What you need to know:
Singer Bobi Wine’s new song, Dembe, which preaches against electoral violence has stirred controversy over the contradictory social media reports on a possible ban.
On Friday morning, local artiste Bobi Wine sent me an audio of his Dembe (Peace) song in a WhatsApp message. After listening to it, I commended him for wishing me and the general public a happy 2016.
On Saturday evening, however, news had started to trickle in on various social media platforms that the song had been banned by the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC). The denial by Godfrey Mutabazi, the UCC Executive Director, did little to diffuse the allegations.
The cat-and-mouse affair
Yesterday, Fred Otunu, the UCC Director for Broadcasting, reiterated his boss’s stand, saying; “I categorically state that we have not banned that song. Yes, somebody sent it to me but I haven’t listened to it since my Luganda is also not good. We have not received any complaint.”
Otunu also laid out what qualifies a song to be banned? “If it fails to meet the minimum broadcasting standards provided for by the law in the Communications Act 2013. There we sit and review it. But so far nobody has lodged a formal complaint with us about that particular song,” Otunnu added.
So, is it smoke without fire? “Yes,” Otunnu answered.
However, the UCC Twitter account seemed to punch holes into Otunu and Mutabazi’s responses. “The commission is currently reviewing the #dembesong. If it is found to violate or offend the minimum broadcasting standards with respect to content, the appropriate law shall be applied.”
In a WhatsApp exchange, Otunnu said: “That Tweet is wrong. What we discussed (with you) is the correct position.”
Why the fuss?
Some music enthusiasts say it could be a marketing gimmick by Bobi Wine’s camp. “It is the election time and one could say it is the best time for the song. So maybe they concocted this talk of the song being banned so that they can get a ‘sympathetic’ listenership. That is also possible,” says Moses Katongole, the Programmes’ Controller at Dembe FM.
“I have listened to its lyrics and I don’t find any problem with it. In the past, Bobi Wine and other artists have released songs that are more critical than this. I don’t see any big deal about it. Anyone can play it regardless of their political affiliations,” adds Katongole.
Bobi Wine unmoved
In the song, which was produced by Sir Dan Magic of Dream Studios, Bobi Wine preaches against election-related violence and other political challenges faced by the nation.
The cover of the audio release is titled “A Bobi Wine Iniative for peaceful elections”. The song (lyrics laid out at the bottom), according to the singer, is aimed at condemning violence and promoting peace during the forthcoming general elections.
Not new to controversy because of his strongly-worded songs in the past, this is Bobi Wine’s latest brush with the authorities. His previous songs Ghetto, Time Bomb, Ebibuuzo and Tugambire ku Jennifer have all rubbed authorities the wrong way. However, he admitted having not yet received any communication from UCC.
“My message is clear. There is no way you can call for violence in a song which is titled Dembe (Peace) and whose introduction says, ‘We don’t promote no violence’; we condemn the violence’. That’s laughable. My songs carry the ‘edutainment’ and ‘infotainment’ messages but if anyone thinks otherwise, they should go and hang. I sing for Uganda and ordinary Ugandans.
No one should ever think that they will sit in their offices and decide for me what I should release. This is my way of spreading my good message to the people. I am against violence and anything that causes it,” said Bobi Wine, in a tough tone.
“When I see something good, I don’t have to consult anyone to talk about it. Same as when I see something bad. I sing what I think is good for Uganda, not UCC. I composed this song with Uganda at heart, not any individual,” he concluded.
Whatever the truth is, Dembe has already become a hit all over social media.
What the law says
Schedule 4, Section 31 of the Communications Act 2013 partly lays down the minimum broadcasting standards as follows;
A broadcaster or video operator shall ensure that—
(a) any programme which is broadcast—
(i) is not contrary to public morality;
(ii) does not promote the culture of violence or ethnical prejudice among the public, especially the children and the youth;
(iii) in the case of a news broadcast, is free from distortion of facts;
(iv) is not likely to create public insecurity or violence;
We don’t promote no violence;
We condemn the violence’.
Rasta no promote no violence
Olaba abavumagana abalumang’ana abatemang’ana (You see those who insult and cut themselves to pieces),
Olaba abavumagana mu kifo ky’okulung’amya (You see those who attack instead of guiding )
Omuntu eyandibaddewo okulung’amya abavubuka (The person who should be guiding the youth)
Ate y’abakulemberamu okukola obutabanguko (Is the same person leading them into violent acts)
Bino bwe nabirabye natiddemu (When I saw this, I got scared)
Okulwana mu bavubuka kususse nnyo (Fighting has become so rampant among the youth)
Ate abakulembeze kibaswaza nnyo (And the leaders should be ashamed of it)
Wamma bavubuka nze nsaba tukole bwe tuti (The youth, my plea is this)
Nsaba okulonda kubeere kwa dembe (I appeal for a peaceful election)
Obuyinza bukyuke mu dembe (There should be a peaceful transfer of power)
Bannayuganda mulonde mu dembe (Ugandans, go vote in peace)
Awo obulamu butunyumire (So we can enjoy a peaceful life)
Bannayuganda tubeere ba dembe (Ugandans, we should be peaceful)
N’omwaka gubanyumire (And enjoy a happy new year)
Kuva ku independence tuli mu ntalo (We have been at war since independence)
Ky’ekigaanye ne Uganda okukula lwa ntalo (It’s those wars that have retarded Uganda’s growth)
Buli government ejja na ntalo (governments change through war)
Era baagala okugenda zibeerenga ntalo (And every government wants to go via war)
Bakikola batya eri e busukka nsalo (How do our neighbors do it?)
Abakyusa awatali kulwana ntalo (Who change power without fighting wars)
Lwaki temukitandika bassebo (Our leaders, why cant you copy the same)
Ate mwagamba kye kyabalwanyisa entalo (When you say it’s the reason that took you to fight)
Lwaki oyoza engoye enjeru (Why do you wash a white piece of cloth)
Ate n’ozaanika ku kiti ky’enziro (And hang it on a soiled object to dry?)
Lwaki temulabira ku Mandela (Why don’t you borrow a leaf from Mandela)
Yafuga kimu n’ata bbendera (He ruled a short period and surrendered power)
Abakulembeze okulwa mu ntebe (Leaders who overstay in power)
Ky’ekireetera Uganda okufuuka eddebe (Is the reason why Uganda is rumbling)
Buli ayogerako ng’olwo afuuse mulabe (Whoever talks about it becomes an enemy)
Ekyo tekituzimba tuba tudda mabega (That doesn’t develop us, it pushes us back)
Abantu bw’obaleka ne balondawo (If you allow people to choose)
Omuntu atakoze ne bamuggyawo (And they vote out the non-performers)
Ne Ssemateeka akyogerako (Even the constitution talks about it)
Bw’omubikkula ky’osookerako (If you open it, that’s what comes first)...