we envision. That’s why we don’t make it about me but about all of us. It’s all of us against Museveni, not Bobi Wine against Museveni.

But people must coalesce around somebody; don’t you agree?

I definitely agree; people are coalescing around me like they do around other leaders. When we get to the point where we have to reduce it to one person leading us, we shall find a mechanism of doing that because we want to front one person for president just like we want to front one person for MP in each constituency.

But you don’t have a lot of time to do this; we are already in 2019 and next year campaigns are starting…

Before we think about those positions, let’s build our capacity as a people. We have a tired and indifferent population that has been looking for answers; not knowing that they have the answers among them.

As the people power mindset, we are calling upon everybody to get their citizenship in order. Get your national identification card because that is what we use to vote, so that your voices are not empty voices but votes. Once we do that; we shall get one of us to champion this.

I have said this; Uganda has got so many intelligent and formidable people myself inclusive. It is from among those that we shall get somebody to lead us. Our mission is to remove Museveni; if it requires me to take on the mantle, I’m equally available.

When you are alone in your bedroom, do you believe that urging people to get IDs to vote can somehow dislodge President Museveni?

I deeply believe it with all my heart and soul. Democracy is not a farce, but real. I know people power is not just a slogan but an assertion. I know that these people are capable of doing everything.

These people took a dangerous path to bring Museveni to power. He convinced them to pick up guns and fight but we are telling these people that we can change our destiny without shedding blood.

Democracy is the only internationally accepted means of changing government. It is the only option; I repeat, the only option. Any leader who tells you not to believe in democracy aims at enslaving you.

You have that power; nobody is going to give it to you. You only have to be sensitized to be able to use that power to your advantage by waking up peacefully and get that ID, then when the time comes go and vote.

We the young people are over 80 per cent of our population; these are the same people who didn’t want the constitution to be changed. I don’t believe in violence and no right-thinking person believes in violence; so, democracy is the only way out. I believe we can do it and I believe we are going to do it. If all these Ugandans who support us get registered, line up in millions, we can kick Museveni out of power.

I’m also aware of the narrative Museveni has been pushing that; ooh I have the gun; I cannot be removed from power. Yahya Jammeh, the ousted Gambian dictator, much younger than Museveni, much more sophisticated than Museveni; was kicked out by the vote. We have faced off with Museveni in Kyadondo East, Bugiri, Jinja Municipality East, Rukungiri, Arua [by-elections] and defeated him yet he had the guns and the money. Then what are you saying?

You’ve said that 80 per cent of Ugandans never wanted the constitution to be changed but it was…Isn’t it safer to say that numbers alone don’t automatically result in victory?

They didn’t want it to be changed but they had nothing to do; they depended on MPs who sold them out. You know MPs were bribed to change that constitution. This is the only opportunity to get people involved.

That’s why I’m telling them; mwebereremu [get involved]. Don’t let anybody understand for you; find out yourselves. If these people get sensitized, they are going to come up, vote, protect their vote and they are going to win.

And you know that winning is not the same as taking power…What are you going to do to ensure that if you win, you are declared the winner and you actually take power?

That is not my question. I can suggest the answer but the implementation is with the people. Ask me what we did in Kyadondo, Bugiri, Arua, Rukungiri and I will tell you to find out because it is on record.

All these people we kicked out were NRM people. First things first; let people get their IDs, go and vote and defend the vote. We shall tell them what to do next in case one man tries to commit a crime against the country by stealing their vote.

But we have heard this talk in the past that we shall tell you what to do; votes are cast and allegedly stolen but nothing happens…

That is them; none of those people that have been talking to you are Bobi Wine. I respect those that have tried and I know that some causes are so noble that even just trying and failing is noble enough.

I want to tell you that we as a generation have been looking at those who have tried and analysed reasons why they failed and learnt from them. This is our time to try; yes we can try and fail but we can never fail to try. But I want to make it clear; we are not planning to fail; we are making this attempt once and for all.

To take you back to elections; many people have argued that elections cannot dislodge a 35-year-old regime but instead they help cleanse the system…

Anybody that tries to disengage Ugandans from a constitutional process is an accomplice of Museveni. We live in a civilised world. Today Museveni is on the wall because his impunity has no room in the 21st century.

We cannot listen to those who have been trying the same thing – discouraging us from trying the same thing. Anybody who believes in the gun is free to do so and I’m not disagreeing with them but they should equally not discourage us when we use the constitutional means.

Bobi Wine with fellow MPs

Maybe with the benefit of hindsight they know the folly of engaging in a process whose results are already known and are just counselling you not to waste time…

I’m an MP because I went through the democratic process; anybody offering an option of violence is free to do so but I don’t believe in it. Anyone trying to discourage us from democracy is trying to set us in the line of Museveni who calls himself the master of violence.

