Bobi Wine attacks Kanye West over Museveni meeting

Jason Burke Africa correspondent
Kanye West and President Yoweri Museveni at the State House in Entebbe, Uganda, on Monday. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Bobi Wine, Uganda’s most prominent opposition leader and former reggae star, has hit out at Kanye West for meeting President Yoweri Museveni at the State House.

West is in Uganda with his wife, the reality TV star Kim Kardashian West, to shoot a video in a game park where the rapper is recording his ninth album in a purpose-built tent.

Uganda’s presidency released photos of him meeting Museveni at the State House on Monday and exchanging gifts.

West gave the 74-year-old president, who has been in power since 1986, a pair of signature Yeezy Boost trainers. Museveni reciprocated with a signed copy of his book, Sowing the Mustard Seed: The Struggle for Freedom and Democracy in Uganda. He said the two had enjoyed “fruitful discussions” about promoting tourism and arts.

Wine, an MP and one of the east African country’s best-known popular musicians, said it was “immoral” for West to use his image “just to rub shoulders with the president”.

The politician, who was arrested while campaigning in northern Uganda in August and then badly injured in detention, said: “He is hobnobbing with a president who has been in power now for 32 years and restricts any freedom, a country where opposition activists are tortured and imprisoned.”

Three people were killed and about 100 arrested in unrest that followed Wine’s arrest. More than 80 artists, activists and politicians signed a statement condemning his treatment. Signatories included Chris Martin, Chrissie Hynde, Brian Eno and Damon Albarn, as well as African musicians such as Femi Kuti.

His return in September from the US, where he had sought medical treatment, prompted a massive security clampdown.

Bobi Wine delivers a speech outside his home in Kampala on his return from the US on 20 September. Photograph: Isaac Kasamani/AFP/Getty Images

“It would have been great if he had used his voice for the good of people in Africa,” said Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi. “I’m a musician but I am not allowed to stage a show in my own country because I disagree with the president. It is very disappointing.”

The singer is a controversial figure, and has faced repeated accusations of homophobia.

West posted a lengthy monologue on social media explaining his journey to Africa and listing Fela Kuti, the flamboyant Nigerian musician, composer and activist who died in 1997, as an inspiration.

“The music is the best on the planet. I am the best living recording artist. We, rather, because the spirits flow through me. The spirit of Fela, the spirit of [Bob] Marley, the spirit of [Tu]Pac [Shakur] flows through me,” West said.

Seun Kuti, son of Fela Kuti and a well-known musician in his own right, posted a statement distancing the family from West. “On behalf of the Kuti family, I want to state that the spirit of Olufela Anikulapo Kuti isn’t anywhere near Kanye West,” he said.

West is no stranger to controversy. Invited to the White House to discuss prison reform last week, he wore a red Make America Great Again cap as he sat opposite Donald Trump and launched into a lengthy monologue in front of reporters in the Oval Office.

“This is our president. He has to be the freshest, the flyest, the flyest planes, the best factories,” West, a strident supporter of Trump, said.

Museveni has also backed Trump, arguing amid the outrage prompted when the president reportedly described African nations as “shithole countries” that “America has got one of the best presidents ever”.

“I love Trump because he tells the Africans frankly … the Africans need to solve their problems, they need to be strong. It is the fault of the Africans that they are weak,” Museveni said.

The veteran leader, a key US security ally, has become increasingly authoritarian in recent years. He is able to seek re-election in 2021 because parliament passed legislation last year removing a clause in the constitution that had prevented anyone over 75 from holding the presidency.