May the torch be with you. Civil and human rights veteran Rev. Jesse Jackson honors Bobi Wine and offers words of wisdom.
The civil rights struggle continues with the resistance against tyrants around the world, Ugandan political and human rights leader Robert Sentamu Kyagulanyi, told a U.S. gathering while receiving an award from Rev. Jesse Jackson Jr., in Chicago.
Kyagulanyi, musician-turned-leader, commonly known by his stage moniker Bobi Wine, spoke last week at the Rainbow Push coalition annual convention. He was recognized for standing up for civil rights in Uganda and was one of six honorees from around the world. Rev. Jackson’s organization embraces multi-ethnic and multi-racial coalition coalition building, hence the Rainbow colors depicted in its logo.
The conference was attended by leading American politicians, including Presidential candidates former Vice President Joe Biden; Senator Elizabeth Warren; Senator Amy Klobuchar; Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend; Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard; and, Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York City. Nigerian Senator Dino Malaye also spoke at the Global investment forum about investment opportunities in Africa.
During his speech Bobi Wine revealed that many Ugandans are languishing in jail, while others have been tortured for speaking against the ruling NRM government. “I am not speaking to you as an expert on human rights law; far from that. I’m just an ordinary citizen of the world born and raised in the biggest slum of Uganda, the ghetto of Kamwokya. That’s where I come from. My passion to fight for freedom was indeed not born out of the classroom,” he said. “It was born out of the streets, out of my experience from growing up out of the poorest in Uganda and those are the people who face the worst human rights violations in my country Uganda.”
Bobi Wine participated in and appeared on a panel during the Global Peace and Human Rights Summit segment of the conference. He also addressed the gathering from the podium during the luncheon.
Even as Bobi Wine spoke in Chicago, news reached that in Uganda a mother of five was in the operation room in a Kampala hospital having her uterus removed as a result of gruesome torture at the hands of the police. Ms. Annette Nana Namata, a single mother, had gone to the police headquarters in Naguru in April to deliver a petition to the police expressing dissatisfaction with how officers keep dispersing people from opposition rallies and the cordoning off of the home of Bobi Wine.
Kyagulanyi highlighted the fact that many Ugandans are being tortured away in the “darkness where the international media isn’t looking,” a reference to the scores of safe-houses, or torture dens, operated by Gen. Yoweri K. Museveni’s regime. Kyagulanyi appealed to the gathering to keep an eye on Uganda. “I know many of you have come to know about me out of my experience of torture, repression, and abuse of my rights but the authorities in Uganda and the military in my country are detained thousands. While I am grateful for the attention. I must assert that my own experience, however nasty it was, is nothing compared to what very men and women go through every day in my country,” Bobi Wine said.
“Many have been arrested, many have disappeared and indeed many have had to pay the ultimate price. So while I am very lucky to be standing before you ladies and gentlemen, I must inform the world that another activist—an academic giant, a woman, Dr. Stella Nyanzi, continues to rot in jail, continues to be incarcerated, simply because she wrote a poem that criticizes President Museveni who has been president of Uganda for 33 years,” he told the gathering, with major media organizations in attendance.
In his acceptance speech, Bobi Wine said that there is still a lot of work to be done-from Africa to Asia, Europe and even in America. He narrated how political dissent has been criminalized and members of the opposition routinely tortured, arrested and charged with fabricated allegations; some people disappear never to be seen again.
Several people in the audience were visibly shocked when Bobi Wine called upon his fellow member of Parliament, Francis Zaake, to stand and be recognized. Zaake, who traveled with Bobi Wine to Chicago, was attacked and beaten by the military on the floor of Parliament for disagreeing with Gen. Museveni; he is still crippled. “So, as a people struggling to free our nation, this award gives us hope that the world has heard the cry of the people of Uganda and stands with us in solidarity,” Bobi Wine said. “The media is strictly censored and nobody is free to express themselves without fear of retribution from the military and other security agencies. Our people live in fear under a brutal dictatorship of 33 years.”
The 37-year-old MP dedicated the award to the countless men, women, and children who have died in in the “struggles for freedom and justice.” He called upon all world leaders, and the organizations, dealing with the current leadership in Uganda which has made human rights violations one of its trademarks, to hold the Museveni regime accountable. “Please and please, push them to respect human rights and the rule of law as a condition for co-operation,” Bobi wine said.