Before the social media was invented, Ugandans used what was known as Radio Katwe to gossip about all sorts of things.
They would gossip about the health of big people, the mistresses they were seeing behind the back of official wives, plus the children they were siring outside marriage and all such idle talk you can imagine of.
Katwe, a slum city surburb in Makindye division, is renowned for inventing virtually everything including news, spare parts and human drugs. Past regimes used to curtail freedom of press and expression. This is how some crafty fellas invented Radio Katwe.
Radio Katwe didn’t have offices. It had no known journalists nor did it have any known newsroom. It was an ambiguous thing so to speak. The dubious medium of communication came up to fill the vacuum created by government’s beef with the processional media. After all, don’t they say that nature loathes vaccum.
It’s inventers wished it to operate like that to avoid detection by authorities who abhorred the press. Today, the social media has overtaken Radio Katwe and rendered it almost useless. People across the world can write and gossip about almost everything– regardless of whether they have knowledge about it or not, using the social media.
Social media has proved such a powerful mode of communication that governments around the world see the medium as one of the most dangerous piece of innovation ever. This is the reason why many governments are limiting use of social media while others are outrightly blocking it.
As we speak, the Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Oulanyah is `agonizing` in hospital in Seattle. The voluminous man from Omollo has been out of office since June last year. This is roughly a year after the eloquent politician developed some strange health condition which looks to be defying specialized treatment.
Oulanyah presided over very few parliamentary sessions and went `missing`. He first kept to house while seeing doctors. When rumor went out that he was seriously sick after reportedly being fed on poison, Oulanyah left his dwelling and presided over a few parliamentary sessions again.
All the same, he looked uncomfortable and weak for a bubbly and joyous guy he is known for. He would ater retire to his home to receive more treatment as his deputy, Anita Amongi sat in for him. In between, Oulanyah PR minders would release pictures of the Speaker in a jovial mood to counter talk on social media that he was fighting for his life.
Oulanyah would later secretly leave the country to go abroad to seek specialized treatment. Trust the social media when it comes to detecting things held in top secrecy. The social media ran stories shortly after the trip,revealing what the speaker and his PR machine didn’t want the country to know.
After the news broke, Oulanyah’s PR machine went on the defensive. They claimed how the speaker was in US to check on his son taking studies in that country. After staying in the US for sometime, Oulanyah returned to the country. Much the same, the Speaker would keep secretly seeing top physicians from time to time meaning doctors in the US had failed to fully manage the strange ailment.
President Yoweri Museveni, after receiving credible medical reports warning him that his uncompromisingly loyal cadre was tittering at the edge of the grave, secretly directed finance to quickly find UGX1.2Bn to facilitate Oulanyah’s more specialized treatment abroad.
Like Museveni loves to assert that whatever is done in top secrecy will be proclaimed on the mountain tops, still the order he had issued out, didn’t take long to find it’s way on the nosy social media! Before then, some night dancers had even written obituaries of Oulanyah and circulated the same still through the social media,wishing the speaker eternal rest!
Oulanyah’s PR machine stepped out firing on all cylinders and vigorously dismissed reports of his death.Oulanyah was finally airlifted to Seattle where progress on his recovery, or lack of it, has been kept a top secret by both goverment and the national assembly where he is the top gun.
Finally, in a veiled admission of the Speaker’s failing health, his deputy, Anita Amongi revealed how her boss had `directed` her, the Chief Justice Alphonse Owiny Dollo and DP President, Chairman Mao, to take his family to Seattle to `visit` him. We have since learned that Among has been encountering sleepless nights lately over Oulanyah’s health.
Whereas the Parliament`s Communications Director Chris Obore had earlier said its only the Deputy Speaker to announce the health status of her boss, by close of business last night, the story had changed to only the President as the only one to inform the general public about the same.
All we have been trying to say is that authorities can only manage social media by giving out the right information rather than hiding the same. Short of that, the social media will keep on and on engaging in guess work and gossiping causing all sorts of unintended problems.
A population well informed is a population that cannot be swayed by what is going on via social media or Radio Katwe, and vice versa.
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