Ugandan president draws fire for copyrighting "rap"

Tue Dec 7, 2010 12:47pm EST
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By Barry Malone

KAMPALA (Reuters) - A row has broken out in Uganda over an attempt by President Yoweri Museveni to copyright a "rap" he performed that has become a smash hit on the African country's radio stations and in its nightclubs.

The aging leader took to the stage at two party rallies over the last few months and performed two children's folk chants from his birthplace in Western Uganda - "Naatema akati" (I cut a stick) and "Mp'enkoni" (Give me the stick).

Record producers then began mixing the performance with hip-hop beats and audio of Museveni telling the crowd that young people had told him about rap music.

The song was named, "You want another rap?" after a question Museveni shouted at the rallies and it quickly began appearing for sale in capital Kampala.

The east African country is due to hold elections in February, seen as a test of democracy for the country. Museveni, 65, a former cattle herder and student activist in power since 1986, could face his stiffest challenge yet if the opposition coalition holds together.

An application lodged by Museveni's lawyers for exclusive rights to the song has drawn fierce criticism from the president's opponents, some of whom say he is trying to cash-in on the huge number of Ugandans using it as a ringtone.

"Nobody, not the President, not me has the right to copyright folk chants," Mwambustya Ndebesa, a history lecturer at Kampala's Makerere University, told Reuters.

"They should belong to everybody, not be used for political capital."   Continued...

<p>Uganda's President and the leader of ruling National Resistance Movement party Yoweri Museveni attends a ceremony for his nomination as a presidential candidate at Mandela National Stadium in the capital Kampala October 25, 2010. REUTERS/James Akena</p>