By Kitatta Ibrahim
The past two weeks have seen our social networking sites namely Facebook, whatsapp, Instagram, Twitter and others nearly brought down by news of the official unveiling of popular People Power blogger Ashburg Katto (Facebook names) as a new convert to the National Resistance Movement led by General Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.
Not much is known about his past but his father is called Abdu Noor of Senyange Village in Masaka. He completed his A’Level studies from Stella Maris SS in Nyendo Masaka and then ventured into karaoke entertainment to earn a livelihood during his S6 vacation joining a karaoke group called “The Idles” that plied its trade from Masaka bars and night spots such as Tropicana, Maho and others.
Hitherto his defection, Ashburg Katto had declared his readiness to support Hon Robert Kyagulanyi (Bobi Wine)’s 2021 Presidential bid and had cut out his name as a leading blogger in Uganda who would share any information to thousands of his online followers in a second or so.
His popularity rapidly grew after the birth of the People Power movement before its leader announced its official leaders.
It should be remembered that having promoted Bobi Wine as a musician in his Fire Base Crew and having actively participated in bitter online exchanges with rival musicians / music labels such as Jose Chameleon ‘s Leon Island Crew and Bebe Cool’s Gagamel Entertainment.
It gave Ashburg Katto some authenticity and moral authority to be a channel of information from Bobi Wine to his online audience, sometimes even without express instructions from Bobi Wine or his handlers.
What gave him additional prominence was that Bobi Wine never came out to publicly refute any information that was aired out by this self-appointed online mouthpiece.
With the much publicized declaration of Bobi Wine’s 2021 Presidential ambitions, Ashburg the Fire Base Crew blogger evolved overnight into a People Power blogger which saw his online following grow to about 125,000 followers on Facebook including the author of this opinion. This became real capital.
It later turned out that he was not only using this new online fame to promote People Power only but also to make out his name as a general influencer who would promote products and services of companies, popularize humanitarian causes, insult people and fight online wars- His Excellency President Yoweri Museveni / NRM / State institutions and Rtd Col Dr. Kizza Besigye / FDC / People’s Government were not spared from the same.
It is with this capital that Mr Balam Barugahara, a known Music and Events Promoter, businessman, radio proprietor and friend of both President Museveni and First Son Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba saw an opportunity to make a major transfer signing that followed the crossover of other former People Power praise singers like Jennifer Fool Figure and others.
I am not privy to details of the transfer negotiations and agreements but it is foolhardy to believe that Ashburg Katto was lured into joining NRM with mere rhetoric without financial and other material advances and promises, this being the known norm when dealing with people of his calibre.
Katto then went ahead to kneel down before cameras and apologise to President Museveni asking for forgiveness for the insults and abuses, he and his small team had made towards the president.
They also apologised to Balaam and pledged to do great work for President Museveni and NRM in the 2021 General elections and also support the Muhoozi Project in 2026.
He was a subject of both online ridicule and praises from his online followers when he requested for food from the general public to help fellow bloggers with what to eat during the lockdown.
He said that People Power had not come to their rescue and many would die of hunger in their small rented mizigos in the city suburbs if not assisted.
Days later, he was seen with other bloggers and some known NRM supporters picking food and an unspecified brown envelope of cash from Balam Barugahara at Ntinda, who as expected, was donning his trademark orange colour Tshirt.
A forest of rumours started, that he had crossed to NRM, that he was a mole, he betrayed Bobi Wine, that he had been bought, as has always been the case with many celebrities who had switched to NRM of late.
He then later confirmed his crossing on the day his photo with President Museveni, Balaam and other 2 bloggers while at Museveni’s Kisozi Ranch surfaced on the social media.
His defence was simple “.. we had gone to learn how to look after cows and I thank President Museveni for the gift of cows to me and my team…” said Katto.
He then went ahead to visit his home at Ssenyange village in Nyendo Senyange Division in Masaka Municipality and delivered Eid el Fitri food hampers purportedly procured with support from his friends including Gen Muhoozi, hosted on numerous online shows, TV Stations, on one of which he declared “..Museveni hooked a big Fish in me..” . A debate then ensued.
The NRM remains a multi ideological, and broad based revolutionary party anchored on four core principles namely democracy nationalism / patriotism, Pan Africanism and social economic transformation from which it commands a huge following that cuts across all age groups and this has been evidenced by President Museveni’s back to back electoral victories from 1996 to 2016.
I can authoritatively state that from the look of things 2021 seems to be a done deal for the NRM sole presidential candidate given his rising political support ratings attributed to the way he has protected Uganda from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The current profound love that President Museveni has for musicians, artists, their managers, online bloggers and associates is only akin to his magnanimity, generosity, patience and all-inclusiveness that he usually extends to young and immature people who he gives time and closeness to allow them understand the man himself and redirect their youthful efforts towards productive activities in the five income generating sectors of agriculture, industry, ICT, public service and services other than full time politicking.
It is thus right for Ashburg Katto to call himself a big fish, but he should add that he comes from a small pond of online bloggers that will now be part of the large ocean of the NRM family members that have stood with President Museveni for his proven track record.
Kitatta Ibrahim is the Secretary General of the National Youth Council and National Vice Chairperson for NRM Youth League (Central Region).
He is also a member of Kick Age Limitations Out of the Constitution- KALOC, a Public Policy and Governance Think Tank.
He can be reached on WhatsApp number +256775549199.