Fri | Jul 19, 2019

Bobi Wine invited to perform at Rebel Salute 2020

Published:Monday | May 6, 2019 | 12:17 AMYasmine Peru/ Senior Gleaner Writer
Bobi Wine performing at Rebel Salute in January.
Bobi Wine greets his followers as he arrives home after being released from prison on bail in Kampala, Uganda, last Thursday,
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Despite the pressure that he is undergoing from his government, Ugandan pop star and politician Bobi Wine will definitely have his chance to appear on the Rebel Salute stage in 2020.

“I just got off the phone with him,” reggae artiste and owner of the Rebel Salute brand, Tony Rebel, told The Gleaner yesterday morning. Rebel wouldn’t say if they had been discussing plans for the annual reggae festival held in St Ann, Jamaica, but he emphasised that the embattled artiste is welcome to the celebrations.

“Bobi Wine has an open invitation to Rebel Salute. He is definitely invited to the 2020 staging, and, just as he did this year, he will probably have to get permission to travel,” he explained, adding that it is people power that is pushing the musician into representational politics.

“There are some emerging leaders coming out of Africa in recent time, who are connecting with the people in a way that those leaders who have been in power for 30 and 40 years cannot do. Bobi Wine is one such leader. His popularity as a musician has transcended into politics and he is the MP of a province that has over 1.75 million people,” Tony Rebel said of the entertainer who has been listed by Forbes magazine as one of the richest musicians in Uganda.

The 36-year-old, self-styled Ghetto Gladiator made a big impression when he performed at Rebel Salute in January.

During his performance, he is quoted as saying, “After being poor, and by 22 owning beachfront property, I thought I had achieved something. But when I looked back and saw all of my childhood friends living in poverty, I realised that I had to use my music to uplift the people. As a child growing up, I watched videos of Sting, Sunsplash and, most importantly, Rebel Salute. Those videos inspired me to use my music to uplift my people.”

Bobi Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, made headlines last week when he was arrested in his country and placed in a maximum-security prison.

“He was initially placed under house arrest, but then they took him to prison and charged him with inciting violence,” David Rukiri, a member of his legal team told The Gleaner. “He was supposed to appear in court (for the hearing), but then they decided to use video conference to try him. Although he was granted bail, he is still enduring restrictions and is being followed around by security.”

Plead not guilty

Bobi Wine pleaded not guilty to the charge of disobeying statutory authority. In the video of the court proceedings, which has since been viewed globally, Bobi Wine can be seen in his trademark red beret, standing firm before his accusers: “I’m only here because I disagree with the political leadership of this country and in particular President Museveni. But my spirit is confident because I’m here not because I’ve stolen public funds or killed somebody,” he said.

The entertainer, who is still intent on carrying out his job of performing for his fans, has been banned from performing in his own country.

“But he still has his passport and he is allowed to travel,” Rukiri said. “We are now very busy planning a tour for Europe in June and there’s a show in Kenya soon,” he told The Gleaner. In July 2018, Bobi Wine reportedly joined in a demonstration against an unpopular tax that would see citizens pay a levy daily to use sites such as Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter. The tax pushed the cost of Internet access further out of reach for millions of low-income and unemployed Ugandans, the World Wide Web Foundation said.

Additionally, he has been in a standoff with authorities in Uganda since April this year, when police surrounded his home a day after cancelling his nationwide shows because they said they failed to meet required safety standards.

The singer was removed from his car by police and escorted to his home as he was heading to a briefing he had called to address the concert cancellation and “police brutality.”