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Author: Jolly Rop
Date: Wntr 2021
From: Harvard International Review(Vol. 42, Issue 1)
Publisher: Harvard International Relations Council, Inc.
Document Type: Article
Length: 2,023 words
Lexile Measure: 1280L

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When Robert Kyagulanyi, later to be known as Bobi Wine, first started making rap music in the slums of Kampala, Uganda, he did not set out to eventually become a revolutionary. "Music was seen as a thing for failures. So initially I was involved in different little businesses, selling tapes and records, making bricks, doing this and that," he told the Rolling Stone in April 2020. Luckily, his efforts paid off. By the early 2000s, Wine had made a big name for himself in the East African music scene. His dancehall hits consisted of a groovy blend of reggae and kidandali--Ugandan afrobeats. He wrote love ballads, gloated about his riches, and exuded the braggadocio of the typical rapper. He rarely delved into serious topics, such as poverty, corruption, and human rights. He was a part of the Ugandan elite, befriending politicians and businessmen and enjoying a life of decadence in one of the poorest countries in the world. By the late 2010s, he made a big name for himself in another arena: politics. His reggae love ballads were replaced with inflammatory rap disses of the Ugandan establishment. Since his successful bid for parliament in 2017, Bobi Wine the dancehall sensation has transformed into Bobi Wine the political provocateur. Wine's populist, pro-democracy, anti-corruption movement, People Power, has gained a substantial following, especially among the young, urban, and poor. The movement, with its red berets and clenched fists, reeks of revolution. Now, he's running for president.

It is tempting to assume that Wine's popularity is mostly based on his rap origins. Music was certainly the catalyst to his popularity, but the forces that propelled him to political infamy and fuels his People Power movement go beyond just one man. Growing discontent with a neglectful, autocratic government is the basis for his popularity. Bobi Wine's liberal, democratic vision is attractive to a people living under the repressive, lawless dictatorship of Yoweri Museveni. In other words, the rise of Bobi Wine represents the growing disenchantment with the political establishment--not only in Uganda but also throughout the continent.

Museveni came to power in the 1980s after leading a successful rebellion against Idi Amin, the former president also known as the "Butcher of Uganda," who was often accused of cannibalism (when asked, he responded "I don't like human flesh...It's too salty for me"). Once Museveni took office, he abandoned his democratic promises and reverted to power consolidation and repressive rule. Since he took office 34 years ago, Museveni has repeatedly shown his disregard for the people. A November 2016 incident, where the Ugandan security forces killed more than 100 people, including 15 children, is just one of many instances in which the government has favored its own interest over the interests of the people. Human Rights Watch reports that the incident was the result of a military operation to kill the administrative authority of the Rwenzururu kingdom in western Uganda. Most of the people killed during the operation were unintended bystanders--cooks, custodians, and children. According to...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A680930821