Did Kanye West jump from the proverbial frying pan and into the fire?
In May, after he made abhorrent remarks about slavery — saying, “When you hear about slavery for 400 years…That sounds like a choice” — a furious public outcry forced him to apologize.
Is West aware that Gen. Yoweri Museveni, the Ugandan dictator who hosted him and his wife Kim Kardashian on Sunday, has made even uglier comments about slavery, gays and lesbians, and Adolf Hitler?
West may not care about how he chooses his friends, but some fans of his music may not feel so charitable once they learn more about Museveni.
Here’s a snapshot of Museveni’s many ugly comments.
In September 1994: “I have never blamed the whites for colonizing Africa: I have never blamed these whites for taking slaves. If you are stupid, you should be taken a slave.”
On Feb. 24, 2014, when Museveni signed a bill into law — later annulled by a court — making gay sex punishable by life imprisonment. At the signing, he told CNN that gay people were “disgusting.”
While addressing media on the same day he signed the bill, Museveni said there was a need to “rehabilitate” gay people and that, “Scientists should meet them, study them, take their blood, look at their genetics.”
In April 1998, a Ugandan weekly newspaper, The Shariat, published these comments by Museveni: “As Hitler did to bring Germany together, we should also dot it here. Hitler was a smart guy, but I think he went a bit too far by wanting to conquer the world.”
Is Kanye West aware that in Museveni’s Uganda, under a Stalinist-sounding law called Public Order Management, a police permit is required in order for more than two people to hold a public gathering?
Or that Museveni’s paranoia and desire to crush dissent extends even overseas to American citizens?
When a Ugandan-American who lives in Boston, Kato Kajubi, visited relatives in Uganda recently he was arrested. His crime? He joined a demonstration by Ugandans in Boston against G.E.’s investment in a Ugandan oil refinery. (I was also at the protest; now I’ve also been designated a wanted person by the Ugandan police).
Meanwhile, Museveni himself is implicated in an ongoing federal trial in the Southern District of New York. The U.S. alleges that a Chinese businessman, Patrick Ho, used an American bank to wire $500,000 as part of bribe money for Museveni and his foreign affairs minister Sam Kutesa.
The violent ruler, in power for 32 years, was recently condemned by a bipartisan group of U.S. senators for human rights abuses.
On Aug. 13, Museveni’s soldiers beat and tortured opposition leaders and their supporters. One victim, Bobi Wine, who had to travel to the U.S. for medical care, is a member of parliament and a rising political star. Like West, he’s also a musical phenomenon. On his Facebook page, Wine described how he was beaten with an iron bar while his genitals were squeezed until he lost consciousness. His friend and driver, Yasin Kawuma, was shot dead.
Wine is the face of an informal movement called People Power, representing Uganda’s youth. They make up nearly 80% of the population of a country where unemployment is a staggering 85%. Young people are demanding that the 76-year-old Museveni resign.
So while Museveni was all smiles when he greeted West and Kardashian on Sunday, his security agents continue to brutalize political opponents. He’s also banned Wine’s upcoming Oct. 20 concert.
Why the meeting with West? The answer is pretty obvious. Facing international criticism, Museveni desperately wants to ingratiate himself toward the White House. In January, after Trump referred to Africa as “s—hole” countries, Museveni infamously declared “I love Donald Trump.”
Now, in West, who professes a deep affection for Trump, Museveni sees a golden passport for getting into the good graces of the White House.
West should be careful. Unfortunately, we’re a long, long way from “should.”
Allimadi, who hails from Uganda is an adjunct professor of African history at John Jay College and publisher of The Black Star News.