NAIROBI, Kenya Nov. 11, 2010 -- There's a new rap star in East Africa. He doesn't come from the club scene or the slums, but from a presidential palace. Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni, 65, has become the latest musical sensation with his hit "U Want Another Rap?" It's a catchy song that mixes an African tune and local language with English and a decidedly club beat.
"I think I can give you some rap myself now," Museveni says as he opens the song before beginning to rap in Runyankore, a tribal language in Uganda. His distinctive, gruff voice flows with the music, sounding a bit like an older, foreign, Busta Rhymes. "You want another rap?" he shouts to the beat in English. The crowd enthusiastically responds, "Ye sebo [Yes] "
The Runyankore lyrics of the song highlight Museveni's personal story, stressing hard work to get ahead.
"He was given a knife/Gave it to the people who harvested millet/Gave the millet to the cattle keepers who gave him a cow /Which he took to the king/ The king gave him a wife," he raps.
The song has become a hit in Uganda, bumping in dance clubs, downloaded on YouTube and ring tones, and getting constant play on the radio.
But the tune may be less about Ugandans wanting another rap, and more about whether they want another term for President Museveni. He currently faces re-election in February and is expected to win another five year term, making him one of the longest serving presidents in Africa. He's been in power for more than 25 years.
Critics say the country doesn't need another rap from the charismatic president, but better leadership. Though Uganda has made great economic and social strides in Museveni's tenure, the country still lacks basic infrastructure for most citizens. According to the CIA Factbook the average Ugandan household income is $1200 per year; that's a little over $3 per day.
For Some, Museveni's Rap Hits the Wrong Note
Museveni has also been criticized for using draconian measures to ensure that he wins elections. The last two general elections were marred with allegations of political violence and poll irregularity. Human Rights Watch has already documented instances this year of intimidation by intelligence services to suppress political reporting, particularly in rural areas.
In May the group issued a report, "A Media Minefield: Increased Threats to Freedom of Expression in Uganda," highlighting cases involving journalists who had reported critical stories about the government being threatened, intimidated, harassed and in some cases fraudulently charged with crimes.
"The Ugandan government has been limiting free expression under the dubious guise of keeping public order and security," said John Elliot, the Africa Advocacy Director for Human Rights Watch. "This must stop. One of the cornerstones of free speech is the right to criticize those in positions of power"
Last week a Ugandan radio journalist Arafat Nzito, who worked for a popular radio station known for its political talk shows, reportedly went missing. Nzito has been covering the main opposition to Museveni's ruling party. Local human rights groups say they believe Nzito is being held by the government security forces, a charge Ugandan government officials have denied.