Darryl G. Behrman Lecture: Screening and Discussion of “Bobi Wine: The People's President”

Thursday, June 27, 2024
James Akena/REUTERS

Director, Bobi Wine: The People’s President (speaking virtually)

Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

President, National Unity Platform; Former Member of Parliament, Uganda


Political Analyst, MSNBC; Co-chair, CARE; Former Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, U.S. Department of State; CFR Member

The Oscar and BAFTA-nominated Bobi Wine: The Peoples President, is set during Uganda’s 2021 presidential election, where music star, activist, and opposition leader Bobi Wine, together with his wife Barbie, rallies supporters in a dangerous fight for freedom from President Museveni’s 35-year regime.

Join us for a special screening of the documentary, followed by a discussion examining the outlook for democracy in Uganda and the region.  

The Darryl G. Behrman Lecture on Africa Policy is held in memory of Darryl G. Behrman, who was originally from South Africa and had an abiding passion for Africa and international peace. The annual lecture is funded by members of the Behrman family. 


STENGEL: Hi. Again, I’m Rick Stengel. I’m a member of the Council. I’m former undersecretary of state for public diplomacy in the Obama administration. And I’m the moderator this evening for the Council on Foreign Relations Darryl G. Behrman Lecture on Africa Policy. It’s an annual lecture which was created by Darryl G. Behrman, who was a South African who cared about African history and endowed this lecture for an annual discussion about something very, very important in the state of Africa. And so I’m going to introduce our speakers. 

You know, the worst introduction in the world is a man who needs no introduction, but you’ve just had a two-hour introduction to Bobi Wine. And it is just an incredible display of courage, an incredible display of passion, an incredible display of the quest for human freedom. That’s something that we’re going to talk about tonight. You met Moses already. I forgot to mention that the film you just saw was nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary last year. (Applause.)  

BWAYO: Thank you. 

STENGEL: And my friend, Ambassador Michelle Gavin, who is the Ralph Bunche senior fellow for Africa policy at the Council. She’s the former U.S. ambassador to Botswana in the Obama administration. We overlapped. She’s one of the creators of, really, one of the most fabulous programs that still exists, which is the Young African Leaders Initiative. And part of that is the annual class of Nelson Mandela fellows. I think they celebrated their first—their tenth anniversary this year.  

So I want to start with you, Bobi, of course. And we met beforehand. In fact, when we were planning the program, and I’d seen the movie, and I said to Sydney, who was putting the program—I said, is Bobi actually going to be there? So here you are. So tell us—tell us how you are. Tell us what’s going on. I know there’s an election a year and a half from now, and you have plans for that. Just let everybody know how you’re doing.  

WINE: Thank you. Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I’m honored to be in your presence. 

How am I? I’m alive. (Laughter.) And I refuse to give up. And so do the rest of many of my friends, those that are free, those that are in jail, and those that are missing. Of course, the crackdown and oppression continues back home. The abductions continue. But the resistance also continues. We continue to use all means moral and constitutional to our disposal to fight back and to create as much awareness as possible.  

Yes, you said this—you said it and it’s right, there is an election in the year and a half. And we have decided that we shall continue the challenge, because democracy is our only hope, although it’s being fought. We have to fight back. We have to realize that dream. While are young, we are many, we are angry, and able to pick up guns, and, you know, fight back violently, we refuse for violence because we know that violence only creates more violence. So we continue to persevere and we continue to try to meet likeminded people across the world to help us overcome the situation.  

STENGEL: And, Bobi, you’ve learned a lot over the past ten years. Will history repeat itself next year or two years from now? What are your plans to try to prevent what happened in the past from happening in the future? 

WINE: I’m not one of the people who believe that history repeats itself. It’s people that repeat history, especially those that refuse to learn from it. So, yeah, while we know that when we go into this election the obvious will happen, because it has not started with us. You have seen in the film that even our predecessor, Dr. Kizza Besigye, first one to face—and we only faced it rougher because we were younger and more scary to the regime. But we are trying to mitigate. We’re trying to look ahead of time. We are going into an election.  

I know, of course, that the usual is going to happen. They are going to rig the election. They are going to round up a few hundreds of our supporters. They’re going to put me under house arrest. They’re going to block international observers.  

