Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu (Bobi Wine) is Y! Africa Person of the Year 2020

The editorial board of Y! Africa is pleased to announce Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, as its pick for Person of the Year 2020.

Chosen by a consensus of Y! Africa editors, Bobi Wine emerged overall winner amongst Fadji Zaouna Maïna, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Amadou Sall, Akinwunmi Adesina, President R. Wavel Ramkalawan, Elsa Majimbo, Winnie Byanyima, Tidjane Thiam and Kumi Naidoo who were all nominees for the 2020 award.

Looking back on a tumultuous political year across Africa, you can say that Bobi Wine, 38, is in the business of making history.

A dogged politician, a singer, a businessman, Bobi Wine’s profile draws attention and his peers surely envy him. Serving as a Member, Parliament, Kyadondo County East Constituency, Wakiso District, Uganda’s Central Region, and leading the People Power, Our Power movement in opposition to President Yoweri Museveni, Robert Ssentamu is not the one to shout down at.

Three weeks into his official campaign for the Ugandan presidency, he was already arrested twice. The first came just minutes after his formal nomination in the capital Kampala, where he gave a sweltering speech, accusing Museveni of crimes ranging from corruption to dictatorship.

At one point in the speech, he listed Uganda’s main ethnic groups one-by-one, naming the ways that each have been betrayed by Museveni who has ruled since Kyagulanyi himself was 4-years-old. Bobi Wine was arrested again while campaigning in Luuka district in November 2020. In a tweet sent from his official account shortly after his arrest, Wine said that: “Resistance against tyranny is not only a right. It is a DUTY for oppressed people to carry out!”

His arrest did not go down well with his ‘admirers’ and protests in a number of Ugandan cities broke out. And, in an unprecedented move, most other opposition presidential candidates suspended their campaigns until he was released.

Bobi Wine’s political power shook Museveni’s house, especially since he has maintained an uncompromising stance against the incumbent regime of Museveni. And, knowing that Uganda’s campaign periods are routinely marred by acts of state intimidation and pressure against opposition candidates and their supporters, he went on to announce his candidacy in a dramatic manner.

In 2018, Kyagulanyi gained increasing fame, championing the victories in most of the by-elections by the candidates he campaigned for, thus beating out NRM and FDC candidates. His risen fame has made him an easy target by the opposition, but he has kept his vision clear, insisting on positive change and political revolution in Uganda.

No doubt, since joining politics in 2017, Bobi Wine has been a thorn in the Museveni administration, and has flagged up a support base from young voters disenfranchised with President Museveni’s strongman rule.

Before joining politics, Bobi Wine used a virtual private network (VPN) in 2016 to post on his defiance to the communications shutdown on his Facebook page while also pointing out that the government continued to use social media during the shutdown they initiated. He was later chosen as a panelist to speak about freedom of expression on World Press Freedom Day in Kampala in May 2016.  

Political change is a complicated subject in Uganda. Young and educated opposition supporters crave for a post-Museveni era. Bobi Wine motivates this impending change.

The Y! Africa Person of the Year is awarded to individuals of African origin as a way of recognising their most visible influence and achievements through acts of social good, personal achievement or innovation with the most outsized impact on the continent in the year under review; breaking new boundaries or consolidating on gains – and driving the advancement of the public, especially young people.

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