Bobi Wine and LGBTQ Rights: Friend or Foe?

Ugandan Presidential Candidate Bobi Wine (right) pictured with David Vidal Sans, a communications advisor to the European Parliament.


  • Bobi Wine, Ugandan presidential hopeful, has a controversial history with LGBTQ+ rights, previously expressing homophobic views in his music. While he now claims to support human rights for all, his silence on LGBTQ+ issues in politics raises doubts. Activist Peter Tatchell defends Wine, suggesting his change is sincere and that ending Uganda’s dictatorship should be the priority for achieving broader human rights, including for LGBTQ+ individuals.

KAMPALA, (Examiner) – Ugandan politician Bobi Wine has become a central figure in the debate over LGBTQ+ rights in Uganda. Known for his transition from a music career to a political one, Wine has recently been the subject of discussions in Fabrice Houdart’s newsletter on LGBTQ+ equality. Houdart, executive director of the Association of LGBTQ+ Corporate Directors, has raised questions about Wine’s stance on LGBTQ+ rights.

Houdart’s Critique

In his May 9 commentary, Houdart questioned whether Bobi Wine has genuinely embraced human rights for LGBTQ+ people or is merely pandering to the international community. Noting Wine’s past homophobic lyrics, particularly from his 2014 song “Burn all the batty man,” Houdart highlighted the skepticism of prominent Ugandan LGBTQ+ advocates like Frank Mugisha and Steven Kabuye. Mugisha accused Wine’s party of exploiting LGBTQ+ people for political gain, while Kabuye stated bluntly that Wine’s past calls for violence still resonate.

Despite these concerns, Wine has been portrayed positively in the West. EU communications advisor David Vidal Sans praised Wine for his human rights advocacy and his depiction in the Oscar-nominated documentary “Bobi Wine: The People’s President.”

Wine’s Controversial History

Bobi Wine’s journey from a popular musician to a political figure has not been without controversy. His past homophobic statements led to a UK travel ban, only recently lifted after he publicly apologized and claimed personal growth. Wine has acknowledged his previous calls for violence against homosexuals but now asserts he stands for the rights of all Ugandans, including LGBTQ+ individuals.

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However, Wine’s silence on LGBTQ+ issues since entering politics has been troubling for many. Uganda’s harsh Anti-Homosexuality Act, which has faced global condemnation, was met with only a tepid response from Wine. His strategic avoidance of LGBTQ+ topics suggests a political calculation rather than genuine support.

Peter Tatchell’s Defense

Veteran LGBTQ+ rights activist Peter Tatchell offered a counterpoint in a response on May 12. Tatchell, who has engaged with Wine extensively, argues that Wine’s transformation from homophobia is sincere. He points to Wine’s willingness to host LGBTQ+ activists and his public apologies as evidence of change. Tatchell emphasizes the importance of tactical compromise in Ugandan politics, suggesting that open support for LGBTQ+ rights could be politically fatal in Uganda’s homophobic climate.

Tatchell draws parallels with Nelson Mandela, who did not initially support LGBTQ+ rights but later became an ally. He asserts that ending President Yoweri Museveni’s dictatorship is the priority and that Wine represents the best hope for democratic progress in Uganda. Tatchell cautions against viewing Wine’s evolution through a narrow lens, advocating for a broader strategic approach to achieve long-term LGBTQ+ rights.

The Bigger Picture

The debate over Bobi Wine’s stance on LGBTQ+ rights underscores the complexities of advocating for human rights in a repressive political environment. As Wine garners international acclaim, the LGBTQ+ community in Uganda continues to demand genuine allies who prioritize their rights beyond political expediency. The future of LGBTQ+ rights in Uganda may hinge on nuanced strategies and the eventual political landscape shaped by leaders like Wine.

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