So we are here not just to cry foul, but to look for solutions to ensure that we reach out to you, friends, who are privileged enough, who have a bigger voice that can reach out to the policymakers whose policies and voices are loud enough to be listened to by the regime. And, of course, to also learn from you how best to go about this. And maybe, just maybe, we can find a solution.  

STENGEL: And so what would you like the international community to do? And what would you like the U.S. to do? We’re going to talk about that in a second but, I mean, are there specific measures that can be taken to ensure the safety and fairness of the election, both before and after? 

WINE: I think I’d rather say what the international community should not do, rather than they should do. What they should not do is they should not continue sponsoring the oppression back home. The United States gives up to a billion dollars to General Museveni. And that’s money they use to oppress our people. The United States and other development partners have been conspicuously silent and selective about the imposition and the enforcement of human rights under the international values. So we ask them not to continue empowering and emboldening the regime back home, and to stand on their feet and put conditions to the aid that they give to the regime back home.  

But also, we know that if they insisted, we would have international election observers. If we had American election observers, European Union election observers, that would stop the regime from doing things like massacres during elections, gross human rights violations, and even outright rigging of election. Of course, there’s much, much more that they can do, but we first want them not to do what empowers the regime and what enables the rigging. 

STENGEL: Michelle, very few people know more about Africa and Africa policy than you. And I know you have views about American policy vis-à-vis Uganda. What should we be doing? What have we done wrong? What could we do right? How could we amend what we’ve done in the past?  

GAVIN: Hmm. Well, I think that U.S. policy in Uganda has prioritized a set of security issues that are not actually about the security of the Ugandan people, but are about Uganda’s assistance, certainly, in combating terrorism in Somalia. And the combination of that security imperative, with a kind of anachronistic view of Uganda and of President Museveni, has led us, I think, to this place.  

So, you know, during the Clinton administration, President Museveni was sort of celebrated as an exciting new African leader, despite how very long it took to get a return to any kind of multiparty exercise—whether ritualistic or sincere. And Uganda was something of a darling of our early efforts on HIV/AIDS, because President Museveni was willing to acknowledge the problem when many weren’t. 

So, but that was then, and this is now. And it’s very clear that for many years the civil and political rights of the Ugandan people have not been respected, and U.S. policy has been in this uncomfortable place of trying to acknowledge that while simultaneously continuing to provide very significant support, particularly in the health space, and to work directly with Ugandan security forces on counterterrorism.  

So it’s, I think, perhaps time to recognize that Uganda itself is unlikely to be a stable place if there is no outlet for popular expression and the popular will that’s rule governed. So we’re just—I think the United States has been failing to think a bit more broadly about what security really means.  

STENGEL: You are a diplomat. You’re very diplomatic. If you were making the policy of U.S. policy towards Uganda, what would you—what would you do, explicitly? 

GAVIN: Well, I absolutely think that—not just in Uganda, but in many places—we need a new playbook as we head into elections that we know are not going to be free, fair, transparent, and reflect the will of the people. Because this is kind of—you know, hopeful—a tentative dialog leading up to an exercise with a foregone conclusion is absurd. And it’s not serving anyone. Equally, I do think it’s really important that the entirety of the human rights picture in Uganda come to the forefront of our bilateral relationship.  

As I’m sure many people in this room know, the LGBT issues, which are—the Anti-Homosexuality Act that Uganda made law in 2023 is an appalling piece of legislation. It is—I hold no brief for those who support this kind of demonization of people based on their sexual orientation. But when we make the relationship primarily about that, or that is the first talking point, I don’t think that we’re helping LGBTQ Ugandans. I don’t think that we’re helping human rights in Uganda.  

We have to look at the totality of the picture. People are being—as you’ve seen, people are being tortured. People are being disappeared. People are being murdered. There is a much bigger human rights picture. And the fact that it took the AHA to beef up U.S. pressure on this government only feeds into a narrative about the West pushing a very specific agenda around sexuality and obscures these incredibly important issues that we just— 

STENGEL: Moses, I want to bring you into the discussion. Just like Michelle just did, you in your introduction before the movie broadened the topic to the kind of rise of authoritarianism around the world. I thought one of the most poignant things in the movie was, Bobi, when you talked about Museveni having been a hero of yours once upon a time, and a person who preached that the problem with Africa is that African leaders overstay their time in office. What do you see, Moses, as the effect of the movie on perhaps changing perceptions about Africa and maybe even changing perceptions around the world about the rise of authoritarianism and people losing their freedom? 

