In this interview, Robert Kyagulanyi better known as Bobi Wine and leader of a fast growing youthful political pressure group, People Power, issues a dire warning to the Electoral Commission: You either organize a normal election with normal campaigns or no election at all.
Interviewed by Baker Batter Lule, the Kyadondo East member of parliament and presidential aspirant, said the opposition forces are going to do everything under the sun to ensure that EC organizes a normal election or no election is held at all…He has also urged four-time presidential candidate Col Kizza Besigye and all other presidential hopefuls to let him be the joint opposition presidential candidate…Below are excerpts.
You sound more rebellious than you were two years ago...
[Late former South African president Nelson] Mandela taught us that in the struggle for freedom it’s not the people fighting that determine the course; it’s the oppressor.
These people are trying to make me an illegal citizen; they are trying to silence my voice by doing so, many illegal things. I’m saying no; so I’m resisting them. It doesn’t matter who is standing with me. Because I’m standing for the truth, I’m ready to stand alone.
You once believed you could convince President Museveni to hand over power peacefully; you were reconciliatory; now you sound more radical…What has made you to change course?
I spoke love but [President Yoweri] Museveni’s response has been brutality, attempting to take my life and murdering young men and women. He has shown Ugandans he’s ready to do anything to retain power. Unfortunately, we are not willing to back down.
You are challenging President Yoweri Museveni in the next election…Do you believe elections can change power?
Yes, I believe in free and fair elections. I believe in working hard to make sure we win. That’s what we have been doing in the last three years. Museveni has always used propagandists in the regime and in the opposition to kill hope in elections.
But they have found a generation that is ready to take them on. We rallied Ugandans to massively register as voters and yes they did and that explains why Museveni is trying to ban campaigns and bring ‘scientific’ elections. Why, because he can’t take us on. We believe in overwhelming him and that’s what we exactly intend to do.
You have more people watching your online shows than those attending real-life (physical) concerts… So, why would it be a problem having virtual campaigns?
We didn’t move from physical to online. We have been present online and ruling it, by the way. But on the orders of Museveni, they stopped us from holding shows, saying this is not campaign time. Well, now this is campaign time.
Secondly, our nation doesn’t have up to 30 per cent electricity coverage, the internet has been stifled; we tax social media in order to stop young people from communicating. So, should Ugandans pay a tax to listen to a campaign message? Of course it’s a joke. Less than 40 per cent of our people have access to smartphones and the internet. What they are effectively saying is that elections are reserved for only 30 per cent of the population and we are saying no, we are not taking any of that.
People in the past have vowed that elections wouldn’t take place without electoral reforms. But elections happened without reforms… So, it wouldn’t be rocket science to predict where this will end… What’s your recourse?
We are going for a real election… the only truth that [EC chairman Simon Mugenyi] Byabakama said in that roadmap is that there is an election… this nonsense that there are no rallies, I don’t agree with it. As we talk now, there is a rally taking place in Kikuubo, there is a rally in the taxi park even in your township. This nonsense that people will get sick is a very hypocritical assertion.
So, you don’t believe coronavirus exists in Uganda?
I’m the one who sang the coronavirus song. But I know we must not use coronavirus to deny the servant leadership that the people of Uganda have needed for a long time. I want to remind you that people in places like America, which are worst hit by the coronavirus; came out in millions to demonstrate against the killing of one black person.
There is Covid-19 in Malawi but they have just held a presidential election. There is Covid-19 in Burundi but they just had a presidential election. We know that Covid-19 is here and it’s not going anywhere. We must learn to live with it. Wear your damn mask, practice social distancing, wash your hands and go about life.
You talk about Malawi and America but Covid-19 infections have risen to unprecedented levels there because of what you’re talking about. The late Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza is said to have died from Covid-19... Don’t you think that might happen here?
I must remind you that there are people as we speak in town. According to that roadmap, the elections are supposed to be physical. So, you are telling me that people will get sick for attending rallies, and not during voting.
The Constitution of Uganda envisioned situations like this one. Most importantly providing for an extension of an election for six months in a state of emergency; but interestingly, because Museveni wouldn’t be the president during that extension, he doesn’t want to read that part of the Constitution.
How can you ensure that people retain their right to vote but also protect their health?
Allow people to go about their usual business because the nation is going to open. In Sweden, they didn’t close because scientists know that when pandemics like this one happen, our bodies begin to adapt.
Of course, it will kill a few people but luckily enough we haven’t lost a single Ugandan. Maybe we are too strong. But they want to use the pandemic to give us a bad election, which might cost us so many lives. A bad election cost us more than half a million lives in the 1980s.
The argument is, the pandemic has not killed people because of the government concerted effort…
I’m trying to look for a decent word to substitute stupidity; what these people are saying is pure hypocrisy. What hospital has been refurbished? We are battling a disease but we are fighting it using guns. Covid-19 has not killed a single Ugandan, but more than 10 people have been killed by security officers. Let’s be honest to ourselves.
