The Stream

Why is Uganda’s Bobi Wine singing about coronavirus?

Pandemic could have a devastating effect on Uganda’s already stretched public health system.

“The bad news is that everyone is a potential victim. But the good news is that everyone is a potential solution … Sensitise the masses to sanitise. Keep a social distance and quarantine.” 

These are the words of Bobi Wine and Nubian Li in their campaigning anthem Corona Virus Alert, released to raise awareness of the pandemic in Uganda. The video, which only came out last month, has almost two million views on YouTube

The song is just the latest chapter in a career that has fused music icon status with politics. Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, has called on the Ugandan government to improve public services as part of its strategy to defeat the virus. He has also criticised other African governments for not maintaining better healthcare systems for their populations, while investing in weapons and “curtailing the voices of the people“. 

Uganda has had fewer than 100 confirmed cases of coronavirus and the country remains in lockdown. There are risks looming, though. It is home to more than one million refugees, primarily from South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – the biggest refugee population in Africa. Many experts fear the virus could have a devastating effect if it reaches the refugee camps. 

An elected member of parliament, Wine last year announced that in 2021 he would run for president against the country’s longtime leader Yoweri Museveni. Over the past few years his music has been banned, he’s been arrested several times and he is barred from holding rallies for his People Power Party. He is also fighting a charge of treason that is likely to follow him into election year.

In this episode of The Stream, Wine joins us from Kampala to perform his new song and to talk about public health and the coronavirus in Uganda.

On this episode of The Stream we are joined by:
Bobi Wine, @HEBobiWine
Member of parliament at Kyadondo East Uganda

Dr. Ahmed Ogwell, @laktarr001
Deputy director at Africa CDC

Read more:
Fears in Uganda over coronavirus outbreak in refugee settlements – Al Jazeera
Uganda’s ‘Ghetto President’: How Bobi Wine Went from Dancehall Grooves to Revolutionary Politics – Rolling Stone