We have no experience in violence; we have experience in persuasion. That’s why the regime doesn’t want us to talk to the people because they know we know how to persuade. They are pushing us toward violence because they want to respond to us with violence but we say we shall not take that path. I can now look Museveni in the eye and tell him we are going to kick him the hell out of that seat. And he can’t do anything to me.

Somebody is stopping you from moving freely in your country and holding music shows and you look powerless to do anything. Then how the hell are you going to kick him out of the seat?

He knows that letting me move around freely will be the quickest path to his ouster. That’s why Bobi Wine is telling you we approach this in a different style. These guys don’t know what they are doing.

I can talk to my peers right from the seat of my car. You stop me from holding music shows! My videos are everywhere. They don’t know how to deal with us the legal way but we know how to deal with them the legal way.

Some people say Bobi Wine should register his People Power thing as apolitical party…

That is them; my conviction is that Uganda doesn’t need another political party. We have 49 political parties; right, but they have not been able to put an end to this dictatorship.

They claim Uganda is a multiparty democracy, but parties are not even allowed to gather. Those advising us to form a party probably want to find a way for Museveni to handle us. We are amorphous; he doesn’t know where to touch.

Amorphous can be a solution now but I’m not sure it can win a general election...

That is an opinion.

You keep on referencing the constituencies you have won as basis for saying you can win a national vote. Aren’t you being a bit too ambitious since these are very small and town-based constituencies and Museveni’s survival was not on the line…

When people are doing research, they don’t sample every part of the country. Kyadondo was a sample from the Central, Bugiri from the East, Rukungiri from the West and Arua the Northwest. That gives you a national picture. 

You earlier on talked about the word twebereremu; it has been interpreted in some quarters to be tribal…

Let me tell you point-blank; I’m not a tribalist and I don’t believe in tribalism whatsoever. I despise people who have tribal thoughts. Just like any other slang that has been thrown around like Tubalemese, twebereremu means let everybody get involved; it has never meant we are this or that.

When you look at me and the people close to me, they come from all over the country. When you look at the person I’m married to; [Barbra Itungo from western Uganda] and listen to the message [I am sending out] you will honestly not classify me as a tribalist.

The slang twebereremu, means get involved, means self-help, it can only be done by us; don’t let anybody think for you; think for yourself. It has not just started now, that is the campaign slang I used in Kyadondo East, in Jinja Municipality East, where I was with all these leaders. We used it also in Rukungiri; therefore, for anybody to think that it’s a tribal thing, that is in their mind, not mine.

There seems to be bad blood between Bobi Wine supporters and those of Dr Kizza Besigye and FDC…

It’s wrong for us to be prisoners while fighting, who should be the prison warden. It would be very low thinking of us. When I was joining politics, I told people that I was here to also offer a contribution to this country I call home. It is a country that we own.

I have been in touch with all manner of people. I don’t get it when we seem to be fighting each other because that’s wrong and I don’t agree with it. I’m actually very glad that Dr KB came out and apologised for that [misunderstanding]. I hope that helps people to understand that People Power supporters are not tribalists and I pray that the constant engagement as leaders will help brothers from FDC and People Power to understand that we are not fighting against each other but we are fighting for each other. 

When was the last time you had a conversation with Dr Besigye?

I always call these leaders. In fact the last time I had a phone conversation with Dr KB was yesterday,  [December 17]. I called him, it wasn’t him who called me. I have visited him a couple of times and I know that one day I will be able to convince him to see things the way I see them, that is if he doesn’t already see them the way I see them.

He is somebody I respect and I think he is somebody who is resourceful, somebody that has a lot of experience we can tap into as young leaders. But we also have a lot to offer that should be tapped into.

My desire is to be the link between various mindsets, various tribes, various groupings and various generations. I noticed that there was a challenge. Many times when our generation communicates, they don’t understand us but we want to make sure that our elders understand us.

Some people say Bobi Wine is a good guy but he is surrounded by a clique of people who have never wanted harmony in the opposition rank and file…

I must let you know that ships don’t sink because of the water around them but are downed by water getting inside them. I’m in touch with everybody; I always have conversations with brothers and sisters from UPC, DP, Jeema, FDC and NRM.

I believe everybody has a role to play. I’m not going to take sides because I intend to be a leader of all these people. It’s my duty to push them to do what makes sense for all of us.

Those in the opposition with us must understand that there is no need for us to fight each other. It is not a question of who has fought Museveni longest but a question of how we can free ourselves. Everyone has a role to play.

There is nothing like a professional politician. The struggle does not belong to anybody; there is no career flag bearer of the struggle. All of us are equally important and we should embrace and respect each other and give each other a chance to contribute to the struggle. Let’s make our side attractive …if we are talking about building a country that tolerates divergent views, let’s start by exercising it ourselves.

bakerbatte@observer.ug

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