Politics and art make for strange bedfellows. Sometimes, they converge and change is occasioned. This is why revolutions often seek to co-opt mainstream art and pop culture.
When this is not the case, it is because a government seeks to maintain the status quo or to censor its critics.
In Yoweri Museveni’s Uganda the latter would hold true. His government is seeking to introduce new regulations on the vetting of songs. On their part, critics of both the move and the government are insisting that the move is meant to stifle dissenting voices especially after the government realized just how popular Bobi Wine is.
Robert Kyagulanyi, or Bobi Wine as he is more popularly known, is a musician turned politician who is wildly popular with the youth in Uganda because of his unequivocal, scathing criticism of Yoweri Museveni’s government in his lyrics. And by the way, the septuagenarian is likely to vie for the presidency once again in 2021.
Through the junior minister for gender, labour and social development, the government’s position on the matter was spelt out to Reuters in an interview. The new regulations to govern the music and entertainment industry were already drafted and expected to be passed by cabinet by March.
Chief among the regulations are a range of restrictions including requiring artists to submit lyrics for songs and scripts for film and stage performances to authorities to be vetted.
Content deemed to contain offensive language, to be lewd or to copy someone else’s work, will be censured, the minister said.
“We cannot continue condoning as a country abusive language. This is one thing we know has been happening within the creative industry. People compose songs to abuse others,”
Musicians and other artists will also have to register with the government and obtain a practising license which can be revoked for a range of violations. Musicians will also have to seek government permission to perform outside Uganda.
“Any artist or entertainer who is in gross breach of the guidelines shall have his/her certificate revoked,”
Museveni’s critics say he has become increasingly intolerant of dissent as his support has waned, with security forces often putting down opposition rallies and protests with teargas, beatings and detentions.
The situation is reminiscent of what Femi Anikulapo Kuti or Fela Kuti as he is popularly referred to, endured at the hands of subsequent Nigerian regimes given how vociferously he condemned The Nigerian governments over election rigging and coups that ultimately worsened poverty, economic inequality, unemployment, and political instability, which further promoted corruption and thuggery.