Uganda: Museveni’s Apartheid-style Repression and His Fear of Bobi Wine

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Gen. Museveni, the four-star general in fear of the musician turned presidential frontrunner Bobi Wine. Photo: Facebook


[View From Uganda]


Yesterday, I decided to take a walk from Ntinda, a Kampala suburb, to the City Square.


To be specific, I intended to visit a friend at Uhuru Restaurant, which is below City Square and slightly above the Old Taxi Park. This is the downtown area which leads to Kikuubo market and is known as Shuari Yako, which is kiswahili for “it’s your problem”. It’s a reference to the densely populated part of downtown where anything can happen—you may get robbed, or even molested, hence “it’s your problem.”  


Ntinda is about five miles away from the City Square. As I walked, I instantly noticed the mass military deployments all over an otherwise peaceful city. By the time I reached Kamwokya, Bobi Wine’s base, these deployments had swollen to several platoons. I even espied a lady amongst the military and police presence. It is rare to see a lady in such deployments as women in Uganda are viewed as insufficiently brutal. So they are not good for such “wet operations”. However this single lady, armed to the teeth, could be the ruling National Resistance Movement’s (NRM) attempt at gender equality in meting out mayhem. 


Another feature of these military cum police deployments is that they are largely peopled by other regions outside of western Uganda, from where President Yoweri Museveni hails. After the public’s condemnation of westerners—who enjoy economic and political monopoly and top commands—  as being the face of Museveni’s junta, he seems to have deviously evened out deployments as a way of giving his terror a regional balance. 

This recalls the Apartheid years in South Africa when the racist Prime Minister Pieter Willem Botha used South Africans of mixed-race, so-called “coloreds”to serve as buffers between blacks and the racist whites. The so-called coloreds committed atrocities at the behest of the white supremacists. This created the illusion that the white supremacists weren’t the ones perpetrating such evil. Museveni is using the Apartheid regime template in Uganda. 


Yesterday, Kamwokya was restive, like a bar on the verge of a brawl. Throughout my walk, military vehicles in the shape of recklessly driven pickups moved in a desultory fashion. It was as if they wanted to lend a random quality to their threat of violence, reminiscent of the Gen. Idi Amin years. 


Most of the citizens looked on glumly, some were amused that the “great revolutionary” Museveni could be so scared of what he characterizes as a marijuana-smoking hoodlum named Bobi Wine who should stick to making music instead of daring to challenge him. A four-star general, Museveni, who is twice the age of his opponent, Bobi Wine, is running scared. Goliath is in total fear of David.


I reached Uhuru restaurant and talked with my friend. In the evening, at around 6:00 pm, it was time for me to trek back home. My friend warned me that the curfew—officially, to control the spread of Covid19, but essentially to keep a lid over the population— is unofficially being moved closer to 7:00 pm. This way, the authorities may control would-be protestors when the vote is finally stolen by the NRM on Jan. 14.  

On my way back home, I was passing through Wandegeya near the Mulago roundabout, when I saw a number of roughhewn young men dressed in the NRM yellow color chanting “Museveni! Museveni!”


Instinctively, I crossed the road when I was meters away from them. Another pedestrian was not so lucky. He walked right into this mob, numbered at around 30 persons, and they fell upon him like locusts on vegetation. The sun had not even gone down, there was a traffic jam and there were police officers everywhere, but this man was allowed to be robbed with impunity.


It was a horrendous sight. When those yellow-color-wearing thugs had robbed him clean, they moved on. I then crossed the road to offer the man some assistance. The man, who told me his name is “Emma” which is short for Emmanuel, had a gash above his left eye. His brand new phone, and his money were stolen by those marauding goons with the blessing of police. 


At the roundabout, a little ahead from this crime scene, a young lady was crying loudly. She had also been robbed and molested by those thugs. Apparently, these thugs had all come from Kitante Primary School. They had gone there for a large-sized NRM meeting where they had been promised the usual monetary crumbs that Museveni throws at a captive population for their “enforcement” activities. However when these crumbs were not forthcoming, these thugs decided to get money by other means.


Along the road to Kitante Primary School, I saw the rump of where these thugs came from. About 300 angry NRM “supporters” who were also at this meeting walked toward Wandegeya. I was warned to stay on the side of the road opposite from them as many of them were thieves. They even robbed people on commercial motorbikes called “boda boda.” 


In this terrifying situation, I made some conclusions. 


One, gatherings which are rich harvests for Covid-19 are allowed when it comes to the NRM supporters. Two, Museveni continues to monetize the politics of the country by throwing scraps at an impoverished populace. Three, when you are dressed in yellow and chanting “Museveni! Museveni!” you are above the law and rob with impunity. 


The danger with the last of my three observations is that criminals can now take control of the city with a nod and wink from the authorities. After all, Museveni is loathed by most people in Kampala. So, to punish Kampalans, he threatens them with extrajudicial violence on one side and crime on the other. Already, one cannot access social media without VPN since the government has blocked our access. We know Museveni want to win at all costs. 


At what cost is he willing to lose when the tables eventually turn? 

Columnist Philip Matogo can be reached via 

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