Kyagulanyi Ssentamu Robert also known as Bobi Wine, is a 39-year old Ugandan musician-turned-politician, and by popular acclaim, the leader of the generational and transformational People Power Movement, a resistance pressure group uniting Ugandans around the world to fight for human rights and the dignity of fellow Ugandans. The People Power Movement was formed in 2018. He is currently the President of the National Unity Platform, a political arm of the People Power Movement. Kyagulanyi ran for president of Uganda as the flag bearer of the National Unity Platform in the recent most violent elections that the country has ever witnessed which were held in 2021 and contested results that were opaque of counting process and abound of fraud and election malpractices.
Hon. Kyagulanyi is a proud father of four children, two girls, and two boys, and is married to Barbara Itungo Kyagulanyi, an equally trailblazing leader in her own right as an activist, entrepreneur, author and an outspoken advocate for girl child education, primary health care as well as the elimination of domestic violence, among other noble causes. Born in central Uganda, Kyagulanyi was raised by his mother, a street vendor in Kamwokya, one of the poorest neighbourhoods of Kampala city.
His humble upbringing has shaped his social and political consciousness as reflected in his music and now public service. It is from the same tough streets that Kyagulanyi rose to attend school and complete college with a Bachelor in Music Dance and Drama from Makerere University Kampala. He is currently pursuing further studies from within Uganda and abroad in the United states. He has also earned a prestigious Leadership Certificate from Harvard University Kennedy School of Government, which trains government and policy leaders from across the globe.
Kyagulanyi is the recipient of the 2019 International Humanitarian Award presented by the Rainbow Push Coalition, a multi-racial, multi-issue, progressive, international organization fighting for social change. Upon receiving the award, he stated, “I am profoundly humbled to get this International Humanitarian Award, which I dedicate to the men, women and children of Uganda who have paid the ultimate price in our struggles for democracy. Thank you Reverend Jesse Jackson and the entire leadership for Rainbow Push Coalition for this recognition.” In 2019, Kyagulanyi received the DEAR Life Time Achievement Award, a prestigious organization that recognizes Africans in the diaspora and around the world making an impact in the world; he dedicated this award to Ugandans living abroad who live outside Uganda because of tough living conditions or political persecution.
Using the adversity in his background and experience, Kyagulanyi built a stellar, award-winning career as an artiste to worldwide acclaim. As a playwright, actor and songwriter, his works cut across genres ranging from World Music, Contemporary Folk, Reggae, and Afro Pop. To his peers, his music is known as “EDUTAINMENT”, a mix of entertainment, and educational messages. His music is infused with powerful lyrics steeped in political consciousness and self-determination mantras, calls for social justice, defence and promotion of human and civil rights, socio-economic emancipation, African values, cultural heritage and the universality of Ubuntu. Art has shaped his public service, and he is now successfully using music as a tool for change and activism, mobilizing ordinary Ugandans around issues that affect them, and the ills vested upon them by the hostile regime in Uganda.
Kyagulanyi joined public service in July 2017 as an elected member of Uganda’s Legislative Assembly. While campaigning for his first elective national office, he used his simple clarion call “If Parliament can’t come to the Ghetto, we will bring the Ghetto to Parliament.” This resonated with the majority of Ugandans, who had gravely suffered under the 33-year long military dictatorship of a self-styled former warlord, Yoweri Museveni, and his family. In this respect, he has been able to mobilize the masses behind him, especially Ugandans who felt they didn’t have a voice, and their support for him surpassed the borders of his constituency to the rest of the country and now the international community.
The turning point for Kyagulanyi happened in 2016, during the then presidential elections, which was characterized by rigging, violence and irregularities exercised by the state and the ruling NRM party. This was the turning point for Kyagulanyi, who refused to join fellow singers who were bribed to sing praise songs for the reigning dictator Museveni.
Although he always addressed social ills in his lyrics, it wasn’t until 2017 that he announced his decision to join active politics, and so, Ugandans sat up, listened and saw this emerging leader who wasn’t willing to sell out or be compromised but instead stood on his own principles.
During his tenure as a Member of Parliament, Hon. Kyagulanyi along with other members of the opposition, led the “Togikwatako” (Do Not Touch) campaign against changing the Constitution to remove the age-limit, which would open the door for Museveni to have life presidency. He also played a significant role in mobilizing Ugandans especially the youth to protest the social media tax, which was intended to quell the growing anti-Museveni fervour among the younger generation who are active on social media and technology. He was arrested several times, tortured and barred from singing at concerts and addressing rallies.
On August 13, 2018, Hon. Kyagulanyi became part of Arua 33, a group of 33 Ugandans who were brutally arrested and tortured during the Arua Municipality by-elections. Kyagulanyi was in Arua to support Kassiano Wadri, an opposition leaning candidate. He and other members of Parliament, most notably Hon. Francis Zaake, were beaten and detained. Even when he was being held in military detention, candidate Wadri, won in a third parliamentary election—where Museveni’s party lost to the opposition and Kyagulanyi played a crucial role in the outcome of the election. Government decided to halt all by-elections as a result of Hon. Kyagulanyi’s influence.
Despite the grave personal danger and costs that they face from a corrupt cabal using the state machinery, and directed to them, their families and associates, Hon. Kyagulanyi and his Pro-People Power colleagues continue to champion the peoples’ yearning for a constitutional and peaceful transition of power.
The dangers these opposition leaders face include brutal torture; illegal detentions; embargos on their businesses and professional livelihoods; baseless and unending trials on trumped up charges; assassination and attempted assassinations. Despite this increasingly brutal crackdown, Kyagulanyi and his colleagues continue to peacefully and legitimately fight the most egregious ills, being perpetuated by the unpopular Kampala regime and its henchmen.
In a class of emerging young leaders in this century striving for African self-actualization, Kyagulanyi is unique because he maintains a magnetic pull in the political arena, which has helped the opposition win key elections. He’s stated over and over “Uganda is the only home I know,” and will die trying to change it for the better. The Foreign Policy magazine named Kyagulanyi as one of the 100 most influential global leaders in 2019 amongst many other awards.
Although police interrupt his music shows, he consistently uses his art as a tool for activism to challenge apathy. He urges Ugandans to speak up, mobilize and organize—online or offline. He is an outsider, who was not born rich or privileged, but rose from the slums to Uganda’s parliament. Hon. Kyagulanyi gives Ugandans hope that a post-Museveni future is possible and very near, where perennial ills will be cured.
These ills include widespread socio-economic deprivation; near collapse of public infrastructure and social amenities; brutal stifling of political and constitutional freedoms; subjugation of human rights and civil liberties; wanton military takeover of various institutions, swatches of land, and civilian properties; unemployment; corruption; state-meted violence; systematic abrogation of the constitution; and the abuse the rule of law and order with impunity. This is exactly what Hon. Kyagulanyi and the People Power Movement are seeking to change and usher in a generational, positive change under a 21st century, bottom-up leadership based on accountability, diversity, self-determination and patriotism.
Kyagulanyi, a man born to no title and lives a deathless name is a pivotal factor that has influenced the young people of Uganda and Africa at large. A child of four years at a time when General Museveni took over the leadership of this country by the barrel of a gun contested against the very dictatorial Museveni who has mastered manipulation of democracy to suit his dictatorial tendencies. While campaigning against all state institutions, Kyagulanyi won this election undoubtedly in line with the collected Declaration Forms country wide. Unfortunately, the electoral commission that is under the very dictator’s surveillance eye, couldn’t announce him a victor and the Army took charge by the power of the gun.