BWAYO: Thank you so much for having us and for hosting this screening. And I must apologize I couldn’t make it tonight. I would have loved to be there. I have a three-year-old and my wife has not been well, so I’ve been taking care of both of them. 

But to—just to come to your point, you know, I think the question and the problem that Africa faces today, most regions of Africa, is the governance question. The moment we solve the governance problem, I think we shall solve lots of the problems that Africa, and the African youth, are dealing with. The rise of totalitarianism around the world is almost becoming, like—it’s like, this huge danger. I mean, I see it. And I hope many people around the world see, we’re really turning towards these leaders who have this big-man syndrome, strongman syndrome.  

And I correct myself by saying, Uganda, we’ve never had a democracy. We’re not—Bobi Wine and his team are not fighting to return a democracy. We’ve actually never had a democracy. You know, in 1962 we had independence. And thereafter, twenty-five years later, there was coups, you know, this group dislodging the other group. Museveni fought a brutal, brutal, five-year-long guerrilla war saying—you know, promising all these wonderful things. He spoke very much like Mr. Bobi Wine today, you know, and he promised us so many things. But here we are today. He’s still in power thirty-eight years later. 

I think what the world could do is recognize struggles like the Ugandan struggle, like Mr. Bobi Wine, recognize and see how the world can, in unison, support leaders who are turning towards democracy, who represent democratic values, the same values that countries like the U.S., Europe, and many other countries around the world stand for. I think that’s the way forward. And we need to find support for leaders who stand for those values. Sadly, the dictators and the strongmen are together. You know, they tend to work very well together. That’s the sad thing. And they read from the same rule book, you know, the same story.  

If we took out Uganda from the title, or if we took this film—just took a case study of many other places around the world, it’s not different—the kidnaps, the torture, the abuse of rights, you know, it’s the same. And yeah, I mean, I must say, I never—I’ve never found a man as courageous as Bobi Wine. He reminds me so much of Navalny, which is a sad thing to say, you know, because of what—what we all know happened to Navalny. But you know, we need to stand with leaders like Bobi Wine, so that we can avoid outcomes like what happened to Navalny. 

STENGEL: Yes. I mean, I—thank you, Moses. I worked a long time ago with Nelson Mandela. Who is—you are in the mold of Nelson Mandela. Fortunately, you’re not in prison like Mandela was. But I assume you agree with what Moses said. 

WINE: Absolutely. 

STENGEL: And I’d love you to elaborate on that. But I wanted to also ask you, how difficult and frustrating is it to run in an election that you know in advance is not going to be free and fair? To talk to voters and say, vote for me, and the voters may understand and know that the election is not free and fair. That just seems a level of difficulty that’s, you know, even greater than just running for president.  

WINE: Yeah. Thank you. We went into this election knowing the realities. And we knew that obviously we were not going to be announced as winners, even though we knew our intention was to overwhelm the regime. But we knew we were not going to be announced. I was arrested on the nomination day, beat up, and many of my friends—our spokesperson broke a leg, and all that. But our major target was to seek to at least grab off the mask of the regime. It was to expose the deceitfulness and the hypocrisy of the regime to the international community, so that at least we can push the international community to a moral corner.  

We know, for example, that America is a respected democracy. And for a long time, they painted an image of not knowing the reality that was happening. So we wanted it to be plain to the whole world. And we must say, at least we succeeded in that. Yes, we did not go to power, but we were able to show the world the reality in Uganda. And thanks to this film, we were able to at least smuggle the truth out of Uganda, because for a long time Ugandan taxpayers’ money has been made—has been used to pay organizations and companies to paint a rosy picture of the situation in Uganda. So now, as we stand, at least we’ve been able to put the truth on the table. That’s why we have the moral authority to come to the international community and request for assistance. But most importantly, request that they stop sponsoring this.  

I must add that we are very appreciative of the assistance. And we have seen some response, because among the many things we’ve been asking the international community is to place sanctions on those that abuse democracy, to place sanctions on those that are so corrupt and abuse human rights, because these are the values that the United States espouses. And we wanted to challenge them to, you know, put action to their words. And here we are. 

