One of the criticisms National Unity Platform (NUP) presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine continues to contend with so far is his alleged support for homosexuals.
In conservative Uganda, like in most parts of Africa, homosexuality is frowned upon.
Although not a key campaign issue – since most Ugandans will vote based on bread-and-butter issues – incumbent Yoweri Kaguta Tibuhaburwa Museveni has used this allegation to rally voters to reject Bobi Wine.
“Those are being used by the West to introduce despicable acts of homosexuality and cultural disruption, and terrorist groups operating in the Great Lakes Region are using indirect methods through politicians. Don’t fall for their schemes,” Museveni warned his ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party supporters in West Nile in September 2020.
Campaigning in Kotido in November 2020, the 76-year-old claimed: “Some of these groups are being used by outsiders, homosexuals, and others who don’t like the stability and independence of Uganda, but they will discover what they are looking for.”
Yet, despite criticism, Bobi Wine seems to have undergone an evolution of ideas regarding homosexuality – at least in the past six years.
In 2014, the ‘ghetto president’ faced condemnation for the lyrics in a song that some gay rights activist claimed were homophobic.
“Burn all the batty man. All Ugandans get behind me and fight the batty man,” sang Bobi Wine.
In August 2014, Bobi was denied a visa to the UK over these lyrics following pressure from LGBTQ activists.
“Ugandan artist Bobi Wine writes songs with blatant homophobic lyrics and calls for gay people to be attacked, or killed… allowing such an artist to appear in public is clearly going to raise tension,” read a petition on change.org.
In response, Bobi Wine claimed majority of Ugandans were opposed to homosexuality.
“I am personally not out to threaten the life of any individual based on their sexual orientation, I just do not agree with them [homosexuals]. This is my opinion and happens to be that of 99 per cent of Ugandans,” he told Daily Monitor.
“I hope that the proponents of homosexuality who pride themselves in their liberalism and support for human rights, will allow me my right of expression much as they may not be comfortable with my opinion.”
CHANGE OF MIND
Three years after he was denied a UK visa, Bobi Wine was elected Kyadondo East MP – not necessarily because of his ‘disdain’ for homosexuality; several key factors were definitely at play.
And now, Bobi is in the race to become Uganda’s president. And although he has no officially announced change of mind in support of homosexuality, he has changed the tone of his criticism.
As opposed to Museveni, Bobi Wine talks of the need for tolerance and respect of human rights, including for gays.
“I believe that one has the responsibility of guarding the rights of all citizens of those who are like you and those that are not like you. I believe that as a leader, a high level of tolerance is required to make sure the nation comes together,” he told SABC in December 2019.
And as recent as December 18, 2020, Bobi Wine told Sudanese-British show host Zeinab Badawi on BBC Hard Talk: “As I grow up I become more open minded.”
He added: “I am tolerant to other people, and believe in human rights for all.”