Uganda: Bobi Wine objects to lifting of presidential age limit

Opposition politician vows to keep fighting for change in Uganda despite his recent arrest.

    Wine says the government is afraid of young Ugandans who challenge 'injustice and oppression' [File: Newton Nambwaya/Reuters]
    Wine says the government is afraid of young Ugandans who challenge 'injustice and oppression' [File: Newton Nambwaya/Reuters]

    Uganda's opposition politician Bobi Wine has objected to a recent supreme court hearing that lifts the presidential age limit, days after his release from custody. 

    Uganda's top court ruled last month to uphold a constitutional amendment to remove an age limit that had previously barred anyone over 75 from seeking the nation's highest office.

    Condemning the move as a huge political setback, Wine told Al Jazeera: "The Supreme Court endorsed a life presidency. That shows the depth of entrenchment of the dictatorship."

    The popular musician-turned-politician has sought to unseat President Yoweri Museveni, 74 and in power since 1986. The ruling will allow Museveni to stand in the next presidential election in 2021. 

    Young supporters

    Wine, whose real name is Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, was freed on bail on Thursday after spending three nights in jail on charges of staging unlawful protests.

    His music is often critical of Museveni, and as his following has grown, he has faced increased obstacles to appearing in public. Last month he was prevented from holding a concert and was arrested after trying to get to the venue. 

    Bail conditions forbid the singer from participating in "illegal demonstrations".

    But since his release he has vowed to continue to protest against the government along with his support base of young Ugandans, many of whom are poor, frustrated and have struggled to find jobs. 

    "We are lucky we are living in a generation where our mouths cannot be shut. We shall speak the truth and use the law as it is to stand for our rights," said Wine.

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    Wine believes the government has tried to silence him because of his popularity and out of fear of an uprising. 

    "They [the government] are so afraid of Ugandans especially young people who are constantly raising their voices against the injustice and oppression they are going through and especially after what happened in Sudan," Wine told Al Jazeera.

    But according to Uganda's minister of state for housing Chris Baryomunsi, Wine's popularity is not what it seems. 

    "He [Wine] is just a young man who is excited. When he goes to town and the urban youth follow him, he may think that is popularity.

    "If he thinks he has bigger support than what the ruling party has in Uganda it's okay. Let him wait for 2021 when we're going to the election," Baryomunsi told Al Jazeera.   

    Economic woes

    Wine says the East African country's worsening economic conditions top the list of the youth's grievances towards their government.

    "What some earn in a month cannot even sustain them for a week. They are also faced with the situation of taxation, extortion from government officials and security agents."

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    But Baryomunsi says the government is battling a "youth bulge" with a high number of young people that blunts the effect of economic growth. 

    "What we're focusing on now is how to turn this huge population of young people into a productive asset.

    "As a government we're doing all it takes to ensure we deal with that challenge of unemployment," said Baryomunsi, adding the government has invested in public services, higher education and creating more jobs. 

    Reporting from Kampala, Al Jazeera's Catherine Soi said many Ugandans are still struggling to make ends meet. 

    Baryomunsi said the country's economy is growing but perhaps not quickly enough.  

    "We have one of the highest rates of population growth, so in terms of absolute figures, we are adding on more Ugandans. And because of this, it masks some of the economic growth which we register."

    Uganda's pop star opposition MP Bobi Wine freed on bail


    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News