Bobi Wine. Photo–Facebook.
The countries that have sponsored Gen. Yoweri Museveni’s dictatorship for 32 years in Uganda will be watching this week to see how his regime handles the return on Thursday of Bobi Wine, the popular Ugandan politician and opposition leader.
The Member of Parliament, who is 36, has inspired millions of Ugandans, especially the youth, to challenge Gen. Museveni as he’s never been done before, under the non-partisan “People Power,” slogan. An estimated 75% to 80% of Uganda’s 40 million people is under the age of 35.
“I agree with @HEBobiwine, #Uganda’s youth are its future,” U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, a Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a tweet today. “I will be monitoring his return to Uganda very closely to ensure that his & colleagues’ basic human rights are respected.”
Bobi Wine, who now symbolizes youth uprising against despotism in Africa, is expected to fly out of the U.S. on Tuesday. He had been in this country for specialized treatment for injuries suffered after being tortured by agents of Uganda’s Special Forces Command (SFC), a feared brutal armed force that reports to Gen. Muhoozi Kaenerugaba, who is the son of Uganda’s U.S.-backed dictator Museveni.
On his return trip to Uganda, Bobi Wine, whose given name is Robert Kyagulanyi, is expected to be accompanied by media crews from CNN, the BBC, Al Jazeera and the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), according to organizers of a welcome reception who spoke at a press conference in Uganda.
After he lands at Entebbe Airport the plan is for Bobi Wine to travel to Kampala and then later attend a live prayer-mass and thereafter address his supporters.
Meanwhile, feeling the weight of the global pressure and fearing a large demonstration against his human rights abuses planned for September 26 outside the United Nations by Diaspora Ugandans, Gen. Museveni has reportedly canceled his plans to address the U.N. General Assembly. Some Ugandans believe that Museveni also fears that in his absence, given the political volatility, the military could turn against him and block his return.
The welcome reception organizers, and Bobi Wine himself in a video posting on his Facebook page, say the regime plans to infiltrate the welcoming crowd with agents dressed in the iconic red T-shirts of the People Power Movement to disrupt planned peaceful event. The alleged infiltrators would be planted to commit various criminal activities in order to provide the regime with the pretext to unleash violence, the organizers claim. According to the welcome organizers who spoke at the press conference, another plan the regime is considering is to immediately arrest Bobi Wine when he lands at Entebbe Airport, and fly him off — presumably in a helicopter– for a meeting with Gen. Museveni.
Gen. Museveni, who is officially 74 but is believed to be as old as 78 or 80, is facing an unprecedented barrage of international condemnation, including from the U.S., which backs his dictatorship with about $1 billion annually in financial and military support.
The criticism followed the terror campaign against opposition politicians and civilians unleashed by the SFC in the town of Arua in Uganda on August 13 on the eve of a by-election for a Parliamentary seat. Bobi Wine, who together with other members of Parliament and a former one had been campaigning for opposition candidate Kasiano Wadri –who later won– when he was arrested and tortured by the SFC. Another Member of Parliament who also sustained serious injuries from the torture and is reportedly clinging to life in a hospital in India, is Francis Zaake.
Thirty-three other civilian supporters of the opposition were also arrested and brutalized by the SFC. All, including Bobi Wine, have been charged with treason; they are accused of inciting opposition members to throw stones at dictator Museveni’s presidential convoy when he too was in Arua on August 13 campaigning for his NRM ruling party candidate, who lost.
The attacks by Gen. Museveni’s foreign backers have been blunt.
After a recent debate, the European Union (EU) which provides development assistance equivalent to about 40% of Uganda’s budget announced that its support to the regime will henceforth be tied to democracy, freedom of expression and of assembly, the rule of law and respect for human rights.
Many of the EU Members of Parliament who debated human rights abuses in Uganda used sharp language to denounce Museveni and his regime’s human rights abuses. “Do we really want to be partners in crime? Because that’s what we’ve become if we remain silent,” one of the EU MPs declared, during the debate.
An EU MP, Charles Tannock from Britain, deplored the “increased repression” in Uganda and Museveni’s “efforts to entrench himself in power” by removing the age limit from the constitution. Similarly, Cecile Kyenge, an EU MP from Italy, said because Museveni wants to run again for president in 2021 “violence has broken out all over Uganda” and that the police have been in the middle of it.
Another EU MP from Britain, Keith Taylor, said, “Since 1986 President Museveni has been ruling with an iron hand.” Meanwhile, an EU MP from Spain, Lola Sanchez Caldentey, said the West had supported Museveni because he “does our dirty work,” and was as an ally in the fight against “jihadist.” She said Museveni had “rigged elections” and that, “The EU must condemn the authoritarian state.”
Clearly, Museveni’s sponsors have come to the conclusion that he’s become dispensable.
Will the dictator, so drunk on power, read the writings on the wall?