FDC elects new party president on November 22 but are they not letting a greater opportunity pass?

Uganda’s leading opposition political party since the return to multiparty politics in 2006, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), is currently on the home-stretch of an electoral process that will culminate in the election of a new party president.

The elections will take place on November 22.

There are three candidates vying to replace the party’s founding and current president, Col. (rtd) Dr. Kizza Besigye Kifefe. The trio are Nathan Nandala Mafabi, the current leader of the opposition in Parliament and MP for Budadiri West; Maj. Gen. (rtd) Gregory Mugisha Muntu, who is also the Secretary for Mobilisation in the FDC; and Tororo County MP Geoffrey Ekanya, who is also the Shadow Minister for Finance.

Like in any race where the stakes are high, the contest for the FDC top job has been a bruising contest, especially for the two leading candidates, Nandala Mafabi and Mugisha Muntu.

The Nandala Mafabi camp opened a can of worms when they accused Gen. Muntu of being a mole of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party, who should not be allowed anywhere near the party presidency. They asked Gen. Muntu not just to quit the race but also to retire from politics together “and leave politics for the younger generation.

Gen. Muntu’s camp on the other hand has accused the Leader of Opposition of being power hungry. They have asked Nandala Mafabi to quit the race, saying Gen. Muntu’s military background as former Army Commander makes him the better candidate in a largely militarised political environment.

Not wanting to be left out of the melee, Ekanya hit two candidates with one swipe when he accused the two leading candidates of bribing voters, a punishable electoral offence in the party’s and the country’s electoral laws.

To the FDC’s credit, this is not the first time that the party’s top post is being contested, as the party attempts to walk its talk of practising democracy even internally. Gen. Mugisha Muntu has in the past taken on Dr Kiiza Besigye for the party presidency and the opportunity to stand for the national presidency as the party’s flag bearer.

Although Dr Besigye won each time, Gen. Muntu and the majority of the other FDC leaders who had lost in the elections for the other positions would fall in line and work with the winners.

This time round, however, the tide seems to have changed. With Dr Besigye set to end his tenure as party president, there seems to be a sense within the FDC that a re-alignment of forces and loyalties is taking place.

As a result, some of the party leaders desperately waved the ethnic card, arguing that a leader from western Uganda like Gen. Muntu should not take up the party’s top job after Dr Besigye.

As shown by this analysis from The Observer newspaper, the contest for the FDC presidency has stretched personal and party loyalties among the opposition party’s leaders.

On the other hand, I think it has been good for democracy that the party has been willing first of all not to change its Constitution so that Dr Besigye continues to his role as party leader in spite of his continued popularity amongst the party faithful. The other positive is that they left the door open for whoever feels can lead the party post-Besigye to vie for the top job.

Yet one feels that, despite the no-holds-barred contest, the ironic thing is that party could be miss a golden opportunity to grow and to show the country its leadership potential after the September 22 election.

Here is why I think so. The current campaigns are for the election of a party president. Later, in the run-up to the 2016 presidential elections, the FDC will have to elect a flag bearer.

It is well known now that the FDC Constitution allows Dr Besigye to stand for the position of flag bearer even if he has served the two terms as party president that it allows him to. He could therefore throw his hat into the ring, and that would stand in the way of the next party president also becoming the party flag bearer – if the party delegates decide to go with Dr Besigye.

Even if Dr Besigye decides to offer himself for election as party flag bearer, the FDC currently has an opportunity to show Ugandans that it has a vast array of national leaders beyond its outgoing party president. Or, if not, then it can at least show that it is grooming them.

The current Leader of Opposition, Nandala Mafabi, already has a national role through which he can show his abilities to offer leadership to the country. In fact, given that he is serving in a cabinet level position, all of Nandala Mafabi’s activities in his current office are funded by the taxpayer.

In other words, as Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Nandala Mafabi is effectively the Shadow Prime Minister of Uganda.

Therefore, Nandala Mafabi can use that role to show Ugandans that he can deliver at a national level without taking up the FDC party presidency as well. As I argued in an online forum for journalists recently, Nandala Mafabi can take the advice of veteran journalist Joachim Buwembo to enlarge the mandate of the Shadow Cabinet that he leads beyond Parliament. They can then implement some of their policies, say in model villages, to show Ugandans exactly what they are missing when they stick with the current government of President Yoweri Museveni.

Gen. Muntu would then have taken up the role of party president. Again the argument for this is basic. Nandala Mafabi has himself campaigned for the party president on the premise that his duty between now and the election of the party flag bearer would be to grow the party structures, popularise the party and attract more supporters. But then, if I may ask, who is better suited for that role at the moment than the current secretary for mobilisation?

Will Nandala Mafabi be able to popularise the party and grow its structures when he is also saddled with the role of leading the opposition in Parliament? Isn’t he biting more than he can chew?

