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Who are the serwajja-okwota in Bobi Wine’s new song, Akatengo?

It is easy to misunderstand Bobi Wine's new song Akatengo as one meant to mobilise Buganda [ethnic] nationalism.

Lines such as “serwajja okwota akira nayinimu entanama,” [loosely, a homeless person rescued from the cold outside, might sit around the fire and exorbitantly cross-leg like he owned the home] send rightfully terrifying signals.

With this intro, Bobi constructs a distinction between natives and indiscipline foreigners – as one needing of remedy to change our political fortunes. This becomes succinct in the lines that follow: “we were in our Uganda enjoying our lives when these fellows came marauding/ they came with torn shirts and dirty boots/we housed them/they then duped our parents, ate our cows, ... now they are arresting our children!”

The gloves come off really pointedly as Bobi Wine reminds the children of natives to stop acting cowardly, and rise up. At this point, it gets really tempting to call out Bobi Wine as a Buganda supremacist – because his natives are implicitly Baganda, especially since he even uses deep Luganda construction, Akatengo, and imagery, serwajja okwota.

On that trajectory — accusing Bobi Wine of mobilising Buganda ethnic nationalism, and foreignizing Museveni and co. — a section of listeners has ended up agitated to the point of even missing the man’s lyrical genius [which the country had lost to lowbrow politics], and his outstanding public intellectualism.

As a scholar of politics and popular culture, let me offer to correct this otherwise terrible mis-listening. My intention is not to downplay the call for Buganda to rise up [it is long overdue], neither is it to downplay Museveni’s foreignness and refugee mentality. But, rather, to explain these two seemingly sectarian positions. They need context.

In these pages, I have written before about the infinite cosmopolitan ethic behind the rise and growth of Buganda, which incidentally is their geniusbut has also been their undoing. In the article, “In Praise of Buganda Cosmopolitanism," I argued that Uganda is not an ethnic category but, rather, a cosmopolitanism, an idea, a way of mobilising and organising society.

Indeed, Buganda remains infinitely open to new arrivals from elsewhere who are ready to learn Luganda language and pay allegiance to the king [the king himself the representation of this idea, the icon of the dream, and not an authoritarianism].

New arrivals join old arrivals to make their livelihoods here but also grow the region. Crudely stated, Buganda is the Great Lakes’ Americas – all migrants are welcome as long as they are ready to become Baganda.

To this end, being that Buganda is the region which hosts Kampala, the political, economic and cultural capital of the country, and Bobi Wine calling on “abaana bawano” to rise up and stop acting cowardly, he is not calling on an ethnic nationalist uprising.

But, rather, calling on the people who leave in the most important region of the country to rise up and own their destiny. Now, one has to appreciate that there are many people in Buganda who live here and have established decent livelihoods but still see this place as temporary shelter.

They are here, have power and money, but have retained a refugees’ mindset. They are like migrant workers working and sending all their proceeds home. To this end, they do not even mind this place at all. Let me tell a recent story.

During NBS TV’s political talk show, The Frontline, budding analyst, Margaret Muhanga attempted to be honest about having never visited Kampala until she was old enough for university.

She had made outlandish claims about the times of Idi Amin, and Milton Obote. Pressed on, she acknowledged that she had heard those claims from those who often visited Kampala. It was a set-up. Her interlocutor, Medard Sseggona, then asked her to shut up so that she could be educated about Kampala before 1986 by those who lived in it.

The very loquacious Margaret Muhanga cowed in her corner as she was hit by her foreignness to Kampala. She seemed to have agreed that she did not belong to Kampala - despite possessing humongous authority over Kampala. Muhanga's foreigners but, rather, a foreigners of ideas - a foreignness of mindset and character.

Unlike Obote and Idi Amin, Museveni and his former bandits, [now children of former bandits] have retained a refugee mentality in Buganda. They behave and act like they are in Kampala on a hunting expedition and have their homes in another country to which they will have to go back. Check for example, even when the law allows one to vote anywhere, Museveni drives and votes in Rwakitura, and then drives back to Kampala to govern.

Even when he has spent most of his adult and productive life in Kampala, he still sees himself as an immigrant. Even those who have built homes in Kampala and its outskirts, they see their Kampala homes as temporary shelters. This refugee mentality, sadly, comes down to the ways in which these fellows govern.

I have also written in these pages that to develop Uganda, the leadership has to make sure that they develop Buganda first. Because once the head is dead, everything else is dead. In calling the people who live in Buganda not to be cowardly – so as to secure the political and cultural capital – Bobi Wine actually is critical about the refugee-mindset which Museveni and team continue to exhibit as they mess the country more.

They ate the Covid-19 monies, and now want vaccines for free; they are stealing the land everywhere, which they then sell to foreigners for small quick gains.

In the end, because they have money and guns, as the BBC documentary vividly demonstrated, they are now killing and detaining the children of Ugandans who fully Bugandanized. I need to come back for Part II.


The author is a political theorist based at Makerere University.


+1 #61 juwait kali 2021-06-22 09:50
Akot this Government is going to fall Mubaraka and uncle Saddam had five sons between them to take over.

I can see you are still obsessed with Kings who have been poisoned and are dead. They're victims like the rest of us.