STENGEL: I would support that too, When you’re campaigning, what do you say to voters who might say, wow, if Bobi’s elected president how can we guarantee that he won’t do the same thing as Museveni, or as other African leaders? I mentioned Nelson Mandela earlier. When he was elected, he deliberately chose not to run for a second term in part to give an example to the world and to Africa that that African leaders don’t necessarily abuse that executive privilege. Would you make it—would you make the job term limited? How would you say, I’m not going to become one of those guys?  

WINE: Well, I can say that. You know, Museveni said that, only more eloquent, when it was my age. (Laughter.) See what he turned into. And I tell many of my friends that I don’t even trust myself. You know, Barack Obama one time said that, I’m not asking you to believe in my ability to change things, but I want to ask you to believe in yours. So what I ask the Ugandans, especially the young people, is not to place their trust and power in me, but in themselves. I’ve said it many times that if I went into power, I would spend my first a hundred days ensuring that I don’t stay in power, because I know power corrupts. And I’m a human being. I’m prone to that corruption.  

The only way we can avoid that is by empowering the people to stand up to any leader, including myself, because we know that nations like America don’t succeed because they have wonderful leaders. They succeed because they have empowered people that are not going to take any nonsense from leaders that seek to disempower them. So we want to empower the populations to be able to stand and defend their democracies, because regardless of how strong and old a democracy is, it is always one step away from extinction—including the American democracy. 

STENGEL: Something’s happening tonight involved in democracy.  

WINE: Oh yeah. (Laughter.)  

STENGEL: Michelle, what about Bobi’s notion of, I guess, a more human rights-centered foreign policy, where we would sanction regimes that are undemocratic, that we would pause aid. We’ve certainly done that in different places around the world. 

GAVIN: Right. And there are some targeted sanctions on Ugandan officials, some that were imposed in the wake of the 2021 election, including a former commissioner of police who’s been designated—the thing with the act. But I think there’s this false dichotomy so often when we talk about U.S. foreign policy, as if security and stability are on one side and human rights are on the other. But I think what we’re seeing very clearly around the world is that, you know, an unjust order is very fragile. It’s very brittle. These are not bets you want to make for the long term.  

And so I would frame it differently, because I don’t—I don’t want to empower those who say, well, what about—what about these other interests? I really do think that, you know, what your campaign did in Uganda, and what a number of political movements particularly around Africa are showing us is that there is a huge desire for change. And the more we can support people to make kind of rule-governed, peaceful changes, as opposed to ending up coming out into the streets supporting a military takeover just in desperation for some other possibility, the better off we are. 

STENGEL: So I’m going to actually turn it over to the audience now. We have, I think, twenty minutes of audience questions. I see some hands up already. The gentleman right here in the orange tie. 

Q: I’m Mahesh Kotecha. I was born in Jinja.  

And I’m delighted to hear you here speak. I want to commend you, first of all, for your great communication ability. I think that’s unique on African continent, that you can project the idea of freedom in a simple fashion that the public can actually relate to and mobilize around. I think that’s unique. And I almost see you as a Gandhi, because you can mobilize a mass movement, number one.  

Number two, you are younger than Museveni. And I think you will have staying power if he—if you survive, right? And I hope you do. So my question to you is, how do you make sure that you survive? Because, to me, if you survive, you’re going to win. So how do you surround yourself with the ability to really withstand the pressures that are coming against you at every election? 

WINE: Wow. It’s a disturbing question. How do I make sure I survive? Because there are two things at stake, either my life or the life of the idea. If I guarantee my survival, I cannot guarantee the survival of the idea. And if I guarantee the survival of the idea, I cannot guarantee my survival. After my torture and escape from military detention, I came here in America. And many of my friends, including my family, were advising me not to go back. And they were right. But if I stay in America, then the people back home are going to be demoralized. I’m going to appear like I’ve left them. Every time I’m there, they are empowered and encouraged because they know I am with them. But I’m in danger. So when—but when I’m in Uganda, then my life is at risk, but at least the idea is more empowered.  

So I took a decision and said, OK, I love my life. I have young, beautiful children that I want to watch graduate and get married. But again, there’s forty-five million Ugandans, 85 percent of which are under the age of thirty-five. And they look at me as an elder, as senior brother, as a symbol of resistance. So it’s a risk that I must take. I want to survive, but the idea is much better to survive. So it’s a risk worth taking. Be sure, I want to survive. And maybe I will survive.  

