Undressing for Museveni: Moses Ssali (Bebe Cool)
Bebe Cool (real name Moses Ssali) is a Ugandan singer who is
not singing. Scratch that, Bebe Cool is singing for his breakfast, lunch and dinner, but not on stage in front of an ecstatic audience.
For a musician who has made his name producing and performing music for a mass audience, primarily in Uganda, Bebe Cool is these days shrilly singing a discordant tune on behalf of President Yoweri Museveni who was declared the winner of the recently concluded presidential elections.
You see, Bebe Cool chose to publicly support Yoweri Museveni in the run up to the 2011 and 2016 polls, up to and including traversing the country to drum up political support for his man. That would be well and good, after all in a democracy everyone has the right to root for their preferred candidate.
What has made Mr. Ssali’s backing of Museveni, and his subsequent ridiculing of his erstwhile fans who, however, now condemn his choice, is what is raising eyebrows. There is a specific reason why Ssali supports Museveni which he, however, doesn’t dwell much on publicly. That reason is … taxpayers’ money.
Hospitalized after being shot in a night brawl in 2010, Ssali looked to his father, Jaberi Bidandi Ssali for help. Bidandi Ssali had once been a friend and colleague of Museveni but they had fallen out and Bidandi Ssali was in the process of preparing to run against Museveni when his son was hospitalized. Bidandi Ssali went to the extent of selling off prime land in Kiwatule, a Kampala suburb, to raise money for his doomed campaign; a campaign that is rumored to have been encouraged by Yoweri Museveni who knew that Bidandi Ssali didn’t have the campaign cash and would have to sell part of his property to raise it. Museveni’s calculation would have been right because it is now known that Bidandi Ssali’s political foray brought him to his financial knees.
By the time his son asked for financial support to get himself fixed abroad, it is safe to assume that Bidandi Ssali couldn’t readily raise the funds because he had sank a sizeable part of his nest egg into preparing to fight against Museveni in the polls that were coming up. (Bidandi Ssali himself was later taken ill in 2012 and had to rely on well-wishers to pay for his treatment abroad.) Such was the financial penury into which his election misadventure of 2011 had sunk him. Bidandi Ssali complained bitterly that the government – in Uganda Yoweri Museveni is the government – hadn’t lifted a finger to help with his medical bills.)
Museveni visits Moses Ssali in hospital (2010)
But back to 2010. After Bidandi Ssali failed to help raise the colossal sums his son needed to be treated abroad, Yoweri Museveni stepped in and ponied up $75,000 (247,500,000 Uganda shillings in today’s money) for Bebe Cool to fly to the United States for treatment, accompanied by his wife. Museveni’s timing couldn’t have been more propitious.
While in America, Bebe Cool publicly admitted why he couldn’t support his dad. In his own words, he owed his life to Museveni and thus his allegiances lay with the president.
Bebe Cool attempts to tell his fans that he doesn’t need them
What Bebe Cool still seems to fail to understand is that he owes his hospital treatment in America to the people of Uganda that he is currently ridiculing in garbled, arrogant, Facebook exchanges. It would be astonishingly obtuse if Ssali didn’t realize that the $75,000 the president spent on remedying the results of his nocturnal antics was taxpayers’ money. Museveni routinely hands out wads of taxpayers’ cash to all and sundry in brown envelopes, paper bags and sacks in expectation of or thanks for their support. Since his own medical visit to the United States, Moses Ssali has sent his wife back to America twice, specifically to give birth. Most of his Ugandan fans are left to fend for themselves in the hospital death traps that their money rescues Moses Ssali’s wife from; hospitals which Ssali, rather curiously, claims are steadily improving.
Moses Ssali and his wife Zuena living it up at taxpayers’ expense in the USA, 2010
So, thanks to the Ugandan taxpayers, Moses Ssali is alive to tell them that he is rich and doesn’t need their help. The irony is breathtaking.
Ssali is not alone in sneering at the fans he relies on for his entire livelihood. Another singer, Joseph Mayanja (stage name Jose Chameleone) has also taken to Facebook to exhort his fans who are dismayed by his choice of presidential candidate to stay away from his concerts. Mayanja has reportedly argued that he is so international that he doesn’t need Ugandan fans to survive.
Joseph Mayanja, too, thinks his fans are pests
When all is said and done, these singers are free to support whichever politician they choose. It, however, leaves one wondering who their advisers are when they fail to understand that their brands are inextricably intertwined with their fans’ perceptions of their personal and professional integrity which cannot but suffer when they pin their colors to the masts of questionable African politicians whose longevity is often at the expense of responsible governance.
But that is to veer into philosophical territory that will not bother Mr. Moses Ssali and Joseph Mayanja much, understandably so given that their man was handed the 2016 election and looks set to rule Uganda till he dies.