KAMPALA- Musician Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, aka Bobi Wine, on Tuesday paid a courtesy visit to incarcerated Forum for Democratic Change presidential candidate, Dr Kizza Besigye, at his home in Kansangati outside Kampala.
Bobi Wine didn’t go just to dine and wine with the Opposition leader, for whom he has made his support known, but also had a plea for FDC to spare fellow musicians, who supported President Museveni, from the boycott the party announced on Monday.
In what was termed as a “Free-my-vote” campaign, FDC asked supporters to “Stay-At-Home” every Thursday and wear black clothing or ribbons every Tuesday to show solidary with Dr Besigye who is under house arrest. In the campaign announced by FDC spokesperson Ibrahim Ssemujju, the party also asked supporters to ostracize artistes who supported Mr Museveni and his ruling National Resistance Movement.
Shortly after the meeting with Dr Besigye, the self-proclaimed Ghetto-President, posted on his Facebook wall that he had discussed a wide range of issues with Uganda’s main Opposition leader. According to Bobi Wine, a boycott against any artiste’s music would create disharmony among the fraternity of entertainers.
“I brought up the issue of the campaign FDC announced yesterday (Monday) to boycott my fellow artistes that supported NRM in the recent election,” Bobi posted. “The leader has listened to me as I tried to explain my concern that this could create disharmony among us. What I wish for us is a united Uganda where people can stand for justice while being tolerant and supporting each other,” Bobi explained. He said “the people’s leader” agreed with his statements although he said sacrifices must be made.
Bobi Wine took off time to strum the guitar for his host blaring out his latest track titled Situka laden with a revolutionary message and has been described as highly political. “Wow, that will take me for a while,” was what the FDC leader said after listening to it, according to Bobi Wine.
The boycott strategy by FDC officials has received a lot of criticism, especially from the public, the latest being from Ms Winnie Byanyima, the wife of Dr Besigye who posted on her Twitter handle: “No, I am for boycotts, peaceful demos, etc, but which target NRM not artistes and voters.”
Last year, 12 artistes led by Moses Ssali also known as Bebe Cool and Joseph Mayanja (Jose Chameleone) composed a campaign theme song for President Museveni in the just concluded presidential elections.
The artistes accompanied the President across the country singing the Tubonga naawe (we are with you) hit for the NRM supporters who graced the party leader’s rallies.
This shrugged of criticism of supporting the President seeking to extend his 30-rule saying they are free to excise their freedom of choice and association.
Hurdles ahead for FDC’s ‘stay-at-home’ protest
KAMPALA- With over 70 per cent of Ugandans employed in the informal sector, the rising cost of living and the generally tough economic conditions, the call by the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) for all its supporters to begin a “Stay-At-Home” protest every Thursday beginning today was unexpected.
FDC last week rallied its supporters not to show up for work every Thursday in solidarity with their leader, Dr Kizza Besigye, who has been held under house arrest since election day on February 18 and has been bundled into a police van and detained each time he has attempted to leave his Kasangati home.
But the response the campaign prompted on social media, an Opposition dominated space, took the wind out of its sails, with FDC supporters strongly questioning how they would survive under the biting economic conditions if they opted to shun work and stay home every Thursday.
A look at Uganda’s economic state offers an insight into the challenges that will wreck a protest that is rallying people not to work-even as the economic conditions became bleak with each passing day.
According to 2014 statistics by the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (Ubos), Uganda’s informal sector employs more than 70 per cent of the labour force-with the agricultural sector employing more than 75 per cent of the workforce in the informal sector.
The 2015 Human Development Index (HDI) by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) ranked Uganda at 163 out of more than 188 countries and territories surveyed, a further damning assessment of the quality of life of Ugandans.
According to UNDP, the HDI is a composite measure of the average achievement in key dimensions of human development; a long and healthy life, education, income per capita indicators and a decent standard of living.
The inflation factor
With Bank of Uganda last month indicating that Inflation increased from 7.1 per cent in January to 7.6 per cent in February-which is predicted to rise higher as the economy recovers from the excess cash pumped in during elections, the cost of living will shoot up by the day.
The factors that fired inflation and the cost of living, are the basics of life; food, housing, transport, clothing and goods and services, according to Ubos.
A protest that tampers with such “bread and butter issues”-of Ugandans, says Mr Alex Ijo, an economist would be “tricky”. “It [shunning work] is not the best strategy. Maybe if they had looked at avoiding paying taxes,” Mr Ijo argues.
Results of the just concluded elections-indicated that the base of the Opposition support is in the Urban areas-a bastion of the informal sector, and these are the people the party wants to stay at home every Thursday, beginning today.
Most affected areas
Masaka and Kampala, urban leaning opposition strongholds, registered the highest levels of inflation, according to the Ubos Consumer Price Index-meaning that FDC supporters in these areas would have to dig deeper in their pockets-even when they shunned work.
With the average monthly income of Ugandans marked at Shs 453,000 and 19.7 per cent of the population still mired in poverty, according to Ubos statistics-any day without work would further exacerbate the situation.
Political scientist and researcher Fredrick Kisekka-Ntale says today’s “Stay-At-Home” protest will receive lukewarm responses similar to those that followed the 1966 Buganda Crisis when some parties called for the boycott of products such as sugar.
“What it can only achieve for FDC is to allow them voice out displeasure, assuage the egos of the party followers and calm the frustrations within them. It will not have a far-reaching impact on the economy,” Mr Ntale said.
The non-political players
Dr Fred Muhumuza, an economist, says the informal nature of the economy means a good percentage of the people are detached from politics when it is not election time-unlike political leaders who will engage all the time.
“They are distanced from politics.
It is what they do when it’s election time but not on a daily basis. Political leaders, who are paid whether they work or not, might abscond from their political work but because of the constituency they want to appeal to,” Mr Muhumuza said.
In Egypt and Tunisia-where the Opposition seems to draw inspiration, uprisings that toppled long serving strongmen, were buttressed by strong economies where individual families could afford to survive even with months without working-an experiment that would be tall order for Uganda’s Opposition supporters.
Majority of Ugandans would not afford to abandon their jobs and put in a shift of 18 days-as the Egyptians did in Tahrir Square in 2011 to force out Hosni Mubarak or the 28-days protests that forced out Ben Ali in Tunisia in 2011.