While all eyes are on dancehall star Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine as he seeks to wrestle power from Yoweri Museveni, one of Africa’s longest serving presidents, two other musicians are emerging as key players in Uganda’s succession battle. While Joseph Mayanja alias Jose Chameleone is cheering Wine in his bid for the presidency, Moses Ssali popularly known as Bebe Cool is singing Museveni’s anthem for a sixth term.
The bigger scheme in both rival camps in the presidential campaigns is largely a battle for the youth vote. It is that also a murky battlefield for the three Ugandan stars who want to settle their supremacy wars. Wine and Chameleone have a rivalry spanning over a decade. From the entertainment arena to their family setups, their wars, physical and verbal, have been heated. The three enjoy a near fanatic following in Uganda especially among the youth who for years have let them dominate the showbiz industry.
On Thursday, following Wine’s arrest, a move that led to violent protests across the country, Chameleone led fellow artistes in condemning ‘police brutality’ while Cool blamed Wine for the mayhem. Arrested for flouting Covid-19 protocols after his supporters failed to wear masks at his rally, the 38-year-old Wine tweeted that he had been detained at the famous Nalufenya torture house.
“My candidate President Yoweri Museveni who I have supported and still have hope in is following the (Covid-19) guidelines 100 per cent. I on the other hand have been holding processions while distributing masks and T-shirts. Our opponents started with processions and later switched to mass campaign rallies in open fields without regard to the set guidelines and even started holding music concerts which are still prohibited during these times,” Cool responded even as allegations emerged that the detained Wine had been denied access to his lawyer.
Wine was later released on bail.
Struggle for power
Strategically, Chameleone, has already launched his bid for the Kampala Lord Mayor seat on the Wine-led National Unity Platform party.
“Our party leader in the National United Platform, Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine has given me enough courage to join the struggle of Uganda for a better nation and we shall not look back,” Chameleone said.
Recently, Chameleone, who was a close friend of Museveni before their fallout, sent his wife Daniella and their five children abroad in readiness for a combative political season. Suspiciously, Museveni unfollowed him on Twitter. Wine is christened the ‘Ghetto President’ and is seen as the main challenger of the 76-year-old president, who has been in power for 34 years.
As young prominent and influential personalities in the Ugandan political scene engineer a new power revolution, it cannot be forgotten how Tanzania’s President John Magufuli used artistes to get the youth fully behind him in the recent elections. From Nasseb Juma aka Diamond Platnumz to Ali Kiba, Harmonize and Nandy, Magufuli’s team marshalled the youth role models into campaigning for him.
Artistes like rapper Hamis Mwinjuma aka Mwana FA and Babu Tale, Diamond Platnumz manager, both vying on Magufuli’s Chama Cha Mapinduzi won as the others await handsome political rewards. In Uganda, it is the reverse.
In the past two years, many artistes had fallen-out with Magufuli after his government accused them of promoting immorality through lewd and obscene videos and lyrics. Following the country’s tightened regulations on online content, Platnumz and Nandy were questioned by the police on a number of occasions with authorities plotting to file criminal charges against them. The two, however, apologised and deleted the viral videos before seeking audience with the president. They ironed out their differences then joined his campaign team.
“Politics affected showbiz (in Tanzania) in a positive way this year. At least, 90 per cent of the musicians were on the payroll of Magufuli’s campaign team. We got to tour and perform during the campaigns and we were paid very well,” Nandy told The Sunday Standard.
She confirmed that their allegiance to the current political class was rewarding and played a key role in the outcome that gave Magufuli another political term. And woe unto those, like rapper-turned-politician Joseph Haule aka Professor Jay, who went against Magufuli’s political wave. He was humiliated and isolated by voters.