Dragged by plainclothes soldiers out of parliament last week, Kyadondo East MP ROBERT KYAGULANYI SSENTAMU aka Bobi Wine has appealed to speaker of parliament Rebecca Kadaga to use her position to save the country from a life presidency.
The MP told Baker Batte Lule in a recent interview at his home in Magere, Wakiso, that it was unfortunate Kadaga conspired with [Special Forces Command] soldiers to throw MPs opposed to the removal of presidential age limits, out of parliament.
What happened to you after you were dragged out of parliament last week?
I cannot miss out on this chance to make the case that one member of parliament walked into the house with a gun and colleagues saw him. This led to a scuffle and the House was adjourned eventually.
The following day the speaker confirmed that Ronald Kibuule had walked in with a gun; he was suspended but surprisingly, even us who pointed out this anomaly were suspended too. She gave us 30 minutes to vacate the House but in less than two minutes soldiers came and dragged us out. This was very unfair.
When they dragged us away from the cameras, they tortured us. I was personally manhandled by over 40 people kicking me everywhere. I tried defending myself but they overpowered me and threw me into that ‘Besigye van’ where I found MPs; Muhammad Nsereko, Odonga Otto, Allan Ssewanyana, Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda and Gerald Karuhanga.
They drove us to Kira Road police station where we spent a few minutes, then Kira division where Otto, Nsereko and Karuhanga were dropped off. They took us to Naggalama. At Naggalama, a police officer called Muhumuza took my jacket, which had my wallet, and ID.
He never returned them even after we got police bond past midnight. After releasing us they locked us in the police van that looks like a dog’s house, then drove us at breakneck speed. I was the first person to be dropped off at my gate.
Majority NRM MPs say you deserved that treatment because you exported hooliganism into the House. Is that a fair comment?
I’m wondering whether there is anything moral in raping our constitution; is there anything decent in subjecting millions of Ugandans to a life presidency? Nelson Mandela [former South African president] once said that if a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no option but to become an outlaw.
Yes, we stood up and fought to defend our constitution. When Museveni was my age, and was faced with this kind of dictatorship, he didn’t kick and box, but got guns and started a civil war that claimed over 800,000 lives.
So, we could not sit and fold our hands when our mother was being raped. Uganda is our mother. Article 102(b) [on presidential age limits] is the last remaining opportunity for Uganda to have a peaceful transfer of power. We were not wrong and given the opportunity, we will do it again.
Did you people plan to cause mayhem or it was reflex action?
We didn’t expect soldiers to come to the House. Of course, when we were suspended, we rose up to object in a civilised manner but the speaker behaved in a very uncivilised way herself. When the Leader of Opposition [in Parliament], who was not suspended, stood up to speak on behalf of the opposition, she was not heard.
We would probably have walked out peacefully but less than five minutes later we were invaded by soldiers who started beating us. What did we have to do other than defend ourselves?
The speaker says you are going to pay for the damaged parliamentary property. Is that agreeable to you?
I have no problem paying but she will also pay for the catastrophe she will cause to Uganda. Right now she is sitting in a chair that can save lots of lives or cost a lot of lives.
She is sitting in a chair that can cost Uganda her future. She is sitting in a chair that makes very important decisions and it is important that she makes rational decisions. She holds our future and she must know that our lives don’t end with her.
How far were you willing to go with the shouting match and would that stop debate, let alone the amendment of Article 102(b)?
We knew that to win this debate wasn’t about numbers but about right or wrong. We would do anything and use any means necessary for right to prevail.
Are you confident that right will prevail over wrong?
We might not prevail over wrong but they must realise that following the direction of ‘our man’ [President Museveni] will not take this country far.
Some of them have their mouths stuffed with food; so, they can’t talk. Maybe many are compromised and others are afraid but they know that no matter how ferocious the wrong is, right will always prevail.
Some say the war on lifting the presidential age limit can only be won by massive street protests. Do you agree with that thinking?
I would but that will be step three. Step one, I still believe I can convince President Museveni to know that he is going to mess up this country and undo everything he has done if he insists on clinging on.
We are also going to convince MPs that they hold much power and can do Ugandans the greatest service by actually doing nothing at all; by not touching the constitution.
But even if Museveni gets his way in parliament and he goes to the vote, he will not win. I know he will steal but this time round, our people are aware.
Do you really believe Museveni can be defeated at the polls?
Yes Museveni can be defeated in an election. In Gambia, where is ferocious dictator Yahya Jammeh?
For the time you have been MP, what has been your biggest challenge?
For the opposition to unite; I always had a dream of us coming together to think rationally for the future of Uganda. I’m sure I can’t handle everything, and no single MP can.
The challenge has been our differences but God has done it for us because the time has come for us to unite and survive as brothers or perish as fools.
We have seen you moving around different parts of the country and word has it that you have presidential ambitions.
Right now we have a constitution to save. It makes no sense if our nation becomes a monarchy. Before we talk of who should be president, let’s talk about how to take power to our people.
Given an opportunity to meet President Museveni, what would you tell him?
I would tell him to remember his word. I will tell him we have learnt a lot of things from him but he should give us one gift, a peaceful transition of power. He will always be the father of the nation when he becomes the first sitting president to hand over power to another president.
He will still be powerful because he will have done what his predecessors failed to do. As citizens, we want to know the country belongs to us and it was worth losing 800,000 people. But again, I must say, if Museveni doesn’t give us that gift, we shall take it from him.
Some in the opposition think you look determined to take away their clout...
I don’t fight for positions; I fight for freedom. If I see Uganda free today, I would be happy to go back to my music.
It is much more comfortable being a musician than a politician. It was just a calling, I wouldn’t shrug off. Once we get our independence the second time, I will be happy to grow my dreadlocks back.
Has your music suffered because of the politics or has it grown?
My music or politics is not important. What is important is my freedom and that of millions of Ugandans. I would like to call on Ugandans out there not to leave this issue to us.
Just like it took all Ugandans in the 1950s to rise up against colonialism and joined the likes of Ignatius Musaazi, Ben Kiwanuka and Milton Obote to rescue this country. Just as it took combined efforts to liberate Uganda in 1986, it will take all of us to liberate it now from Museveni.
Grapevine has it that Museveni’s emissaries have reached out to you.
I have never met President Museveni, for the record. Pictures showing soldiers saluting me circulating on social media were taken in Budaka where I had a show.
This actually happens regularly; soldiers and police officers salute me and it is right because they know the constitution says the UPDF will be subordinate to civilian authority.
But because they are so desperate to spread lies, this regime can only survive on violence and propaganda. I also must say that I have no problem meeting President Museveni for as long as it is public and there is a known, clear agenda.
A lot has been said about your recent trip to the USA; can you expound on it?
I was invited by Melinda and Bill Gates for a meeting on the global sustainable development goals. It was attended by many world leaders including [former US] President Barack Obama who gave a keynote speech.
We were also with the prime ministers of Canada, Norway, India, the queen of Jordan and many others. I presented a paper on political change and democracy. It was an opportunity to interact with these leaders and there is a lot to learn from them. I wouldn’t want to disclose for now what the fruits of that trip were.