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  • Ugandan musician turned politician, Robert Kyagulanyi also known as Bobi Wine arrives at the news conference at his home in Kasangati, Kampala, Uganda July 24, 2019.

    Ugandan musician turned politician, Robert Kyagulanyi also known as Bobi Wine arrives at the news conference at his home in Kasangati, Kampala, Uganda July 24, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 24 July 2019

As a pop star Bobi Wine, 37, blended lyrics on social justice and poverty with catchy Afrobeat rhythms, earning him committed fans among Uganda's often poor, urban youth.

On Wednesday, Ugandan pop star Bobi Wine ​​​officially announced he will take on veteran President Yoweri Museveni in the 2021 national elections.

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Wine has long hinted he would throw his hat into the ring and take on Museveni, who has been in power for over three decades, leaving Uganda's youthful population hungry for change.

"On behalf of the people of Uganda I am challenging you (Museveni) to a free and fair election in 2021," the singer, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, announced at an event at his home in Kampala.

Wine was wearing a red tie and his signature red beret, which he has called a "symbol of resistance," a look duplicated by dozens of supporters of his "People Power" movement — which he has yet to register as a political party.

Wine entered parliament in 2017, and has emerged as a leading critic of Museveni, 74, in a country where the median age is less than 16.

One of Wine's songs contains the lyrics "freedom fighters become dictators," while others hint that Museveni has stayed in power too long. He took on the nickname of "His Excellency the Ghetto President."

He has faced repeated arrests while authorities have frustrated his efforts to perform.

Wine was most recently arrested in April for allegedly staging an illegal protest in 2018 - charges fellow opposition MPs decried as ridiculous - but was released from jail after just a few days in prison.

He is also facing treason charges after he and 30 other opposition politicians were arrested in August last year for allegedly stoning Museveni's convoy following a campaign rally.

He accused security forces of torturing and beating him while in custody - which authorities denied.

"I know the danger I am going to face to challenge Museveni but I have been encouraged by Ugandans that am the leader they want... and I have accepted that challenge and I have offered my candidature," Wine told AFP after the event Wednesday.

"Come the presidential elections I will be on the ballot as a presidential candidate and with the massive support we have as People Power, victory is ours."

Wine said he had put together a team that would "traverse the country to deliver a message of change."

He said he held the event at his home after several hotels turned him down out of fear.

Uganda's opposition has for two decades been dominated by 62-year-old Kizza Besigye, Museveni's former friend and personal physician, who has lost four successive elections and also been arrested countless times.

Earlier this year Uganda's Supreme Court upheld a decision to remove an age cap of 75 for presidential contenders, paving the way for Museveni to run again in 2021.

In his address launching his campaign team, Wine urged supporters to "remember that this country is bigger than all of us."

"Uganda was here before the coming of colonialism, Uganda was there after colonialism. Uganda was there before dictatorship, yes, Uganda will be there after dictatorship. Like we always sing, we are the country, we are the future, we are the change we badly need."

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