But if I don’t survive, at least I should inspire many others, because Uganda has more intelligent, more knowledgeable, and young people like myself. So my effort is to create as many Bobi Wines back in Uganda as possible. If I survive, I’ll be one more Bobi Wine adding on those. And if I don’t, at least those ones will carry it on. Make no mistake. I don’t want to die. (Laughter.) But if I have to, at least I should die for a worthwhile reason, yeah. 

STENGEL: And it’s one of the reasons that you’re here and doing events like tonight is to give you more international attention and stature, which might insulate you from those death threats?  

WINE: Yes. And it has been very helpful. (Laughter.) Very, very helpful. I strongly believe that I’m still alive and not in jail because of international pressure, because there’s quite a fair degree of international attention on me. And that keeps me alive. And please, when you hear I’m in jail, please tweet and tag those—(laughter)—you know, big voices. Your tweets, and your posts on Facebook, and your voice wherever keeps me alive. So don’t forget to tweet.  

STENGEL: Oh, good. I’m glad we’re helping. 

The gentleman right here. 

Q: Nikah Kongary (ph). I’m a neighbor of yours from Kenya. (Speaks in a foreign language.) 

WINE: Thank you, sir. 

Q: So I have two equally important questions. First question is, how’s your family doing? And the second question is, it’s clear to us—it’s clear to everybody who’s seen this documentary and who’s been following Uganda that the current administration is on the wrong side of history, and ten years from now, hopefully before that, Uganda’s going to be a different place. Could you just talk a bit more about your vision of the new Uganda, and what empowering people actually means? Is that devolution, or what does that actually entail? 

WINE: Thank you very much for asking. My family is well. My children are at home. They’ve learned to grow much earlier than their ages. You know, they know what’s happening. And they are now our comrades in the struggle. So they are all right. My wife is all right. She came with me. She gave me—she gives me strength. So we keep going. We are fine, yeah. 

My imagination of a new Uganda is a Uganda that is free, a Uganda where power is in the hands of the people, not in the hands of the guns. We started out with a movement called the People Power Movement. And that’s why we wear this red beret as a symbol of resistance. We want for the first time Ugandans to be the masters of their destiny, to be able to appoint leaders and dis-appoint leaders. We want leaders to actually be servants of people, and people the true masters. Then after that, we want to, you know, return the rule of law and respect for human rights—all human rights for all humans, from all walks of life.  

We want to change our healthcare system. Our healthcare system is sick itself. The political elite, you know, get all their medical attention from abroad, leaving Uganda to be a cemetery, only bringing them when they want to change our education system. We want to change our economy to make it inclusive. Today, we have statistics, but those statistics don’t reflect with the people because, A, the economy is owned by a small section. We want to change that. Our country is a very rich country, and we want to use the natural wealth of the country to transform our economy, transform our infrastructure, build our roads, and build our bridges, reignite our agriculture, and all these things.  

We are not reinventing the wheel. These things have been there before. Our parents tell us that once upon a time there was free education. Once upon a time, they did not have to worry about school fees. Once upon a time, our hospitals were working. President Milton Obote actually was operating in Uganda. Today, it cannot happen. So we want to transform that. And we want to change the international image of Uganda. We don’t want to be a laughingstock among nations.  

We want to transform the current situation, where our knowledgeable, talented, and skilled people have to run out of our country to look for greener pastures. When you have a free country where, intellectuals don’t have to run away because they fear for their lives, all these skilled Ugandans will come back to Uganda. And together, we will transform our country. I can only talk about that,, but we have a plethora of imaginations with even more eloquent people. I’m only leading the charge. But once we are there, we are going to bring all these capable brains on the table, and to transform our country. 

STENGEL: Yes, ma’am. Over here. 

Q: Thank you. Joanna Weschler. 

This is a question to Mr. Bobi Wine, but I wanted to touch up on something that Moses Bwayo mentioned, which is the death of Navalny. I wanted to ask you, you did all these returns to Uganda many times when nobody knew whether you would be alive after leaving the airport. Has the news about Navalny given you a pause? And have you changed some of your strategy and thinking of what you are doing? 

