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When Ghetto boss excited parliament

When Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu also known as Bobi Wine announced his intention to run for the Kyadondo East constituency, the news was received with a mixture of excitement and apprehension.

His overwhelming victory on June 29 was euphoric and led some political analysts to proclaim the emergence of a third political force, independent of the major political parties.

But it was his swearing-in on July 11 that nearly brought the city to a standstill as curious onlookers craned their necks to catch a glimpse of the musician-turned-politician.

Robert Kyagulanyi in the VIP lounge

All the main roads from Gayaza to the city centre were filled with eager supporters, some donning colorful attire, bark cloth and carrying Uganda flags and Vuvuzelas.

BLOCKADE

The real excitement, however, was at parliament. As Kyagulanyi’s procession approached Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) from Yusuf Lule road at about 12.30pm, police had deployed riot officers to block the sea of his supporters from heading towards Parliament.

This at some point proved futile as the crowd seemed to overpower the few policemen and found ways of slipping through. All this time, Kyagulanyi and his wife, Barbra Itungo Kyagulanyi, stood atop his vehicle, waving at the people as he pointed at his watch, a symbol he used during his campaign trail.

Kyagulanyi was dressed in a grey suit with a black and grey tie and black shoes, while Barbie donned a red satin dress and matching overcoat, with black lace embroidery at the bottom of the dress and coat. They both wore black shades to complete the look.

The chanting and singing also attracted staff of Uganda Land Commission, prisons and ministry of Justice and Constitutional  Affairs which are located along Parliamentary avenue. Many rushed out of the offices to catch a glimpse of the ‘Ghetto president’. At the main entrance to parliament, police asked Kyagulanyi to step out of his vehicle and go through the normal security checks.

Police had a hard time controlling Bobi Wine's supporters 

The supporters atop his vehicle were asked to get off. He complied and together with 80 of his supporters, they were frisked and asked to enter. The police officers had to make a ring to block some of his enthusiastic supporters from entering the precincts of parliament. This caused traffic jam as Parliamentary avenue was blocked for some minutes, with vehicles struggling to maneuver through the crowd.

Kyagulanyi was then driven to the parking area where hundreds of parliament staff had been eagerly waiting to “rub shoulders” with the legislator. Many stood outside, smartphones in hand, waiting for the right moment to take a selfie with him.

For close to 30 minutes, he sat inside his vehicle, as parliament’s protocol officers arranged an area where he would wait before the afternoon plenary session convened.

When Government Chief Whip Ruth Nankabirwa was driven in, she stepped out of her car but journalists present seemed unbothered by her presence. Meanwhile, some of her staff members, on seeing her, hid behind a group of interns, fearing reprisal for being seen to be eager about Kyagulanyi.

After a brief live interview with NBS television, Nankabirwa walked in, giving her staff a sigh of relief and chance to cheer the Ghetto president with reckless abandon.

As soon as Kyagulanyi stepped out of his vehicle and walked towards the House with his signature spring in his step (bouncing in slang), he was mobbed by journalists who straight away shot questions at him and his wife.

“I’ve always said that if parliament cannot come to the ghetto, the ghetto will come to parliament. I want you to know that the ghetto has come to parliament of Uganda,” Kyagulanyi, who said he was last in Parliament in 1989 while in P1, told journalists.

For Barbie, the excitement was drawn from the crowds that escorted them to parliament. She, however, reminded her beaming husband that this was his moment to prove his worth to his voters.

“My MP should be seen, should talk for us and since we sent him, we expect to hear what we sent him to say. We also expect him to come back and tell us what he learnt from here. We also expect him to teach us what he learns here. We really expect him to work,” Barbie said.

He was then ushered into the parliament foyer, where staff cheered as they jammed the balconies. He was escorted to the parliamentary canteen, where more staff and MPs jostled to take a selfie with him and Barbie.

As soon as the bell beckoning MPs to the plenary sitting rang, Bobi was taken to the VIP room on ground floor, where he briefly met the speaker, Rebecca Kadaga.

DRAMA IN PARLIAMENT

At 2:25pm, Kyagulanyi, while clasping the Bible in his right hand, took his oath, swearing to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, three words he mentioned in a rather strong tone.

Standing next to him was Betty Nambooze (Mukono Municipality, DP), Allan Ssewanyana (Makindye West, DP), Emmanuel Ssajjalyabeene (Makindye-Ssabagabo), Bernard Atiku (Ayivu), Aja Baryayanga (Kabale Municipality), Lilly Adong (Nwoya Woman), Lucy Akello (Aruu North), Latif Sebaggala (Kawempe North)and Stephen Mukitale (Buliisa).

There was a spectacle when Nankabirwa imposed herself at the extreme left, provoking laughter from MPs and visitors in the gallery. The drama extended when Nankabirwa and Adong struggled to escort Kyagulanyi to the Speaker Rebecca Kadaga to receive his instruments of power.

At one point, Kyagulanyi used the aisle next to the front bench but quickly crossed over to the opposition side. Opposition deputy chief whip, Roland Mugume then led him to Kadaga, alongside other MPs. All this time, Nankabirwa jostled to also hold his hand but Nambooze and Mugume thwarted her attempts.

An opposition MP was overheard telling Nankabirwa: “Tobuzabuza mwana”, meaning, “Nankabirwa please don’t confuse the boy”.

Shortly after, Kadaga directed him to sit at the extreme right side of the House, which is a preserve for Independent MPs. MPs Adong and Ajok, who were his self-styled kanyamas for the afternoon, led him to his seat.

Nankabirwa, on realizing that she had lost the battle to woo Kyagulanyi to the NRM seats, opted to escort him, imitating his “bouncing walking style.”

Her “swagg”, in slang speak, sent the House, including Kadaga, into another bout of laughter.

Kyagulanyi’s presence in the House did not last more than 45 minutes, though. An SOS message had been sent to the administration that the police was struggling to keep his supporters calm.

The police officers pleaded with the protocol officers to request Kyagulanyi to leave and restore sanity along Parliamentary avenue, where the crowd had been waiting for more than three hours, to escort their MP back to Kasangati.

The communication was made and immediately after, Kyagulanyi walked out of the chambers. As he made his way out of parliament, he was swarmed by journalists, some requesting to take selfies with him.

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