By contrast, Gen. Muntu is currently playing any other public role, since he was not re-elected to the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA). Therefore, he is likely to have more time, than any other leader who has expressed in interest in the FDC top job, to play that role.

Both leading opposition politicians would then have distinguish themselves in those respective roles, while also showing us how different their leadership styles and capabilities are from those of Dr Besigye. Then in the run-up to 2016, then can all stand for the opportunity to become party flag bearer to face President Museveni or any other candidate NRM offers.

Having shown as what they can do, the opposition leaders can take off their gloves and more during the campaigns. At least they would have done Ugandans the great service of having their aspirants for the national presidency exhibit their leadership capabilities for all to see.

Leave a comment

Posted by on September 17, 2012 in Politics


Africa and social media; a continent reshaping its story using new media tools

On March 10, a grenade blast in the Kenyan capital Nairobi resulted in the death of six people and injuries to another 63. Although there was only one blast in Nairobi and nowhere else across the East African country, the global pioneer of 24-hour news television, Cable News Network (CNN), broadcast to its global audience a news report with a graphic headline titled “Violence in Kenya” (Kimutai 2012).

A screen grab of the CNN broadcast that offended Kenyans. PHOTO by Larry Madowo

Since the 2008 post-election violence in Kenya that claimed 1,000 lives and displaced some 600,000 others from their homes (Shiundu 2012), Kenyans are overly sensitive about the way their country is portrayed to the rest of the word. Part of the reason for that edgy attitude is the fact that reports of the post-election violence affected the tourism sector, which had been the East African biggest economy’s largest foreign exchange earner until it was overtaken by agricultural produce in the aftermath of the post-election violence.

Shortly after the broadcast, Kenyans took to the social networking site Twitter and, under the hashtags #SomeonetellCNN and #CNNApologise, criticised the American broadcaster for what many described as a misleading report that depicted the whole of the entire East African country as having been engulfed by some kind of anarchy. A Kenyan using the twitter handle @Willem316 tweeted,

It is extremely irresponsible for CNN to paint Kenya as a nation in chaos while we are victims of terror. #SomeoneTellCNN

Many of the Kenyans protesting the coverage demanded for an apology. With the online pressure growing, the CNN correspondent in Kenya, David McKenzie, apologised for the misrepresentation and added that CNN would pull the video that had incensed Kenyans off its website (Kabweza, 2012). In two tweets, McKenzie said,

A screenshot of David McKenzie’s tweets. IMAGE by Larry Madowo

The successful push by Kenyans for CNN to retract its sensational story is one indicator of how the power of social media is providing a platform for Africans to reshape the story about their continent that is broadcast around the world.

The latest Internet usage data shows that Internet penetration across Africa, especially Sub-Saharan Africa, is still very low. Internet penetration across Africa stands at 11.4 per cent, which is less than half the world average of 30.2 per cent. Despite the low Internet penetration figures, the backlash that CNN received in Kenya, which had the second largest amount of Twitter activity on the continent over the last year (Fripp 2012), provides an indicator of how Africans are taking to new media technologies and platforms to influence coverage of their continent. The question is how effective these platforms have been on a wider scale for social media users across Africa.


Without international media outlets like CNN, Voice of America in US or BBC in the UK to broadcast its own story to the world, the decentralisation of media has provided Africans with the opportunity to influence, to an extent, the coverage that Africa receives around the world.

After the US charity group Invisible Children released a video on March 5 about the Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony, the western media quickly took to the story partly because it had gone viral on the social network sites. Many media outlets in the western world initially celebrated the 30-minute video as a success (Hoffman 2012), but this was mainly because the judgment was being premised on western benchmarks.

After Ugandan and other African voices began to be heard on the issue in the traditional media across the world and a considerable number of inaccuracies were pointed out in the video, then a more balanced picture began to emerge.

Another incident where the global media sought views from Africa after a social media backlash involved senior Spanish government officials. Apparently, Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy sent a text to his finance minister in the midst of negotiations on the terms of a bailout for Spain’s banks in which, while urging the minister to negotiate a good deal, also took a dig at Uganda (BBC 2012). Rajoy said, “We’re the number four power in Europe. Spain is not Uganda”.

A picture of the El Mundo newspaper, where the jibe on Uganda was first reported. IMAGE by Flckr

Rajoy’s jibe at Uganda drew online criticism, with a number of the protestors saying it was evidence of some kind of colonial hangover that western world has over Africa. Once again, with the uproar from Ugandans and other Africans reaching fever-pitch online, traditional media outlets like the BBC and Al Jazeera took up the subject and involved as many African voices as they could in a bid to offer more balanced perspective. The BBC made a comparison of the two countries and then asked its online readers to weigh in with their own comments while Al Jazeera dedicated part of its interactive discussion programme, The Stream, to discussing the subject.

