For some time now Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu aka Bobi Wine and his legion of People Power Movement supporters seemed to threaten only the presidency of Yoweri Museveni.
But the enthusiasm the Kyaddondo East MP’s militant supporters are capturing across the country is beginning to unnerve many ruling NRM MPs.
“At first people like Peter Ogwang [MP Usuk] and Solomon Silwanyi [Bukooli Central] seemed not to take Bobi Wine seriously but these days I think there is no person they hate more than Bobi Wine,” a friend to the two MPs said in an interview yesterday.
Ogwang [MP Usuk] and Solomon Silwanyi are some of President Museveni’s trusted party lieutenants in parliament who strongly supported the removal of the 35 and 75-year-age caps for presidential candidates.
This deep-seated fear among NRM MPs for Bobi Wine’s growing influence across the country was on public display at the weekend when some NRM MPs gathered at the constituency home of Foreign Affairs minister Sam Kutesa in Sembabule for the induction of over 1,700 local council officials.
Oblivious of the presence of journalists, a shell-shocked Bukoto South MP Muyanja Mbabaali told colleagues that he couldn’t believe that Sembabule, a predominately NRM stronghold, had been infiltrated by People Power supporters.
“Eeeeh banange mbadde simanyi nti neeno e Sembabule abatogikwatako batuukayodda. Bino byalinga bitundu bya NRM kikumikukimi,” he said in Luganda, which loosely translates in English, as “I didn’t know that the pro-age limit people (or People Power Movement) had also reached Sembabule, these used to be NRM areas 100 per cent,]” Mbabali said.
Hanifah Kawooya, the Sembabule woman MP, quickly responded, “Nkugambye, they are now everywhere.” The function was also attended by other MPs; Ninsiima Boaz Kasirabo (Kooki), Amos Mandela (Buyamba), Christopher Kalemba (Kakuuto), Aidah Nabayigga (Kalangala woman), Aisha Sekindi (Kalungu woman), Joseph Ssekabiito Kitayimbwa (Mawogola) and Haruna Kasolo (Kyotera).
In their short speeches, the MPs didn’t hide their disdain for Kyagulanyi, a musician-turned-politician. Kasolo urged people not to elect drug abusers [banywi b’enjaga] and those whose only qualification is singing and dancing paka chini.
“When you are looking for a president, look for someone who has something to offer; someone who has something to show; President Yoweri Museveni has guaranteed security, don’t be confused by people who will bring back insecurity here,” Kasolo said amid disapproving murmurs from the audience.
Although he didn’t name names, everyone gathered pretty well understood who he was talking about and they didn’t seem amused. The reaction was telling; that clearly Bobi Wine had supporters among the assembled mainly NRM leaders.
Providing guests of honours
Impeccable sources told us last week that security officials had tried to negotiate a solution to the standoff over Bobi Wine’s blocked concerts. Bobi, according to officials, was nudged to allow a government official to play guest of honour at all his concerts.
“Actually they had allowed his concert of December 26 to go on provided that Gen Kahinda Otafiire [Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister] would be guest of honor; it looked like it was going to work but I don’t know why it didn’t,” the source said.
He added that it is under the same arrangement that Kirunda Kivejinja, the third deputy Prime Minister and minister for East African Community Affair, was invited as guest of honour at Bugiri municipality MP, Asuman Basalirwa’s victory party a week ago.
Interviewed for a comment, Bobi Wine denied such negotiations ever took place. “Not true,” Bobi Wine said is a short message.
Asuman Basalirwa equally denied such an arrangement. He said, his party had been blocked by security officials after they learnt that Bobi Wine would attend. He said however, he doesn’t know what forced a police change of heart.
“I called people cancelling the function but later I was told by police that the function can go ahead. I don’t know what prompted their change of heart,” Basalirwa said.
On Kivejinja being guest of honour, Basalirwa said he had invited every big person from Busoga including the speaker of parliament Rebecca Kadaga.
“You know he is a respected elder from Busoga and he is my father’s long-time friend who attends all functions at our home. Anybody who knows me knows that KK is part and parcel of our family. But I don’t know anything about him being sent by government…” he said, adding, “Even the state suggesting Otafiire as guest of honor at Busabala I’m hearing about it for the first time; Bobi Wine has not told me about it. But if it were to be true, that would be a scandal of a century; how do you impose a guest on people?” Basalirwa said.