WINE: The death of Navalny shocked me, demoralized me. I used to believe that, yes, this international attention gives a very strong protection. Yes, it does, but not as strong as I thought, because Navalny was much more known, much more recognized. But he was taken out. So it scared me. But, again, it made me decide that I must maximize the time that I have while I’m here, because whether I’m in Uganda or not in Uganda, I can be picked on anywhere. So I live every day like it’s the last. 

Of course, I know that there’s the power of God that will help me live and see my children grow, but I don’t take it for granted. So I try as much as possible to maximize the little time that I have, because the death of Navalny showed me that I’m not as safe as I might imagine I am. Of course, I don’t tell this to my children. (Laughter.) I tell them, no, never mind. I’m going to be all right. But deep inside, I know the risk that I’m dealing with. But those that are silent are even running a more serious risk, because they will die and they will not have done anything. They will regret. At least I will not regret. I will know that I did my best, yeah. 

STENGEL: Moses, was there something—would you like to add something to that? 

BWAYO: I would like to add something to what Bobi said earlier about believing—or, rather, getting into an election regardless of the result. You know, I must say Ugandans really believe in elections, shockingly, with, I don’t know, over seven or so rigged elections by Mr. Museveni. The messaging of Mr. Bobi Wine and the NUP political party managed to convince Ugandans. I was shocked, honestly, the morning of the election to see multitudes of people showing up to vote, to cast their votes.  

So what this told me was, regardless of how oppressive the regime has been, the people still believe in this democratic structure. And honestly, it would be sad that the people won’t be supported. At least the message that Mr. Bobi Wine stands for has been and continues to be nonviolence, democratic principles, free and fair elections, you know. The young people of Uganda are not yet frustrated. You know, but we don’t know if that point will come. We don’t know. And we hope it doesn’t come, because we know the chaos that is happening all over Africa, you know? So my hope and prayer is that the people of Uganda, we—and the international community can stand with us.  

And I say “we,” because I’m no longer living in Uganda as we speak. I had to flee the country. I live in the U.S., and I’m seeking political asylum in this country. So also the democracies like the U.S., you know, we look up to these democracies. And they’ve been safety for us, like myself and many other Ugandans who have fled the country. Yeah, anyway, thank you so much. 

STENGEL: Right here. 

Q: Thanks so much.  

STENGEL: Oh, then you’re next. OK. 

Q: Good evening. I’m Ssanyu Birigwa. 

So you say nonviolence. I have witnessed some of these narratives that actually portray violence that comes from your camp. What narratives can we start to take here in the U.S. to facilitate the change and shift into the narratives that this is a nonviolent movement? That we are—and I use myself as “we” because I support you fully. My father, I will say, Ambassador Wasswa Birigwa, has been a full proponent in support of you. And he was in the bush with Museveni back in the ’80s. So part of me right now is wondering, what are the stories that we are missing that we’re not sharing with the world, so they are actually stepping in and stepping up to support us? Because this is—has gone on for thirty-eight years. Families have been broken up and, Mr. Bwayo, you are not in Uganda. You are here, almost clinging to the international community. And it doesn’t feel good watching you here doing what you’re doing. It doesn’t feel good. I’m glad you’re here, but it doesn’t feel good. 

WINE: Yeah. It doesn’t feel good at all. I don’t know if I get your question well, but you seem to ask whether we should continue believing in nonviolence? It’s true that there’s a narrative, and this narrative is being peddled by the regime, that it is deceitful and in vain for us to continue preaching nonviolence in the face of violence. And the justification by the regime is that when Museveni was our age, and there was similar situations, he did not believe in nonviolence. He believed in what he says is a realistic solution of picking up guns. And they always love to quote Malcolm X, who is one of my favorites, that sometimes you have to pick up a gun to put down a gun.  

But I disagree with that, and strongly. Why? Because I know that once a team of young people like us picks up guns and gets our freedom through violence, then it does not only continue a cycle of violence, but it also puts a sense of entitlement. And we will be saying, oh, do you know what we went through to get this? Wo you’ll have to also pick up a gun to take it away from us. But it also only empowers a few, those that have guns. Now we’re not only fighting against Museveni, we are fighting against the guns. We want to defeat the guns and empower those that have no guns. We want our win to be moral. And we’ve learned from history that nonviolence is more powerful than violence.  

