As It Happens·Q&A

Ugandan presidential candidate Bobi Wine pauses campaign, but vows to keep fighting

Ugandan musician Bobi Wine has briefly suspended his presidential campaign amid a violent crackdown against him and his supporters. But the young upstart politician says he has no intention of backing down. 

Musician-turned-lawmaker suspends campaigning after he says police shot at his car and injured his producer

Ugandan presidential candidate Bobi Wine addresses the media shortly after security forces prevented him and his team from campaigning on Tuesday. (Getty Images)

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Ugandan musician Bobi Wine has briefly suspended his presidential campaign amid a violent crackdown against him and his supporters. But the young upstart politician says he has no intention of backing down. 

Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, has captivated the hearts and minds of many young Ugandans as he tries to unseat President Yoweri Museveni, who has held onto power for 34 years.

On Tuesday, Wine and his music producer Daniel Oyerwot were sitting in a car together on their to way a campaign venue when they came under fire and Oyerwot was shot in the mouth with a rubber bullet.

Wine says that when his team tried to move to another campaign venue, security personnel blocked him and shot out his tires and windshield. 

Police spokesperson Patrick Onyango said in a statement that Wine's supporters had attacked security personnel and disrupted traffic and that three people, including Oyerwot, had been injured by "teargas fragments" as police and the military dispersed them.

Wine spoke to As It Happens host Carol Off on Wednesday. Here is part of their conversation. 

Bobi Wine, you have faced violent resistance from security forces before.... What's happened this time? 

When I went on the campaign trail, besides beating and tear-gassing and shooting live bullets at my people, my car was shot. All the tires of my car were shot by the military, and even a shot was fired in the windscreen of my car. Miraculously ... it did not get anybody.

So I went to the electoral commission, first of all, to physically … ensure that the chairperson of the electoral commission is informed. And I wanted to go on record that I went and informed him, and also to demand for answers to this brutality and double standards by the police.

You had a number of the people in your campaign who were badly injured, including your music producer who was shot in the mouth with a rubber bullet. And what is their condition now?

My music producer lost some teeth and he had his face shattered. He went through an operation yesterday and the doctors are still watching him, but he is steadily developing. I managed to see him earlier on in the day and his condition is promising. Also, I was informed that the head of my security office … is in a stable condition.

The rest of the people, I've not had a chance to be in touch with them directly because some of them are living out of town, and there are still many casualties that are scattered all over the country that we are trying to communicate with.

Wine assists his music producer Daniel Oyerwot, who was injured by a rubber bullet in clashes with Ugandan security forces near Kampala. (Getty Images)

By suspending your campaign, though, for president, isn't that what Uganda's President Museveni wants you to do?

Certainly, Museveni would want me to suspend campaigns. He would want me to stop campaigning. But like I said, we are suspending the campaigns for only yesterday and today because we wanted to speak to the electoral commission. Now tomorrow, we are hitting the campaign trail again.

We believe that it is our generation that is tasked with ending dictatorship and reintroducing democracy and giving power firmly back to the people.- Bobi Wine, Ugandan presidential candidate 

We know that President Museveni, over the decades that he has been in power, he has faced opposition before. People have run against [him]. What is it about your movement, your campaign, that seems to have him and his party so rattled?

This, like I said some time ago, is not politics as usual. This is clearly a revolutionary election. This is one generation rising up to take its place in history. This is a generation that is saying: We are first-world brains stuck in a third-world country because we have third-world leaders.

This is a generation that is calling for a massive awakening of the common people, of the young people who are the majority. In Uganda today, out of 45 million, we are estimated to be 85 per cent under the age of 35.

We believe that we can shape our destiny and change it like all other countries have done. We believe that it is our generation that is tasked with ending dictatorship and reintroducing democracy and giving power firmly back to the people.

So that is the difference with this election. It is a very, very, very different election. It is a common people's election. It is a young people's election. 

We decided to do this not through armed struggles, not through protest, but through a vote. We want to massively vote and massively speak out as the people of Uganda.

Wine, a.k.a. Robert Ssentamu, says his police shot through the window of his vehicle while he attempted to pass a roadblock. (Getty Images)

When you speak of those young people, that includes you, doesn't it? You are, I believe, 38 years old. You were only three years old when President Museveni came to power. But you have seen in recent months, weeks, as you've campaigned, that many people who are supporting you have been killed, have been shot because they are supporting you. Are you concerned about their safety?

Yes, I am very concerned, especially that General Museveni has gotten lethal. It is clearly evident to him that the people of Uganda are saying something different from what he is doing for the last 35 years. It is clear that he is ready to kill anybody that disagrees with him politically. 

Unknown people without police uniform, a military uniform, but carrying guns and giving orders to the senior police officers in the regions that we go to. You know, military cars with their license plates removed, showing that they are trying to hide something. All the police officers now don't wear their nametags anymore because they don't want to be identified because they know what they are doing is illegal. 

You saw, though, President Museveni on television on the weekend. He … was wearing his military jacket. He called opposition parties criminal gangs. He vowed to do what had to be done to suppress the movement, the people who are opposing him for the election in January. What concerns do you have for your own safety? 

I have the same concerns that I have for everybody. I wouldn't love to make myself a different case.

Most of the cameras are looking at me, and whatever is being done to me is being watched. That is why I would be right if I said I only take a small percentage of the pain and oppression and the beatings and the murder and the intimidation that the wide population takes.

Everybody in Uganda is unsafe.

Uganda Yoweri has been president of Uganda since 1986 and Wine says he'll do anything to hold onto power. (Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

As we head to this election in January, after what you saw of President Museveni in his address to the nation, how far do you think he is willing to go to stop the opposition to his power?

I would only look at the recent past to tell [where] General Museveni is willing to go and the levels he's willing to reach. Like all dictators, they've gotten extremely murderous, extremely oppressive, extremely violent in the face of an imminent fall.

We know that General Museveni is ready and, in fact, willing to do anything to maintain his power. But … finally, the people of Uganda that have been oppressed for 35 years — many of them, all of their lives — are willing to also stand firm, to be beaten, to be tear-gassed, to go to prison, or even to die in order to stop their enslavement in their own country.

And how far are you willing to go to oppose him?

I don't know if there's any farther than saying we shall live and, if need be, die, for our freedom. 

For us, we have only one thought: we believe that the law should be followed. And according to our law, all power belongs to the people. According to our law, all of us are equal before and under the law. According to our law, we have freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of association. And according to our law, we are supposed to go to an election and choose our leader.

And we want to exercise that law. We want to enjoy that law. We know we subscribe to an international community, and we call upon them also not to let their fellow human beings go through a modern-day dictatorship.

Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from The Associated Press. Interview produced by Jeanne Armstrong. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. 

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