Why Bebe Cool is Uganda’s Rambo

Sunday April 18 2021
By Phillip Matogo

When Senegalese-American musician Akon came to Uganda last week, our very own Bebe Cool was seen hovering by his side.

Alongside Akon, Bebe was appearing in his capacity as official antidote to Bobi Wine’s “poison” mushrooming across the country in the shape of growing disenchantment with President Museveni’s rule.

It’s too bad that Bebe has allowed himself to be deceived by the powers that be. You see, once upon a time, Bebe represented a flourishing Ugandan counter-culture which proved to the mainstream that there were other ways to make a living and a life.
With his high-top dreadlocks and rock-solid credentials as a high school dropout, he was an anti-establishment figure.

The kind of bad boy the President would never allow his daughters to date; a virtual middle finger erected to polite society.
Identified with what the elite termed as bayaaye, he was written off.  Along with other dancehall stars, however, he showed us all that such bayaaye could succeed in life.

Achieving a positive cash flow, Bebe and his ilk started to enjoy society’s goodwill.
Their funny-money and society’s goodwill combined to give Bebe and his fellow Bayaaye real clout, which Bobi Wine parlayed into political power.

That’s when the establishment decided to take over these counter-cultural personages with projects spawning pro-establishment songs like Tubonge Nawe, as featherbrains like Buchaman were elevated to presidential advisors.


Bebe should realise that, like Rambo, he is being used as a token of the ruling classes’ pretended benevolence towards the downtrodden.

This tokenism is really a sleight of hand to fool the poor that one of their fellow bayaaye is acceptable to the elite, so they are too.  
In America, during the Cold War, Rambo was co-opted by the right wing after US president Ronald Reagan suggested that the fictional character’s style of negotiating with bad guys abroad was one he believed the United States should emulate.

Knowing that Rambo, with his shaggy long hair and lower class origins, resembled the sort of anti-establishmentarian who marched against the Vietnam War, the government took no chances.

To win the Cold War, they couldn’t afford to have “hippies” who looked like Rambo on the streets protesting against the US’s war on communism.
Hollywood was thus enlisted to win the hearts and minds of the American public against the presumed threat of Soviet Russia.
The cinematic transmutation of Rambo into an establishment figure saw his otherwise heroic feats turned into allegories for Reagan’s political rhetoric against an Evil Empire (Soviet Russia).

Rambo, although fictional, was used to mobilise the forces of “good” against the forces of “evil” as he became the quintessential representation of American foreign policy during the Reagan years.
This filmic deployment of Rambo was even evoked by Reagan when he gave a speech on May 1, 1985, invoking “the spirit of Rambo”.

Bebe is our Rambo, being used by the Ugandan establishment to silence any dissent (personified by Bobi) against it.  We witnessed Bebe playing this role to the hilt when he said, “Bobi Wine is the boy I made. I am going to crush him.”

Bebe, like Sylvester Stallone, has materially benefited from being used as a pawn in such power politics.
However, the difference between Bebe and Stallone is that the latter is identified with American patriotism, while Bebe exemplifies President Museveni’s parochialism.

Bebe’s co-option has largely stymied the growth of a counterculture, which is a key ingredient in making the world safer for diversity.
So as Bebe supports the establishment, he must realise that when Museveni’s tenure finally ends he (Bebe) will be a victim of the intolerance he’s helped establish.

Mr Matogo is the managing editor Fasihi Magazine.