Am just hoping these Baganda people wake up and realise there's no leadership in Mengo right now. Why Mayiga is still incharge there is beyond me.
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+2 #62 Kisaka J 2021-06-22 10:21
Quoting Akot:
[quote name="juwait kali"]...we should not name call Besigye or Bobi wine but rather join them aggressively in demanding that Museveni steps down so that Uganda can grow/move on.

I agree with you Akot, but just to some extent. You write and reason as though participating or not participating in an election can remove M7 from power, it can not.

Even if all Ugandans agreed and boycotted elections, M7 would maneuver round the constitution to make himself president for as long as he is still interested in the position.

When M7 says he can disband parliament, when he says the constitution is a mere piece of paper, he means what he is saying in its entirety. M7 is ruler for life, nothing, and i repeat, nothing can stand in his way. Even if it would mean killing millions of Ugandans to achieve this he will.
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+1 #63 juwait kali 2021-06-22 11:22
Ov course semwogere was not persecuted because Ugandans as greedy and unprincipled as they are, they were behind Museveni at that time thinking he was the messiah god sent.

They were still under the kasita kati twebaka kutulo mode.
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+3 #64 Remase 2021-06-22 13:26
Kali, you will never cease to amaze me! Indeed freedom doesn't come cheap, unfortunately, you and BW are not interested and/or "brave" to "get it over with."

You are interested in meaningless piecemeal elections for personal gains. You clearly know that elections divide us along political parties and selfish interests.

Yet if we all stand as one and say Serwaja okwota, M7, must go, hope will soon prevail. As long as you keep encouraging BW to engage in meaningless piecemeal elections the more all hope is out of sight. My personal belief is, BW wasn't interested in or to use your word's, brave enough to get it over with.

It pains me to no end to lose so many lives but continue to move on as if nothing happened. How could BW go to sleep with knowledge that innocent people lost their lives to bring a fundamental change not to join SO in parliament!
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+1 #65 Kirinya 2021-06-22 21:01
My brother let me teach you this. In Africa it's where you find most rural urban migration.

Baganda mostly have got their ancestral homes where they come from and predominantly they go back and plant Coffee and matooke like wise banyankore to cattle kalamojong cattle,Bakiga to maize and potatoes.

99% of Ugandans including Baganda are not born of Kampala.

If some corrupt government officials have stolen money.wait it will hunt them.

Poor hospitals schools roads infrastructure will affect us in any way. I wish you pick some sense in my comments
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+1 #66 Witness 2021-06-24 12:08
Whenever you don't have a just cause for change, you endup failing miserably.

This issue of baganda claiming to be the only natives of Uganda is bogas to the root. There was a time when Obote forced the Buganda kingdom to exile, that group that bobi wine accuses of all wrong doings is responsible for the re-establishment of the Buganda kingdom and that group had all Kinds of Ugandans including baganda.

As long as bobi and baganda think that the struggle for change is theirs only, they should remember that it's besigye who started it. Any way there is a reason as to why Obote said a good Muganda is a.......
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+1 #67 Akot 2021-06-24 12:24
juwait kali, thanks.

Kabaka is sinking Bagandans instead of ensuring UNITY so that Museveni is thrown out, then formation of the kind of governance Ugandans want would be the only solution; Reforming the Republic or Independent Tribal States!

What will the situation be for ALL when Museveni finally dies of old age, leaving tribal leaders in posts, with Ugandans haveing no NATIONAL LEADERSHIP while ALL look up to & blame Museveni?
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0 #68 Akot 2021-06-24 12:29
Kisaka J, understood, but,

All Ugandans need, if they don't want Museveni, are;

- Bringing down the divisive tribalistic system,
-UNITE to block Museveni!

Until Ugandans make these moves, Museveni will NEVER be removed as he controls every institution, tax money & Ugandans don't have NATIONAL LEADERSHIP for second independence!

Unless Ugandans bring down the tribalistic system Museveni so cleaverly put in place, & UNITE to say NO to him, he's going no where & Uganda formed by our tribal lands, will remain his family business!

Not forgetting the outside world will continue to watch in silence as long as Ugandans are alright with the tribalistic system that goes against International Principle!
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0 #69 Akot 2021-06-24 12:41
Witness, understood, yet,

While we discuss instead of bringing down the tribalistic system & UNITING to end Museveni & family rule & ownership of our land, the evil family is owner of Uganda & this includes Buganda in Central that holds the KEY to ensure UNITY of ALL!

Once UNITY ends Museveni's rule, Ugandans will be FREE to form the kind of givernance they want & make their stand with the outside world, ensure real management of lands riches & business for real development through real education, real politics!

Museveni & family MUST be dislodged FIRST by Ugandans in UNITY or they are going no where!
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0 #70 Akot 2021-06-24 13:06
Remase, thanks!

Ugandans MUST know only their UNITY will FREE them of Museveni & family or they will fight one another with words on line for ever!

French Regional election should help Ugandans as their call for UNITY against Marine Le Pen (Reunion Nationale) will ensure her party representatives are BLOCKED, even when it's not RN, but well organised migration that is French main problem even when the people don't say it out - migrants get healthcare, housing, education...so taxes, bills, food prices... rise unendingly but not salaries!

Worse, French retirement age is at +64 & the young coming out of training are at pain getting jobs/replacing the old! But French government ensure migrants are well served to please Brussels!

Museveni & family, tribal leaders, mps, ministers are served, the poor don't defy him & there is no National Opposition Leader to UNITE Ugandans!
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