Bobi Wine with a supporter in November 2019, during a visit to the U.S.
General Yoweri Museveni, Uganda’s ruthless U.S.-backed dictator, has arrested Bobi Wine, one of his top challengers in the country’s 2021 elections, in a sign of the chaos that will likely accompany the campaign season.
Police fired teargas and bullets as Bobi Wine’s supporters were dispersed during his arrest. Uganda’s election laws allows presidential “aspirants” to tour the nation in what is referred to as “consultations” with potential supporters, in the preceding 12 month period before officially declaring their candidacy. Bobi Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, was arrested as he planned to meet with some supporters. The musical star who is also a Member of Parliament is 37 and presents a serious threat to Gen. Museveni’s hold on power. Youth unemployment is over 80% and more than 80% of the population is under the age of 35.
Bobi Wine was to meet with supporters at an event at a Catholic church outside Kampala, the Ugandan capital. His supporters blocked roads and set car tires ablaze when he was arrested. Although Bobi Wine followed protocol and alerted the Ugandan electoral commission prior to his planned meeting with supporters, dictator Museveni has other laws he could always invoke. The country has on its books a Stalinist-type law called the Public Order Management Act, which gives the country’s police chief the powers to block public gatherings.
Gen. Museveni has ruled Uganda for 34 years since seizing power in 1986. The U.S. and the U.K. have supported his regime with financing for his budget and weapons and training for his military much in the same way these countries once backed the corrupt dictator Mobutu in Congo.
Museveni rents the Ugandan army as a proxy force for the U.S., by deploying in countries like Somalia. In recent years the U.S. and U.K. have become critical of the dictator as his human rights abuses have escalated and he and his foreign minister Sam Kutesa became ensnared in a very public corruption scandal.
U.S. lawmakers condemned the Museveni dictatorship after the general ordered a ruthless attack by the military against Bobi Wine when he campaigned for a parliamentary candidate in a by-election in August, 2018. Then last year, in December, a Chinese national named Ching Ping Patrick Ho was convicted in U.S. federal court in Manhattan of having paid a bribe of $1 million which was split between Gen. Museveni and Kutesa. Ho, who used a U.S. based bank branch to wire some of the bribe money, was sentenced to three years behind bars. Museveni’s $500,000 cut of the bribe money was personally delivered by Ho, wrapped as “gifts,” when he flew to Uganda in a Gulf Stream jet to attend Museveni’s 2016 swearing in after the general rigged another election.
Ho cultivated relations with Kutesa when the Ugandan served as President of the U.N. General Assembly. Since Ho’s arrest in 2017, both Gen. Museveni and Kutesa have not traveled to the U.S. and neither attended the 2018 and 2019 U.N. General Assembly meetings.
A Black Star News investigation also established that Kutesa stole about $30 million from the U.N. in fraudulent billings from a private company he owned called Entebbe Handling Services (Enhas).
The bribe from Ho was for oil and other business concessions in Uganda on behalf of a Chinese company, CEFC China. Even with the corruption scandal and Ho’s conviction, officials of major oil companies like France’s Total, the U.K.-listed Tullow Oil and China National Offshore Oil Corporation, are still involved in negotiations for oil deals with Gen. Museveni.
Gen. Museveni may be keen to try and retain power by any means necessary as he sees the fate of former African dictators such as Sudan’s Gen. Omar Hassan al-Bashir who was deposed last year following months of a popular uprising. Bashir is now in custody and faces criminal charges in connection to atrocities carried out in the past in Sudan’s Darfur region.
Gen. Museveni is also accused of several crimes, in Uganda and in neighboring countries. He has rejected an independent investigation of the Kasese massacre of about 150 civilians in 2016, and the 2009 Kayunga massacre in Buganda. Gen. Museveni is also blamed for the deaths of up to one million people in Uganda’s Acholi region for confining 90% of the population in concentration camps–the World Health Organization estimated that over 1,000 deaths above the normal rate occured in the camps–during his 20 year war with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
In 2005 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) awarded Congo $10 billion in reparations for war crimes committed by Museveni’s military in that country. On June 8, 2006 The Wall Street Journal reported that Gen. Museveni urged then U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to block a criminal investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC), which is separate from the ICJ, into war crimes in the Congo by Museveni’s soldiers, which could have resulted in his indictment. In 2013, when African countries were trying to mediate a peaceful resolution to a political dispute between South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar, Gen. Museveni deployed his army to back Kiir, and used cluster bombs, which are internationally banned. South Sudan has plunged into a horrific war between Kiir’s and Machar’s forces since then.
To divert attention from the corruption scandal, Gen. Museveni recently led a “March Against Corruption,” a stunt which was widely derided.
The Ugandan dictator may see incumbency as his only assurance against future prosecution. He continues to place himself and the corrupt proceeds he and his family enjoys, above the national interest of Uganda.