Inside 6-minute Bobi Wine, tense Wangadya meeting

On May 20, an exchange took place between the chairperson of the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), Mariam Wangadya, and the head of the Opposition National Unity Platform, Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine.

Bobi Wine was following up on his complaint to the Commission in which he accused the government of unfairly blocking up to 20 of his musical concerts, suffocating him financially.

Bobi Wine accused the Wangadya-led Commission of not being impartial before withdrawing his complaint.

Mrs Wangadya, on the other hand, called security to expel Bobi Wine from the process, arguing that she could not bear accusations that the Commission violated human rights.

Below are the experts from the mid-morning session.

Bobi: It has been more than five years, Madam President, and as we all know, justice delayed is justice denied. Madam Speaker and members, this Commission that is empowered by the Constitution to protect constitutional rights is, instead, the one that violates those rights. I mean Madam President, how can a complaint about…?

Wangadya: If that is your personal statement, which is an attack on the Commission, you can withdraw your complaint. I will not allow you to denigrate, emasculate, degrade or disrespect this Commission. If that’s the personal statement you’re making, you’re not going to go any further…

Bobi: Madam President, with this attitude…

Wangadya: You are represented, you have to speak through your lawyers. If you want to withdraw… I will not allow you to accuse this Commission of violating human rights (and) you will not speak anymore…

Bobi: You… you yourself, Madam President, came out and mocked the victims of the disappeared and with this attitude I hear my complaint to this Commission withdrawn because this Commission lacks impartiality, independence…

Wangadya: I’m ordering you to leave, where is the security?

Bobi: It is his right but he is before the president of the world.

Wangadya: I’m ordering you to leave!

Opposition National Unity Platform director Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine (centre), at the offices of the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) in Kampala on May 20, 2024. Photo/Abubaker Lubowa

Background of the complaint
On December 7, 2018, Mr. Kyagulanyi filed a complaint of human rights violation with the UHRC. The case was set for hearing on May 24, 2023. However, the hearing was postponed due to his absence and later rescheduled for yesterday, May 20.

According to the withdrawn formal complaint of violation of rights by the Uganda Police, which was sent and received by the UHRC on December 10, 2018, Mr. Kyagulanyi claims that the police have occasionally blocked his music programs.

In the letter, he said he was planning to hold a music concert at the Mandela National Stadium (Nambole) in September 2018, however, the police blocked the concert claiming that Kyagulanyi and the organizers had not secured the venue.

“Our client also organized another musical show in Gulu district, where he was to perform at Smiling Panda on December 2, 2018. Even though the organizers duly complied with the conditions, the police were heavily deployed at the venue of the show. and denied access to all people, alleging that they had received orders from above to block the program,” reads part of the complaint.

He added: “We have proceeded to notify the police in writing about our planned music shows and the police have flatly failed to respond to the notification letters and in other cases have blocked the shows. Being a musician and performing artist, a vocation he does to earn a living, (Bobi Wine) has been a victim of arbitrary and illegal conduct by the police that has violated his right to earn a paid income.”

The letter further asked the court to take note that he had lost a lot of money in organizing the shows, hiring venues and public address systems, advertising and paying support staff with the expectation of recovering the money only for the same shows were frustrated by the police.

It was further claimed that some service providers are threatening to sue him for breach of contract regarding several shows in Masaka, Kala Kalangala and Mityana.

Bobi WINE’S FULL statement to the commission
President and members of the Commission,

We filed this complaint for violation of my rights on December 7, 2018, after security agencies blocked more than 20 of my music concerts, confiscated our music equipment, and denied several people their right to earn a living, simply because my political affiliation.

We show up this morning, more than five years later, for a chance to be heard!

Article 28 of the remainder of the Ugandan Constitution provides for the right to a fair trial. It establishes that everyone shall have the right to a fair, prompt and public hearing before an independent and impartial tribunal. A quick hearing before an independent and impartial tribunal!

Madam Speaker and members, this Commission that is empowered by the Constitution to protect constitutional rights is the one that violates those rights.

How is it possible that a complaint for human rights violations takes more than five years to be addressed? Madam President, what type of Commission do you preside over?

Over time, many other atrocities and serious human rights violations have been committed against many supporters of the political party I lead, the National Unity Platform (NUP).

These include arbitrary detentions, extrajudicial executions, detentions without trial, torture, rape and sodomy in detention, trials of civilians in military courts on trumped-up charges, and enforced disappearances.

Today, some of our supporters who were kidnapped by security agents are still missing and their whereabouts are unknown for three or four years.

Some of these complaints have reached this Commission, but the security agencies have continued to commit these crimes against our people with impunity!

To our disappointment, we have not only seen inaction on the part of this Commission against the perpetrators; But we have also heard public statements from the leaders of this Commission, not only mocking the victims but attributing all the blame to them.

Madam President, you yourself have blatantly told the mothers, spouses and children of our missing persons that their missing loved ones were ghosts.

Due to these circumstances, our confidence in this Commission is seriously shaken. The Commission, which was created to protect rights and freedoms, has been found to be complicit in the serious violations that have come to define our nation.

The Commission lacks the competence, independence and impartiality required to resolve this complaint.

It is a mockery that this complaint is being heard more than five years later, before a specialized court that is supposed to be faster than a court of law.

This morning’s hearing only aims to clean up criminality and contempt for the law. Nothing significant can emerge from this hearing. Justice delayed is justice denied!

Therefore, I withdraw the complaint that we filed more than five years ago for the reasons mentioned above.

In my opinion, this Commission has to seriously reflect and decide whether it intends to serve the people of Uganda or continue to serve the interests of General Museveni and his military regime.

Having said that, I beg to leave because I am not even sure of our safety here, since you yourself recently said that some members of this Commission own weapons and come to meetings with them.