The President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni is currently the fourth-longest serving president in sub-Saharan Africa, having been in power for over thirty years. While the beginning of his government saw stability, improved governance, and macroeconomic growth, there is growing domestic and international concern that the country is sliding backward.
The domestic concern about the status of Uganda under President Museveni is most visible amongst the youth of the country, all of whom have lived under no President other than Museveni. Throughout the 21st century this has manifested itself in street protests and other forms of organization and protests across the country and abroad. However, in 2017, the well-known hip-hop artist released a song by the name Freedom that explicitly lays out the grievances that many Ugandan’s feel towards president Museveni and his government.
The song commences with Bobi Wine saying “This is a message to the government, expressing what exactly is on the people’s minds.” In saying this, Wine makes it clear that his song is directed towards the government and will express the will of the general populous. Doing so in Uganda is somewhat taboo, as in the country political freedoms are next to none and speaking out against the government comes with dire consequences.
At the outset of the song, Wine directly notes Museveni’s main claim to legitimacy, the fact that he fought a bush war to remove former dictator Idi Amin from power. He does this by stating “We do not disagree you fought a bush war.” He goes on to note that there are individuals who were unborn at the time Museveni became president who are now parents. Throughout the beginning of the song, Wine directly confronts Museveni on multiple fronts regarding the growing discount Ugandans feel towards him and the government as a whole. Specifically, he underlines the fact that while the country may have seen improvements at the beginning of Museveni’s rule, they are now obsolete or have slid backwards.
Wine then goes into the chorus of his song in which he says “We are fighting for Freedom”, and goes on to list many cities and towns across the country. In doing so, he makes it clear that Ugandans across the country are taking a stand against what he sees as the oppressive rule of Museveni. Wine then goes on to state several profound claims that call out the current leadership of Uganda, but resonate with youth living across the entirety of sub-Saharan Africa.
In short, the song Freedom by Bobi Wine directly calls out the government of Uganda for its responsibility in the backsliding the country has seen in recent years. Specifically, the song notes that the president of the country, Yoweri Museveni has overstayed his welcome and that change must come. Notably, while this song directly refers to the happenings of Uganda, it easily resonates with those living under oppressive government across Africa, and the globe.
R. Maxwell Bone is a student of African Studies and International Politics based in Washington, D.C. He can be found on Twitter @maxbone55