Column: It’s a rap for Uganda

When I grow up, I want to be a president with a hit rap single. Though it may seem impossible, Uganda President Yoweri Museveni has proved that this dream can become a reality.

President Museveni’s life has been filled with monumental moments. At 42, he became Uganda’s commander-in-chief, but the fun really started at age 65 when he became the first president to release a hit rap record.

The song, “U Want Another Rap,”  provides some background on Museveni’s life. He sings the song in a Ugandan language called Ankole , which highlights the locality of his tune within the global genre of rap.  

 Museveni centers his narrative in a rural Ugandan setting with plenty of talk about gathering chicken eggs, struggling to find enough cows for his bride-prize, and even farming millet. The song isn’t about super-exciting topics like street life or being “gangsta” but his version of his life  to align him more closely with those voting for him.

Throughout the song, he constructs himself as someone who has risen above his humble beginnings and made it to the top of Ugandan society. He offers his life as an example of what could happen to other Ugandans through hard work and dedication to their country.

Though the song may seem like your typical catchy rap tune, it is far more political than one would imagine. The song is the ultimate PSA for Museveni’s campaign. He and his party have been using the song and its popularity to help strengthen his campaign for re-election this month. So far, the song seems to be working, as it has received major airplay on the radio and in Kampala’s major nightclubs.

The song attempts to speak to the people of Uganda and help Museveni connect with the people whom he has been ruling for over 25 years. In this way, it closely mirrors the primary aim of a political ad. The only difference is that in this situation the Ugandan people have taken ownership of the song and incorporated it into their social lives.
Museveni uses his rap to manipulate his audience. He attempts to make his image more accessible and thus attractive for re-election. Instead of addressing the clear social, economic and political issues at hand in Uganda, he merely released a song to increase his “street cred.”

This is not what Ugandans, or anyone for that matter, should want from their leader. Instead, they should be questioning his 25-year inability to address the problems they have faced. He should have to answer in real words, not just funny raps, for what he has and has not done.

In a country with an annual GDP of only $1,200, political statements should be more than just raps. Though generally I am a huge fan of the power of music to effect change, I know that rapping from the elite president won’t solve Uganda’s problems.

The best we can hope for is this rap will help inspire some counter raps from artists who truly have the interests of the real people of Uganda in mind. 

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