Yoweri Museveni, President for 35 years

In Uganda more than two days before the parliamentary elections scheduled for Thursday, January 14. If eleven candidates run for president, the eyes are mainly on two of them: the outgoing president Yoweri Museveni, and the singer became the main opponent, Bobi Wine, Robert Kyagulanyi by his real name.

From our correspondent in Kampala,

They are 38 years apart and have two diametrically opposite orbits. Yoweri Museveni grew up in a modest family in rural Uganda in the western part of the country. “He comes from a nomadic community. His father was a breeder, explains Don Wanyama, spokesman for the head of state. When he grew up, he began to commit to helping his community settle and especially work with the land. ”

The future president will then leave his region to continue his studies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. At university in the 1960s, he joined militant groups against colonialism before participating in the guerrilla war in Mozambique, his first military experience.

NRA and overthrown by Milton Obote

Following the controversial election of President Milton Obote in 1980, Yoweri Museveni decided to return to his homeland to form the NRA (National Resistance Army), a rebel movement against the regime. “He decided to take up arms when he saw that the election was distorted and that the people were subject to the regime,” explains Don Wanyama.

In 1985, Milton Obote was overthrown, and in 1986, Yoweri Museveni became president. “The NRA’s victory over Milton Obote is due in part to divisions within the regime and the army,” political scientist Frederick Golooba-Mutebi relativizes. Senior soldiers organized a first coup in 1985, giving Yoweri Museveni the opportunity to seize power. “

Bobi Wines’ family was also involved in the Civil War. “Our grandfather was in revolt against Milton Obote,” says one of the singer’s brothers, Bugembe Ivan Ssentamu. But his commitment cost him his life, so our parents have always asked us to stay very far from politics ”. Bobi Wine grew up in the capital Kampala, in the poor district of Kamwokya, north of the capital.

“We lived in the last house in the ghetto, right next to the beautiful neighborhoods of Kololo,” says his brother. From time to time we went to the rich neighborhoods to sell water and vegetables. So Bobi grew up observing these two completely different worlds and all these inequalities around us. “The singer was only three years old when Yoweri Museveni came to power. He is part of this generation of Ugandans who have known only one head of state.

A government proud of its record

After 35 years in power, President Museveni is defending the results of his various mandates. “Compared to neighboring countries such as South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda is the most stable country,” said spokesman Don Wanyama. Uganda has been heavily involved in regional affairs, such as in Somalia with the dispatch of military troops. ”

The country’s economic growth has also been heralded by the presidential party. Before the global crisis linked to the coronavirus epidemic, GDP rose by 6% in 2019. “In some years, growth has even risen to 8%. It is certain that the country is much more industrialized than when the president took power, and that the population is living much better. But the prevailing corruption system prevents the country from fully understanding the economic possibilities, ”Frédérick Golooba-Mutebi analyzes.

Bobi Wine, “Ghetto President”

In his speeches, opponent Bobi Wine often condemns the inequalities associated with corruption. “He started from nothing, which built a strong social conscience in him, which was first reflected in his music,” explains political scientist. In the 2000s, Bobi Wine actually began his musical career. A reggae star, his fans quickly called him “the president of the ghetto” long before his political involvement began. “When we were both in the car, he was constantly talking about the system of oppression he was observing in the neighborhood. And everything he said to me ended up writing it in his songs, ”recalls his brother Bugembe Ivan Ssentamu.

It was not until 2017 that Bobi Wine stood for election for the first time and was elected as a deputy for a district in Kampala. “He decided to get involved to have more weight, to carry the voice of the people who grew up like him, and to be able to do more than as a simple singer,” says analyst Frédérick Golooba-Mutebi.

An unprecedented duel

Since then, music has become a strong opponent of President Yoweri Museveni’s regime. In August 2018, his driver was shot by Ugandan police and Bobi Wine was arrested for “treason”. Released in September 2018, he flew to the United States, where he condemned the torture he allegedly suffered during his stay in prison. The opponent has since been arrested on several occasions: the most recent, November 18 during a meeting. His arrest then sparked riots in the country, resulting in the deaths of 54 people.

Listen again to focus on the challenges of this presidential election in Uganda

That duel at the ballot paper between President Yoweri Museveni and Bobi Wine will be unprecedented this Thursday after several elections in which the head of state faced Kizza Besigye, the main opponent of the party FDC (Forum for Democratic Change). “Bobi Wine is now the new Besigye, in the sense that he is the new target for the police. As it is new and more dangerous for the regime, it is attacked more violently than the other older ones on the political scene, ”concludes Frédérick Golooba-Mutebi.

►Read also: In Uganda, the authorities block access to social networks two days before the parliamentary elections

♦ What about the others?

In addition to outgoing President Yoweri Museveni and Bobi Wine, eight other candidates are running for president. Especially Patrick Oboi Amuriat from FDC, Forum for Democratic Change. His party is the party of former main opponent, Kizza Besigye, who has clashed head of state four times at the polls.

Three former senior Ugandan army officers are also fighting. The first Mugisha Muntu defends the colors of his party, ANT (Alliance for a National Transformation). Former commander of the Ugandan army, he was chairman of the FDC from 2012 to 2017. Henry Tumukunde is also retired from the Ugandan army. He was also part of a government in Yoweri Museveni, as Minister of National Security in 2016, before being removed from his post two years later. Fred Mwesigye, also a former army commander, is also a veteran of rebel groups during the Civil War against Milton Obote. He became a Member of Parliament in 2011 under the brand of the Presidential Party. He now runs as an independent.

Norbert Mao is a candidate for the Democratic Party. He was a lawyer by profession and ran for the first time for the presidential election in 2011. Nancy Kalembe is the only female presidential candidate. On several occasions, she lamented the lack of funding, which partially prevented her from campaigning. It is also on economic issues that it has focused its meetings by committing itself to lowering government debt and fighting structural unemployment in the country.

Other candidates are less well known to the public. Like John Katumba, the youngest of this election. As a 24-year-old, he graduated straight from the business school at the prestigious Makerere University in Kampala. At his meetings, he works for the country’s youth. Willy Mayambala is an independent candidate. In mid-December, he announced that he was no longer organizing meetings to avoid spreading Covid-19. His campaign took place mainly on social networks. Finally, Joseph Kabuleta is another independent candidate. A priest by profession, he declared that he was “sent by God” to stand for election. He is in favor of a fair distribution of prosperity in Uganda and for the growth figures to be reflected in the lives of the people.


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