Uganda: Bobi's Long Walk to Freedom and Why Barbie Needs More Kitenge Outfits


Despite my best intentions, I must say something about what is on everybody's mind this week. And that, of course, is climate change. What moody clouds dominate our skies!

Did you think I was going to talk about Bobi Wine? Everything that can possibly be said about the ill-fated launch of his path to political martyrdom has been said.

Now all the pieces are in place for a grand finale; the circus tent has been pitched, all the animals in the show are practicing their lines, and tickets for the best seats are selling hot on Jumia.

It is going to be an exhibition like no other. While there is plenty to enthral in the running games between team hapless-rioters and team raging-maniac-uniformed-thugs, the main attraction is really the centre-stage boxing ring and the match between Bobi and his grandfather. Young men are so disrespectful these days!

In the red corner, you have the bruised and bleeding silhouette of Bobi - he already looks like he is on his last frontier. One wonders why he doesn't just throw in the towel and fade quietly into the sunset before a humiliating defeat.

In the yellow corner, looking fresh as a virgin bouquet, is the young, old man we have come to revere and detest in unequal measures. He encapsulates every title of African literature examining the theme of 'old versus new' that has ever made it into a high school syllabus - everything from The Lion and the Jewel to Things Fall Apart.

With such a distinguished pedigree, it is highly unlikely that the yellow corner will not prevail. An old man does not expose himself to farcical pursuits just to prove he can also be a loser. And yet the Bobi crowd refuses to take a hint. They smell blood in the air - their own - and they think the time has come.

Fewer spectacles are more pathetic than the frenetic displays of a mob with nothing to lose. Behind the scenes, unseen, are the cynical machinations of the puppeteers who rile the hordes and send them over the cliff. It is a fact of politics; the altar of a dampened opposition demands human sacrifice in order to expedite a revolution.

For those who read the tea leaves and rely on sorcery to find their way in the dark, it is tempting to assume that this is a watershed moment. Maybe Bobi is the Patrice Lumumba they have been waiting for. (Poor him, if that is so.)

Perhaps we are witnessing the modest beginnings of another long walk to freedom. If his wife's flowy caftans and choreographed appearances are anything to go by, it would seem things are serious enough to invest in kitenge outfits for the solemn times ahead.

I have always been fascinated by the fashion of despair; that behind every aspiring revolutionary is a hand-wringing brigade of carefully garbed mothers of the nation, women who will voluntarily become the face of the struggle as they visit the incarcerated and bury sons and husbands.

Their keening cries captured for posterity, the revolution will bathe in their tears and come out clean on the other side. If that time is now, then a quick wardrobe overhaul is due.

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