Ugandan Politics: One Man's Climb from the Ghetto to Pop Music to Parliament

As of late June, Mr. Robert Kyagulanyi Sentamu was elected as the newest member of the Tenth Parliament of Uganda. He has long been known by his performing name, Bobi Wine, but before he was known as Bobi Wine, he was not well-known at all.

After transitioning from his humble beginnings in the ghetto to a career as a successful musician, Kyagulanyi has ventured into yet another unfamiliar domain: politics. Rather than seeing his musical and political careers as entirely separate entities, however, Kyagulanyi sees a significant overlap in that they constitute different ways of representing the hopes, fears, and feelings of his people, the poverty and injustice they endure, and their prayer for peace.
How can a man move so seamlessly from the ghetto to an elected position in the government?
According to Kyagulanyi, it is precisely his history of hardship that secured him a seat in Parliament. After winning 77.7% of the votes in his constituency (Kyadondo East), he reflects, “The resounding victory is a testament that the people of Kyaddondo and indeed the people of Uganda are ready for a new kind of leadership—a leadership which truly represents them.” The success of his campaign is largely due to the frustrated and employed youth whose desires Kyagulanyi represents. Young voters came en masse to the polling stations, portraying their support for and hope in their new leader. “The youth” are not a small portion of the population, either. In fact, more than 70% of Ugandans are under the age of 25, and the youth unemployment rate is about 83%.
“This is the leadership of the common people,” he said. His written pledge emphasizes his commitment to listening to the priorities of constituents and bringing these priorities to government.

His vision? “Building a better future for Uganda, which means standing up against bad governance and corruption, and concentrating on the needs of the youth.”

The following video depicts Kyagulanyi’s heart for his people. In it, he explains:
“I grew up not wanting to associate myself with politics…. Politics meant trouble, meant death, meant division, meant all negative things. However, as I grew up, I started seeing things—I kept hoping that somebody would stand up [against injustice]. But again, I’m getting older and older, and nothing is changing. So I realized: If I want some change, I have to be that change.”
“I am not going to Parliament to fight with anybody… I am going to Parliament to represent my people. To speak exactly what is being spoken on the street. [I want to] connect the common man to the Parliament… And I want people from other constituencies to start demanding their MPs [Members of Parliament] to do the same.”
“I’m not saying I will be the solution to everything. I just want to evoke [a] spirit of involvement… for these people to own their country. To give them more confidence that they can actually stand up for what is right, and they can be supported.”

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