So that it soaks right through that sheepskin hat
Or Kamwaru Godfather, or Fedora, or Bowler hat
Or Stetson, or Sombrero, or Bushman’s hat
Or whatever it is M7 likes wearing on his head
So that we can say ‘sayonara’ to the man
And begin to re-imagine Uganda as No Country for Old Men ….”
This was the start of the poem we read at the Kenya Human Rights’ Commission offices last Friday.
The symbolism of this poem was in the allegory.
And its personification was in the person of artiste Bobi Wine turned politician Robert Kyagulanyi. Wine has in the last few weeks turned into both a metaphor for youthful change in Uganda and a symbol for a possible youthful revolution.
A revolution President Yoweri Museveni is strongly signaling must be crushed at all costs-including by assassination, military jail and trumped up legal charges to silence his youthful challenger.
For a fellow used to charging up crowds, both in political rallies and musical concerts (in the not too distant past), Bobi Wine can be surprisingly soft-spoken in person.
Yet his political sentiments are strong, not softened by any artistic satire or euphemism.
“Yoweri Museveni is worse than Idi Amin,” Bobi Wine says bluntly-with no help of the blunts he used to smoke as an artiste, yet this statement is sentences couched in fire.
“While Amin used to destroy individuals, Museveni has systematically wrecked institutions in the country of Uganda, to ensure that all power flows to one man-himself, his family and sycophants.”
“I do not want to talk of presidency,” Bobi Wine jokes. “I was once a president-of the ghetto. But I want to uplift my people, I want us to join hands as Ugandans and change the system.”
Pulse presses him hard on what he means by institutional change.
Perhaps what Wine means to say is that ideas, traditions and habits are more effective than executive legal decrees in getting to the true core of any country.
And Bobi Wine has no illusions of the danger of such a strong man, determined to cling onto power at all costs.
“Had I stayed in my (late) driver’s seat for three more minutes,” he says, “they would have shot me dead instead.”
While not responding to claims that prisoners were sent to molest him in detention, Bobi Wine says he is sad about the sacrifice his family is making, from his “strong woman Barbara to my kids who miss me very much,” but says there are “many, many kids in Uganda who need to grow up free, not just my family.”
He urges artistes in East Africa not to be used to divide people along tribal lines.
“They use artistes to get into power. Other artistes also get into power with them, and forget about the common man” This is the Orwellian (M)pig thing that disturbs Bobi Wine.
But he was amazed at the kind reception he got in America after his release (he had gone for treatment).
And happily shocked by Kenyans, including on social media, who put up an even bigger fight than his fellow Ugandans to get him released from the military prison, Gulu.
Bonnie Mwangi, photographer and human rights’ activist (at the forefront of #FreeBobiWine) says the political leaders who oppress us consult, compare notes on methods of terror, and then consolidate power across the region.
“The game plan is to get youth together, get power through politics, then scuttle the powers-that-be from within, beginning with parliament.”
As Boni Mwangi looks to return lost reformist sheep into the fold, Embakasi East MP Babu Wino is still in full ‘comrade power’ cry, using all the onomatopoeia he knows like ‘riat!’ fiats and the old ‘tia-la-la …’
Babu Owino is fond of spouting phrases like “better to die on your feet, than live on your knees.”
Youth like slogans the way babies like Cerelac.
But he did bring Bobi Wine to Kenya, and if his plan to bring South Africa’s Julius Malema next works, to unite “Africa’s radical youth parliamentarians,” we might see firebrand fireworks.
In the meantime, this poet did get a red beret from Bobi Wine, for “poetry that is political”.