Uganda: How Bobi Wine wields his network against President Museveni

By Musinguzi Blanshe, Romain Gras
Posted on Wednesday, 12 May 2021 17:02, updated on Wednesday, 29 September 2021 17:09

Arriving second in Uganda's 2021 presidential election, Robert Kyagulanyi (known as Bobi Wine) intends to capitalise on his reputation to continue to push President Yoweri Museveni, who was sworn in on 12 May for a sixth term. But who keeps the fierce opponent motivated? We have a look at his broad network.

“Our best guarantee of security are the cameras that surround us. If I had not been filmed, perhaps something worse would have happened to me.” On 7 January 2021, Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, struggled to come to his senses.

Heavily heckled by the police and violently extracted from his vehicle while in the middle of a virtual press conference, the 39-year-old opponent tightened the knot of his red tie that was sticking out of his bullet-proof vest and readjusted his Kevlar helmet, before finally resuming the question-and-answer game.

The scene is undoubtedly familiar to him. It is in any case the image of this presidential campaign during which the singer-turned-opponent in 2017 will have been at the centre of all attention.

Unsurprisingly defeated by Yoweri Museveni, who was seeking his sixth term in office since coming to power in 1986, the leader of the National Unity Platform (NUP) has nonetheless been at the forefront of the political and media scene.

Close collaborators, close family, an influential ‘lobbyist’, international lawyers, or fellow African oppositionists… Four years after his election as a member of parliament, Bobi Wine can count on a vast network to extend his influence well beyond Uganda.

Lewis Davis Rubongoya

A graduate of Harvard Law School, Lewis Davis Rubongoya is the Secretary General of the NUP and thus the de facto number two in the party. Rubongoya is in daily contact with Bobi Wine. He drafts the statements of the leading opponent, who in turn, comes to Rubongoya for discussions on strategy.

This duo bonded in 2016. At the time, Bobi Wine was finishing law school at Cavendish University in Uganda. His professor at the time was none other than Rubongoya.

Rubongoya is also the party’s financial director, a position about which he is more discreet, even though the NUP has received significant financial donations from abroad.

Joel Ssenyonyi

Joel Ssenyonyi is the NUP’s spokesperson and member of parliament for the city of Kampala. He left his position as a journalist at NTV in early 2019 to become a spokesperson for People Power, Bobi Wine’s movement.

The face of the party in the media, he is one of those driving Bobi Wine’s communication strategy on the ground.