Uganda was set to host the prestigious (MTV Africa Music Awards) aka MAMA Awards on February 20, at Pearl of Africa Hotel. They were however postponed at the last minute by the organisers without giving an explanation to the reasons behind this decision.
In a statement, the organisers said: “MTV Base is postponing the 2021 MTV Africa Awards, We will keep fans updated as we have more news” An announcement from MTV read.
The edition in Kampala was set to be the first ever live streamed Virtual MTV Awards due to complications arising from the Corona Virus Pandemic. It was also supposed to be the first time the awards were to be held in Uganda.
In a latest tweet from MTV, they said that they considered the current health and safety challenges.
“MTV Base will keep fans posted about the 2021 MAMA Kampala is a virtual event, strict adherence to health and safety protocols as specified by WHO have been adhered to through the process,” they said.
However, the Uganda Tourism Board CEO Lily Ajarova said that the postponement was due to internet issues and the Corona Virus Pandemic.
Currently Social Media in Uganda is still off following its shutdown in Early January before the January 14, 2021 Presidential Elections.
“There was a discussion about the event, we still have issues with the Internet yet the event is supposed to be virtual. There was also an issue of corona virus,” Ajarova said.
Many Ugandans criticized the move to host the event, which was online yet Social Media was switched off in the country making it difficult to access most of the streaming sites.
After the January 14 presidential poll, activists supporting artist-turned politician and Presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi Alias Bobi Wine lambasted the organizers for ignoring gross human rights abuses committed by against artists and other Ugandans, a sign of insensitivity.
Bobi Wine’s International Lawyer Robert Amsterdam has been decampaigning the awards calling for their cancellation.
“Another major difference is the role of US multinationals like MTV in reputation laundering towards a regime of violence, torture and kidnappings, MTVMAMA UGANDA IS BLEEDING” he tweeted.
Human rights activist and founder of the Vanguard Africa Jeffrey Smith also used his platforms and organization to call for the cancellation not just a postponement of the awards in Uganda.
“Now is not the time to visit Uganda, nor to hold the MTVMAMA’s which is being organized by MTVBase to celebrate art meanwhile Stella Nyanzi is in exile, Nubianli (artist) is in and Bobi Wine barred from preforming,” said Smith.
These “activists” also mounted a well coordinated campaign against MTV in the international press highlighting what they termed as unfortunate scenes happening in Uganda.
An Article in the Okayafrica news suggested that if Uganda was free, it would have been perfect to hold the event.
“Just as MTV began advertising its plans to host the Africa Music Awards in Uganda Kyagulanyi and his wife Barbie, were entering their tenth evening under house arrest, armed soldiers stood surrounding their home keeping them under arbitrary military detention a violation of international law” an excerpt from the article read.
On the Vanguard website an article by smith and team which was picked by various international media houses called for an indefinite suspension not a postponement.
“As you read this text, Bobi Wine, Uganda’s most popular artist, has his entire musical team being tried in a military court.
These include the producer of his most popular songs, Dan Magic, and his long-time singing partner, Nubian Li. They were arrested on 30 December 2020, together with more than 150 others, while on Wine’s presidential campaign trail,” part of the article reads.
It further Adds: “Wine was later placed under illegal house arrest for eleven days for opposing, in a national election, the president who has ruled Uganda since 1986. Wine’s associates are treated as enemies of the state.”
In March 2020, Uganda introduced a total lock down due to COVID-19. The country today remains in partial lockdown, meaning that activities, including concerts, remain banned. A curfew also applies between 9PM and 5AM.
On his argument why artists should not attend an MTV awards show in Uganda, Smith said: “Wine has not been allowed to hold a concert in Uganda since 2018, the year the government also tried to assassinate him. His concerts were often broken up by heavily armed security forces, before being banned from performing altogether.”
He alleged: “His music has also been outlawed on Uganda’s media. The government has also been trying to introduce laws that would further curtail his music.
They would, inter alia, need to authorize the lyrics of a song before being produced and aired. Having curtailed most channels of freedom of speech, these measures are intended to further entrench the Museveni dictatorship.
Uganda also imposes a so-called social media tax, which is needed to access Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other apps. And currently, access to social media – without a VPN – is limited after the recent presidential elections, which resulted in a nationwide internet shut-down for five days”
Local entertainment analyst Eddie Sendi said the social media pressure led to the postponement of the Awards. He says MTV’s brand was being put I a bad light by some aggrieved NUP sympathizers.
“These people protect their brands a lot. They don’t want to stain their brands, so you may find that the bad vibe on social media has forced them to do the postponement, however I request the organizers in Uganda to elaborate for us their issues, and I think as MAMA’s there’s lack of face of the project in Uganda, they have no contact person here, it’s a challenge to get an authoritative voice from MAMA’s based in Uganda,’’ he said.
He added “it’s sad that they have been postponed but let’s hope they wool even work on their timing, I had already talked about this but they gave a deaf.