As a matter of fact, just yesterday the young people, the Gen Z, of Kenya rose to the occasion peaceful and unarmed. And they defeated an oppressive tax regime that was being imposed on them. And if President Ruto is not respectful, they might even cause his fall. We believe that nonviolence empowers the masses. And when it empowers the masses, that power they will hold for longer. Also, the reason why they peddle the undermining of nonviolence is because they want to provoke us into violence. And if we get violent, then General Museveni will have a justification to crush us once and for all. But we are undefeatable when we are nonviolent, because even the international community will look at him as the murderer that he is. That’s why we choose nonviolence, yeah. 

STENGEL: The gentlemen in the plaid tie. 

Q: Glad I wore the plaid tie. (Laughter.) My name is Dwayne Nash. And thank you—thank you all for being here. Thank you, Moses, for the film.  

I have two questions, one for Moses and one for you, Bobi. The first question is, when you are elected and when you survive it, how will you secure that there is a true democracy there? And a part of securing democracy is justice. And that will mean an element of dealing with the violence of the past regime. Inspired by Nelson Mandela and truth and reconciliation, do you have a strategy for dealing with the past violence of a previous regime? Maybe through organizations like truth and reconciliation type of things? Is that something that we can look forward to seeing, how you would address that past violence? 

And for Moses, I noticed that we all take for granted the idea that there was a platform of nonviolence, but I don’t think I really see in the film where that ideology is being expressed to the people, the people in your camp, the people that are running the politics and going out. How are they trained in this idea of nonviolence? It just wasn’t present really in in the film. So thank you. 

WINE: Thank you. Maybe I’ll go first. I’ll say that, yeah, there’s so much that we’ve gone through, painful. We’ve had our friends tortured, some castrated, others raped, women and men, others humiliated before their children. It’s painful and it’s hard to forget. But, again, we have made a pledge to ourselves that we shall seek justice, not revenge. And we’ve already been given moral examples by people like the great Nelson Mandela. So we are trying to get it within our hearts to believe in truth and reconciliation. 

And we’ve even gone ahead to present it to those that are in power, show that we seek a peaceful transition. And in our teachings, we don’t want them to be scared of our coming into power, where they expect us to do revenge on them. We don’t believe in revenge, but we believe in truth and reconciliation. At least somebody will have to sacrifice. If it’s the sense of revenge that we have to sacrifice, we will. If it is our ego, if it is our anger that we must sacrifice for our nation to move past us, past our pain, past our oppression, we are willing to sacrifice that for the next generation, yeah. 

BWAYO: Thank you for that question, Mr. Dwayne. 

So I must say, we had 4,000 hours of footage while following Bobi and documenting the struggle for freedom. We started in 2017 and filmed through to 2022. So we have so much footage. And lots of—you know, multiple narratives that we would put in the film. And, like Mr. Wine just said, you know, there’s all these poignant, poignant stories of, you know, torture and gruesome, gruesome images—some of which, you know, we didn’t want to put in the film. We didn’t want to traumatize our audience. We wanted to just put in enough for the audience to see. But Bobi famously said the violence in the film is 1 percent—(laughs)—which is true. And, you know, we have all experienced that violence. 

But we—as you see in the last—the final act of the film, Bobi is being arrested violently by the military and police, but he tells his comrades and his bodyguards to remain nonviolent. And again, he says that on the phone when they’re going to Ntungamo. He’s on the phone doing an interview and, you know, he says: We are a nonviolent movement. And we continue to, you know, preach nonviolence. You know, there were other scenes where it was well said maybe to the comrades and in meetings and, you know, at rallies. But we thought that, you know, keeping it really—keeping it close, staying close to him, and having him say it while these actions are happening would be more powerful for the audience. That’s why we chose those things, yeah. 

STENGEL: Thank you. We are out of time. We’re all believers in people power here. Bobi, I want to thank you for your incredible sacrifice, for you continuing to go on. We’ll all be supportive of that, if we can be. I hope it does insulate you. And I want to thank all of our panelists this evening, the program, the video, and the transcript will be available on the Council website. Thank you all so very much.  

WINE: Thank you very much. (Applause.) 

BWAYO: Thank you. Thank you for having us. 


This is an uncorrected transcript. 

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