Singer to politician: Jose Chameleone's new path

Saturday June 15 2019


The African political field is one that often receives the spotlight for reasons that are at times not political in nature. Take for instance, when a president of a country decides to engage in a dance routine to show his lighter side. Such might be the allures of this spectrum, so much so that we are now seeing musicians joining the political field in doves.

Before I digress, the reasons why entertainers are entering a field that’s not entirely known for providing gimmicks is comparative. Considering the political landscape in Africa, reasons might be wide and stretched.

In East Africa, we have artistes who’ve embarked on political journeys and some have been quite successful. In Tanzania, the likes of Joseph Haule (Professor Jay) and Joseph Mbiliny (Sugu) are quick examples. Having had successful careers as hip hop artistes, they decided to give politics a go and so far their exploits seem to be working.

In Kenya, Charles Njagua (Jaguar) stands out among artistes who traded their music career for political aspirations.

The case in Uganda

Recently, however, the spotlight has been heavily weighing on Uganda following political upheavals that have attracted the international audience.


At the center of it all is none other than Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu alias Bobi Wine. The ‘Kiwani’ singer gained regional fame following a successful music career, but he recently came to global prominence after his political ambitions were met with backlash from President Museveni.

Just when we thought we’d seen the last of turmoil pitting a president against an artiste, last week, another Ugandan musician decided to enter the political ring alongside his comrade Bobi Wine.

Jose Chameleone (real name Joseph Mayanja), a celebrated artiste across the African continent, has decided that the political field is where he wants to be of service. This came as a surprise to some, considering the fact that back in 2016, Chameleone was part of the Tubonga Nawe song project that Mr Museveni used during his 2016 presidential campaigns.

In his political journey, Chameleone, initially speculated to be joining People Power Movement, a surging political pressure movement led by fellow singer-cum-politician, Bobi Wine, said in an interview in Nairobi last week that joining politics is as far as his similarities with Bobi Wine go.

He did, however, acknowledge the influence of Bobi Wine, but said, “He is doing this on his own.”

“I am coming as an independent, although I would love to associate myself with all the parties around. People of late have put themselves on pressure – I am FDC, I am NRM, I am People Power – which is not healthy for our country,” Chameleone said.

Soon after his announcement became public, President Yoweri Museveni unfollowed Chameleon on twitter.

Mr Museveni had been following 24 people. Chameleon and Bebe Cool were the only Ugandan artistes the president was following.

But unlike Bobi Wine who preferred the parliamentary seat, Chameleone [for now] is gunning for a mayoral seat.

He isn’t the only Ugandan artiste who has eyes set on the mayoral seat in the country’s capital. Dan Kazibwe (aka Ragga Dee), a famous musician in the country is also throwing his hat into the ring. The battle for the Kampala mayoral seat is projected to be one of the hottest, come 2021.

In an interview with the media, Chameleone said there was a wave of lawyers joining parliament, then journalists, and now it is only normal that many artistes are headed there.

The artiste further said that he is exercising his constitutional right by vying for a political seat. “As much as people have a right to vote, they also have a right to stand for a political seat. So yes, I am [running for election],” he said.

Chameleone doesn’t seem to be fazed by the current political storm in Uganda, which has seen fellow artiste Bobi Wine at loggerheads with authorities. “Politics should be like religion; a Muslim should be able to sit harmoniously with a Catholic and a Catholic sits with an Anglican, and that is the environment I am trying to look at. Most people on particular tickets realise that the party they are standing for starts dictating the way they do their work,” he said.

Asked if he fears for his life, like other young politicians in Uganda, Chameleone said, “I don’t fear because Jesus died for us all.”

Some of his long-term friends, such as Capt Mike Mukula, the chairman of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) in Eastern Uganda have advised the Afro Beat singer to avoid politics to save his music career.

“My advice to my good friend Chameleon is go slow on politics. It will erode your financial base and could ruin your entertainment career. Don’t say I didn’t advise you. Take or leave it experience has taught me,” the former Soroti Municipality Member of Parliament, said on twitter.

In his response, however, Chameleon responded to Mr Mukula in a tweet: “Thank you my great Friend. Great men pave way for greater men. Now that they didn’t, we shall pave our own way and for the greater men after us.”

On what made him decide to have a run at politics, Chameleone says; “When service fails in a state, people start waking up. It is like getting up in the morning and you ask your wife for a cup of tea with ginger and she brings hot chocolate instead. And you tell her, I wanted ginger, but she returns with lemongrass tea instead.”

“Eventually, you get up and go to the kitchen yourself. So, people have yearned for adequate leadership and it has not materialised. Some of us got up because the tasks we send these people for, we too can do them. We can deliver services exactly the way we want them,” he added.