Bobi Wine has a son called Kampala. When I first interested myself in studying Bobi Wine, sometime in 2014 – as a creative protest artiste, likening him to Nigerian afro-beat maestro and activist Fela Kuti – I noted about the naming of his son that the gesture signified the place and power of Kampala in the commercial and political life of Ugandans.
With his son coming in the late 2000s, Bobi Wine, as a creative thinker, must have appreciated Kampala as a centre of power and life – perhaps more significant or equal to our clan affiliations – for livelihood, happiness, and futures.
Indeed, discursively, Kampala is a clan itself connecting strangers into kin and kindred relationships. With singing Tugambire Ku Jennifer, then the political significance of Kampala even became more palpable.
In truth, whilst Kampala and other major towns tend to be renowned for their centrality in our livelihoods, successive local and international shifts (Cold War, Capitalism, Structural Adjustment) have turned Kampala into the only centre of political production in Uganda, and will singly determine the future of this country moving forward.
See, the only real threat to President Museveni is Kampala. And this is not because he wins – or actually steals – countryside electorates by landslides. The countryside is not necessarily apolitical, but largely disconnected to the ways in which the government controls and manages their livelihoods. Being largely peasant communities subsisting on tilling the land, security and stability is simply good enough for them.
Thus, in Kampala being the only threat to Museveni, my reference is not to an electoral threat, but rather a revolutionary one. The old political science which stated that for revolutions to happen, the political activist had to connect the rural to the urban is surely obsolete. The cities alone are the battlegrounds and they have to be contained.
To this end, the sophisticated autocrat of the Museveni-Mugabe-Kagame-Kabila-Keita-Mubarak-Biya calibre has to make sure the major city is contained as tightly as possibly could. Indeed, the autocrats who have collapsed under the weight of revolutionary uprising have collapsed largely for their failure to control politics in their capitals.
Museveni’s acute genius:
Fully aware of this revolutionary threat in Kampala, Museveni has gone the extra mile to not only control politics in the capital, but also put in place an alert infrastructure that enables him to quell anything immediately.
Let me explain: as regards controlling political events in Kampala, Museveni quickly raided “the wretched of the earth” with money and political positions. The pictures of Museveni with sacks of cash in downtown Kamwokya animated Kampalans.
This was followed by the appointment of singers Butcherman and Full Figure as presidential advisors. Then he sent his boys on the hunt for loudmouthed activists of the downtrodden. Many are being taken over.
You have to understand the mess and confusion in Bobi Wine’s NUP party in the same breath – controlling the conscientisation of the wananchi, who would actually take the streets in revolutionary uprising.
See, NUP remained an activist party despite traditionalising. The picking of NUP membership cards is not simply readying members to vote, but rather, and more importantly, a process of conscientisation itself. By picking the NUP card, the young men and women are transformed into active political subjects and learning to own the political process. This, despite its entirely legal hue, is scary revolutionary politicking.
As regards erecting political weather detection equipment, Museveni returned LDUs who are presently roaming every nook and cranny of Kampala. They are not here for anyone’s security. Indeed, crime continues in Kampala uninterrupted. (Thieves have broken into my compound twice in a space of just months).
In truth, LDUs are here to detect and see any revolutionary behaviour and overwhelm it immediately. So are the so-called security cameras and control stations on major highways entering and exiting Kampala.
They are meant to detect intensity of political action and guide deployment. (The burning of Makerere University’s main iconic building and the slowness of responses should instruct us immensely in this regard).
With the changes in global politics after the end of the Cold War in the early 1990, the countryside does not matter anymore to politics in peasant, pseudo-democratic regimes. It is exclusively the major capitals where a conscientized but impoverished mass exists. Thusly, Bobi Wine or Kizza Besigye may not have [electoral] influence in the countryside, but remain a threat. Because the countryside mattered only before 1990.
The author is a PhD fellow at Makerere Institute of Social Research.