The United Kingdom has officially lifted the ban on Robert Kyagulanyi, the leader of the National Unity Platform (NUP), widely known as Bobi Wine, after a decade-long exclusion.
The ban was originally imposed due to his controversial anti-homosexual lyrics released in 2014, where he urged the public to take action against individuals he referred to as “battymen.”
Human rights activists exerted significant pressure on the UK’s Home Office, demanding that Kyagulanyi be denied entry and the cancellation of his scheduled performance at the Troxy Arena in the UK.
Consequently, the Home Office kept the singer-turned-politician away from England since that time. In a brief statement on Sunday morning, Kyagulanyi expressed happiness over the new development.
“I am very glad to inform you that the ban against me from entering the UK has finally been overturned, and I will soon be visiting the UK after more than 10 years,” he said.
He extended his gratitude to their legal team in the UK for their unwavering efforts and to the People Power diaspora supporters who continually voiced their concerns through protests and advocacy.
“Their main argument has been that it is unfair to open their doors for Gen. Museveni, a world-renowned tyrant, and yet continue to shut the door for me, who, together with many others, is working to build a free and democratic country,” he stated.
It is understood that Kyagulanyi has engaged in discussions with British diplomats, international lawyers, and activists to facilitate his travel to the UK.
Kyagulanyi was forced to cancel two planned performances in Birmingham and London, where he was scheduled to support the Ugandan drama and music group, the Ebonies, during that period. The announcement of his shows sparked objections from homosexual rights campaigners.
A change.org petition emphasized that his songs contained overtly homophobic lyrics and called for violence against the LGBTQ+ community.
The petition also questioned the use of lyrics such as: “Burn all the batty man. All Ugandans get behind me and fight the batty man.”
The UK’s Criminal Justice and Immigration Act of 2008 prohibits inciting hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation. The UK Home Office, when asked about Wine’s claims, declined to comment on individual cases.
Before the visa decision was reported, Kyagulanyi clarified his stance on homosexuality and freedom of speech.
He stated, “I am personally not out to threaten the life of any individual based on their sexual orientation, I just do not agree with them [homosexuals]. This is my opinion and happens to be that of 99 percent of Ugandans.”
“I hope that the proponents of homosexuality who pride themselves in their liberalism and support for human rights will allow me my right of expression, even if they may not be comfortable with my opinion,” he added.
Shortly after this incident, Uganda’s Constitutional court overturned a ruling that would have subjected homosexuals to life imprisonment. While this was seen as a victory for gay rights activists, homosexuality remains illegal in the country. Kyagulanyi gained prominence through socially conscious songs that addressed issues faced by the people.
In 2012, his song “Ghetto” challenged the authorities of Kampala, emphasizing that he wouldn’t stop until they addressed the needs of the people. The song was banned from the radio but garnered a loyal following of fans from less privileged backgrounds.
He also criticized city director Jennifer Musisi through the track “Tugambile Ku Jennifer,” accusing her policies of favoring the upper and middle classes. Despite the ban, his fan base continued to grow.
Not long after, Musisi endorsed Kyagulanyi as a Kampala City Carnival celebrity and commissioned him to produce commercials and jingles for the celebrations.
President Museveni assented to the anti-homosexuality law which among others includes the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” which drew condemnation from Western countries and raised the risk of sanctions from aid donors.
The law also stipulates capital punishment for “serial offenders” against the law and a 20-year sentence for “promoting” homosexuality.
United States President Joe Biden referred to the move as “a tragic violation” of human rights and announced that Washington would assess the implications of the law on all aspects of U.S. engagement with Uganda.