Not pleased to meet you: Ugandan leaders show no Sympathy for the Devil

Sunday December 30 2018

But if the law is silent about MPs’ right to sing, if indeed it is silent, then it is not just politics, but music and art that are suffering as well. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGA | NMG


Ugandan legislators are emerging from the festive season with a festive dilemma, a lacuna of sorts.

In fact the chief legislator, Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, who was also the first Ugandan woman to open a law firm, tasked the executive to clarify if the state no longer allows a lawyer who becomes an MP to practice law, or a singer who becomes an MP to sing again.

This was after MP Robert Kyagulanyi sought parliament’s protection from the police, who keep blocking his concerts.

Police had just blocked his highly billed concert in Jinja. Having been blocked in other towns, the MP, also known as Bobi Wine, probably thought Jinja was safe as it recently hosted a weeklong festival that Ethics Minister Simon Lokodo had opposed saying it would feature satanic rituals including bestiality.

Lokodo had begged his colleague, Internal Affairs Minister General Jeje Odongo, to block the festival.

But the soldier minister overruled his colleague and allowed the festival to proceed.


Licking his wounds, Lokodo grumbled that Satan had won. Bobi Wine must have wrongly thought that if randy horses and dogs are not blocked in Jinja, then he too could perform there. He was blocked.

Security Minister General Elly Tumwine explained Kyagulanyi’s problem to parliament as an “occupational hazard.”

Tumwine himself is an artist who had his own run-in with parliament, where his multicoloured costumes were subjected to a point of order as improper dressing.

And some years ago, Tumwine made utterances that sounded counterrevolutionary to some, and a rent bill materialised for his Nommo Gallery, a prime government facility located in the choicest corner of Nakasero Hill near State House.

He has occupied it most of the time since the NRM came to power nearly 400 months ago.

Even if Tumwine were to pay a “joke” rent of $5,000 per month, he would owe the government some two million dollars without interest.

So he knows something about occupational hazards, though “joking” was Speaker Kadaga’s assessment of Tumwine’s submission on the matter of blocking professionals from practising when they become MPs.

So she tasked Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda to explain. Rugunda’s explanation was “still loading” by Boxing Day when police blocked Kyagulanyi from performing on his own premises near Kampala.

But the matter of artistes in politics is deeper, with extreme views being uttered outside parliament.

For example Alex Mukulu, easily Uganda’s highest ranked artiste, had two weeks earlier weighed in on the matter.

Mukulu, the man behind most of Uganda’s most memorable theatre productions, blasted contemporary musicians for dwelling on love songs at a time when the country badly needs angry political music – in his opinion.

As if to show what angry artistes can do, a famous artiste MP called Kato Lubwama during a live TV discussion last week, rained blows on a fellow panellist who said his English is dodgy.

So Tumwine could have a point. If politics continues to endanger artistic work, then our entertainment and cultural scenes will be all the poorer.

Artiste Bobi Wine for instance recently released a nice, feel-good song titled Kyarenga.

Now Kyarenga is a wonderful love song done in 10 of Uganda’s languages, so blocking its performance is a disservice to music and society.

But if the law is silent about MPs’ right to sing, if indeed it is silent, then it is not just politics, but music and art that are suffering as well.

Joachim Buwembo is a Kampala-based journalist. E-mail: [email protected]