Justice Byabakama said people who reason like you have no regard for human life. You are simply interested in your politics. If people die, they die…
He is not honest; no wonder he was the one who pinned Dr Kizza Besigye on the rape charge when he was director of public prosecutions. What happened to that case? Does he know what a bad election can do to our country? Is he a doctor to tell us what we should or not do?
When you weigh the health of the people and the right to vote, what wins for you?
People are dying in Uganda and our problem is not Covid-19, at least going by the last four months. It’s a pandemic and it’s not Uganda’s biggest problem. Our problem has been mis-governance. This explains why we have been borrowing and using the money to buy and recruit people [supporters].
This explains why the media to a larger is extent is sanitizing this election to make it normal. Have you heard from the cultural, religious and opinion leaders? Everybody knows the dangers of a bad election. I expect Byabakama to argue this from a legal perspective. But he went to Museveni [who is also a candidate] and agreed on how to conduct this election. Because he [president] is sick and weak, he cannot run around the country with us. That’s why he wants to deny people a legitimate election.
If they proposed to extend this election, would you buy it?
I would buy everything that is within the law… The election is next year but these people are talking about no rallies as if they know what’s going to happen tomorrow.
Other than saying this election is not going to happen in the form suggested by EC, what are you doing to stop it?
Of course Museveni has the army, he can arrest all of us, and go ahead with the election but for us, we are not going to accept it.
In no uncertain terms, what are you going to do to stop it?
You want me to tell you and they stop us? Just watch us.
It’s six months to the actual voting day and you are still talking about having a joint candidate…aren’t you taking too much time?
Everybody knows that I’m running for president. If need be, we will talk up to the last day. We are moving as we talk. If they agree with the concept of unity, so be it. If they don’t, the people of Uganda know what to do.
In your world unity means people joining you…
We have said this before and you also see it now that currently young people are the majority. Two, many of these comrades have tried this before and we are telling them to try something different. Because if you want to get what you have not got before, do what you have not done before. We think we should unite and bring something new.
In all previous elections, a joint candidacy effort failed but Ugandans always unite behind a candidate with a better chance to defeat the incumbent. Why waste time with unity yet Ugandans know what to do?
I keep telling my fellow leaders that people are way ahead of us. I’m only calling upon these leaders to see what is obvious.
The other day you launched the No Nedda campaign, calling on people to make noise; they did that for two days and fizzled out. Are those really the people you can bank on?
We as People Power have been calling on people to register and vote but our comrades on the other side have been calling for defiance. It has always been a conflict of strategy and we agreed that whatever “you believe in, let’s do it together and what we believe in, let’s do it together.
We didn’t intend to stop. I continue telling Ugandans that let us work together on whatever idea you have because in war, even a person who raises an alarm is helpful.
Haven’t you been disappointed by the lukewarm response from Ugandans?
I don’t call it a lukewarm response; all strategies have been very highly embraced. We have won all elections we have taken part in except Hoima, which was blatantly rigged.
You said you are going to select people to stand on the People Power platform; this is not a registered political party; how are you going to do that?
I know it will be successful to a certain extent but I also know that with the popularity of People Power, so many leaders want to contest on our card. Even in my constituency more than four people are running on our platform. Whenever we can we shall harmonize and wherever we can’t the people of Uganda will decide.
People Power promised to bankroll people standing on its platform. Where do you get money from?
We have not needed money; we are different, the people can facilitate themselves. We don’t give people money.
But how do you run your activities without money?
The people we are fighting against are used to buying people; they don’t know anything else apart from bribing people. They get surprised when we get all this support without buying people. That’s why they conclude that we too buy people, but we don’t.
You will need billions to run your campaign…
I don’t think we will need billions; yes we will need some money to print posters, fuel, meals, etc. But we shall mobilize cash from amongst ourselves.
Gen Tumukunde the other day said you and him are talking…
Yeah, I have had a chat with him; not once, not twice.
He says the biggest problem is that every one of you wants be the joint flag bearer and that might scuttle the possibility of having a joint candidate…
This is clear to the people of Uganda, we have been there; we have seen it; even the dynamics at play show that this is a youthful population. So it should be clear to these people. I want to call them brothers and sisters but then, I don’t want to sound disrespectful, can I call them our fathers and mothers; it should be clear to them.
We have many presidential aspirants. Why would a Ugandan vote for you and not any other person?
I guarantee servant leadership. I’m new and I’m not a politician but a common person who has come to put things right. I’m a young person like them; so we should dare to have a fresh start. It’s a guaranteed win; let’s combine forces and take on the guy.
Will the army accept your presidency?
The army is supposed to be submissive to civilian authority; that’s the law and the army is not above the law.