UK Lifts Ban on Bobi Wine After Decade-Long Exclusion Over Anti-Gay Lyrics

Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu aka Bobi Wine. PHOTO/COURTESY

Kampala, Uganda | THE BLACK EXAMINER | The United Kingdom has officially ended the decade-long ban on Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine, the leader of the National Unity Platform (NUP). The ban had been initially imposed due to his controversial anti-gay lyrics released in 2014, in which he encouraged the public to take action against individuals he referred to as “battymen.”

Human rights activists exerted considerable pressure on the UK’s Home Office, urging them to deny Kyagulanyi entry and cancel his scheduled performance at the Troxy Arena in the UK. As a result, the Home Office had kept the singer-turned-politician from entering England for more than a decade.

In a statement on Sunday, Kyagulanyi expressed his happiness at the lifting of the ban. He acknowledged the efforts of their legal team in the UK and the support from People Power diaspora supporters who had consistently voiced their concerns through protests and advocacy.

Kyagulanyi’s argument has been that it is unjust to welcome General Museveni, a widely recognized tyrant, while continuing to bar his entry. He emphasized his commitment to working for a free and democratic country.

Kyagulanyi engaged in discussions with British diplomats, international lawyers, and activists to facilitate his travel to the UK. During the ban, he had to cancel two planned performances in Birmingham and London, where he was scheduled to support the Ugandan drama and music group, the Ebonies.

The announcement of his shows had sparked objections from gay rights campaigners. They pointed to his songs with overtly homophobic lyrics that called for violence against the LGBTQ+ community.

A petition emphasized that his songs contained hate speech and incited violence against the LGBTQ+ community, which is prohibited under the UK’s Criminal Justice and Immigration Act of 2008. 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 expressed his personal disagreement with homosexuality but noted that he was not out to threaten the lives of individuals based on their sexual orientation. He stressed the importance of the right to express his opinion.

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 rose to prominence through socially-conscious songs addressing the issues faced by the people. His music challenged the authorities of Kampala, particularly in the song “Ghetto” in 2012. Despite bans, his fan base continued to grow, and he even found support from city director Jennifer Musisi.

Uganda’s President Museveni signed a controversial anti-homosexuality law, which included the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality.” This move drew condemnation from Western countries and raised the risk of sanctions from aid donors. United States President Joe Biden labeled it a “tragic violation” of human rights and announced a review of U.S. engagement with Uganda in light of the law.

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Busiinge Aggrey
Busiinge Aggrey
Business Aggrey" is a 23-year-old Ugandan journalist and Editor-in-Chief at The Black Examiner newspaper