By Spy Uganda
Uganda’s musician-turned-opposition leader Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu has long captured hearts and minds across the continent as a champion of the downtrodden. Instead of despairing over President Yoweri Museveni’s sixth-term victory, the restless revolutionary in the signature red beret is spending his summer standing up for African democracy from Kenyan polling places to the crimson carpet of this year’s Venice International Film Festival that has seen his political journey being filmed across Italy among the top 20 deadly scenes on the globe.
Kyagulanyi was the main challenger in the 2021 vote against President Yoweri Museveni – who won with 58 percent of the ballots cast.
Wine, who was detained and harassed multiple times ahead of the vote, rejected the outcome as fraudulent, claiming there was video evidence of the military stuffing ballot boxes, casting ballots for people and chasing voters away from polling stations but Museveni dismissed all the claims.
Speaking at the Venice International Film Festival Thursday, Wine said he hoped the film “causes the international political community to reflect on what they are sponsoring.”
“I hope then they get to realize what exactly they are paying for, what they’re sponsoring: genocide, murder, oppression, dictatorship,” he says.
Wine says he’s “always wanted things to change” in Uganda but it was an incident with authorities 15-years ago that convinced him he needed to do more.
“I was attacked by security operatives and beaten up with impunity. Just because I had a beautiful car and girls were sending me flying kisses and it was a young man like me. So he slapped the hell out of me and asked me why I was showing off, as if I did not know that the country had owners. That challenged me to remember that so many people had been and were still going through the same thing. But I was deceitfully comfortable thinking that I am safe. That’s when I realize that nobody safe from this war.”
“After another 10 years of singing positive and politically conscious music, still it did not change so much. So I decided to take a step into politics to see that this actually changes.”
Wine has no intention of stopping his fight, although he isn’t able to say what his next step will be.
“Honestly, I don’t know, because in a dictatorship, you don’t plan. You don’t decide the next course. It’s a dictatorship that decides. I might tell you, ‘I want to do this.’ And then when I go back home, I’m kept in jail for a certain amount of time. Or even do the worst to me. So I don’t know. I just live every day as if it’s my last day. And I want to make sure every day I walk, I speak and I act like there’s no tomorrow. Yeah. For me, tomorrow is a luxury,” he says.