Bobi Wine Recommends Hundreds For Political Asylum

Before the arrival of Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu aka Bobi Wine on the political scene, Ugandans who were seeking political asylum would mostly say their lives were in danger because of their sexual orientation. 

Many would plant stories in the media claiming that they belonged to the LGBTQ+ community and that Uganda is one of the many African countries that criminalize homosexuality and would receive a listening ear at the embassies of especially Western countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada. 

This window of those seeking asylum claiming persecution because of their sexual orientation is still open but another wider one was also opened. Ever since the end of the contested 2021 general election, more than 100 mostly young people who worked closely with Kyagulanyi have either left the country or are trying to leave, Uganda Radio Network can report. 

In interviews with people close to the one-time Member of Parliament and the President of the leading opposition political party, Bobi Wine has recommended a number of his former lieutenants to Western countries to get political asylum under the guise of ‘their lives being in danger” in the last close to two years.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity in order not to jeopardize his relationship, a close confidante of Kyagulanyi, said the issue of asylum seekers is starting to concern some of them. “How can you say you are still interested in the politics of the country when every day you are signing recommendation letters for your people to get visas to America? Whom will you be left with to do local politics if everybody you trust, you think the only way to pay them back for their service to you is by allowing them to leave?” the source asked.

In fact, another source who asked for anonymity to speak candidly on the matter said that many of the people who associated with Kyagulanyi did so because they wanted to show that as evidence that their lives were in danger. 

“You see people struggle to take a picture with Bobi because that’s part of the evidence they present to these embassies to show that there is a real threat to their lives. What is true, there are some people who have in the past been threatened but it doesn’t follow that whoever associates with Bobi is a candidate for torture or arrest,” the source said. 

Some of those who have left who were close to Kyagulanyi include Bobic Musa, Racheal Akiiki, Kampala Lukman, and Mariam Big Bumper among others. More surprisingly there are even journalists who covered Kyagulanyi’s campaign passionately with the intention of using it as evidence to support their visa applications. In fact, one source said, many such journalists put themselves in harm’s way to attract the wrath of the security and then use that as evidence to support their applications. 

Some of the journalists who have so far used Kyagulanyi’s recommendation to ask for asylum include; Ashiraf Kasirye, a former journalist at Ghetto TV, an online TV linked to Kyagulanyi. Kasirye left the country for the United States. He gained national prominence when he was hit by a rubber bullet that nearly ended his life during Kyagulanyi’s presidential campaigns in Masaka. 

Others are William Buganda Ntege who is better known as Kyumakyayeesu, a former journalist at the now defunct WBS TV who is in Canada, Richard Kalema, a former journalist at Red Pepper newspaper and Lawrence Kitatta a former journalist at Bukedde TV. According to our source, these two and others are currently living in Kenya as they work on their paperwork to relocate to the United States. 

In an interview with URN, David Lewis Rubongoya acknowledged that indeed they have written a number of recommendation letters for many young people to seek asylum. He, however, noted that before they write any such recommendations, they first do a background search on such people to see how far they have been involved in the NUP struggle and assess the level of threat to their lives. 

Rubongoya said with the resumption of abductions in the country against their supporters, they are left with no option other than seeking to relocate those they think are susceptible to illegal arrests.   

No Political Persecution in Uganda 

When contacted for a comment, Godfrey Kabbyanga Baluku, the Minister of state for information said those seeking asylum should be truthful and admit that they are seeking greener pastures. Kabbyanga told URN that for any supporter to claim that the government is against them yet their principal Kyagulanyi is living peacefully in the country, is the highest level of dishonesty. 

“How can you say you are being persecuted when your principal is staying here freely, holding meetings with whoever he wants? He is here enjoying his political space and then you the follower are saying you are being persecuted. All the people who competed in the presidential elections are around, and all leaders of political parties are around. So, how do you talk about political persecution? Let them say they are looking for greener pastures. Let them say they are economic asylum seekers, not political asylum seekers,” Kabbyanga said. 

He however was quick to add that his government will not hesitate to hunt anybody who involves him/her in ‘terrorist activities’ regardless of their political persuasion. He said politics should be distinguished from outright criminality, which any state will not tolerate. Before, during, and after the 2021 general elections, a number of NUP supporters were arrested with some taken to court and others’ whereabouts still unknown. In the past few months, Kyagulanyi has demanded an end to what he calls abduction, which is based on political beliefs

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