A similarly effective online response to a misrepresentation happened when Korean Air released a banner announcing the start of non-stop flights from Korea to Kenya described Kenyans as indigenous people full of “primitive energy” (Odula 2012). An example of the Tweets responding to Korean Air’s gaffe, from Mary Wanyeri, said,

Korean [Air] talking about primitive energy is disrespect of the highest order, Kenya we need an apology

After the banner sparked off a flurry of heated online responses on Twitter and Facebook, the Airline pulled down its banner and its management apologised to Kenyans, saying that the word “primitive” had been lost in translation from Korean to English (Odula 2012).


Has social media helped Africans to reshape the image of the continent that the traditional media projects to the rest of the world?

As the examples described above show, there has been a sprinkling of success stories. However, beyond those isolated incidences above, there have also been more enduring positive influences as a result of the active involvement of Africans on social media networks that likely to see a change for the better in the way that the continent is reported about in the western media. These impacts are covered below.

The first success that social media users across Africa have registered is the fact that they are now taken seriously by the traditional media houses as a collective voice whose views cannot simply be ignored. The accumulation of those isolated incidents in which Africans on social media have influenced traditional western media is growing a movement that can only get bigger and become a force to reckon with.

If the recent flurry of international media broadcasts that are exclusively dedicated to Africa are anything to go by, then it can be said that the repeated efforts of Africans to have their voices heard has opened the doors permanently in the western media. For example, the BBC has carried out debates across several African countries as part of an effort to have Africans speak to the rest of the world about issues dear to them.

Similarly, CNN recently added the “African Voices” and “Marketplace Africa” programmes to its already established “Inside Africa” magazine, Al Jazeera runs a weekly show called “Africa Investigates” while BBC introduced two magazine TV shows early this year called “Network Africa” and the “African Dream” about successful African entrepreneurs (Hirsch 2012).

Another sign of the changing times due to the empowerment offered by social media to Africans is the recent attempt by journalists themselves to refocus the way that the continent is reported about. Many western journalists are keen not to be seen to be reinforcing the old stereotypes about Africa and are now offering more balanced views. Some of the journalists have even written articles castigating lopsided reporting on Africa. Examples include; “How Not To Write About Africa” by Laura Seay in Foreign Policy magazine (US) and “The West’s Lazy Reporting on Africa” by Afua Hirsch in The Guardian newspaper (UK). Without an appreciation of the changing dynamics, articles of this nature would perhaps not be published in the western media.

Part of the reason for the skewed coverage of Africa in the western media is that for a long time reporting on the continent was done by the “Foreign Correspondent” who flew in from a western capital and did not have an appreciation of the local environment. However, under pressure to present more balanced stories that are appreciated first by audiences in Africa, many international media outlets are now redressing this anomaly by employing Africans to tell their stories. For example, nearly all of Al Jazeera’s current Africa news team hails from the continent, the BBC which has always had African correspondents will have Ghanaian Komla Dumor as the main anchor for its “Network Africa” TV show while CNN employs correspondents like South Africa’s Nkepile Mabuse.

Despite the successes, however, the influence of African voices on social media networking sites still remains low due to a number of factors, including limited access to the Internet across the continent. With its Internet penetration less than half of the global average and more than three times less than the developed world, Africa’s contribution to the global conversation on social media is still very low (Fripp 2012), meaning there is still a rather low impact globally.

A map showing Twitter usage across Africa. IMAGE by France24

The other danger to Africa losing the opportunity to reshape global attitudes towards the continent is the unregulated nature of social networks. While many of the issues that Africans on social networking sites have influenced have been legitimate, there is a risk of diluting the impact of social media by putting sometimes unwarranted pressure on traditional media houses largely due to “mass hysteria” rather than the legitimacy of the issues being raised (Madowo 2012).

Similar sentiments were echoed by Kalinaki (2012) when responding to the online attacks on Spain’s Prime Minister for his comparison of Spain with Uganda. According to Kalinaki (2012), Ugandans, and by extension Africans, need to look in the mirror and first clean up their image before demanding that the western media does the same; that there is need to shake out of the indifference towards poor governance at home rather than crying out to the world to paint a more glossy picture of Africa than it actually is.

As the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya showed, social media can be used by ordinary people to bring about positive change and to improve governance within their own countries which will result in positive coverage from the international media even before Africans take to the social networking sites to influence a change of narrative.

Leave a comment

Posted by on July 20, 2012 in Essays, HomePage


Tags: , , , , ,

The role of social media in reshaping the African story told to world

What role has social media played in helping Africans shape the story of the continent that is told to the world? How effective has it been?

How have the concepts of social media and citizen journalism enabled Africans to have their say in a global conversation that has often been skewed against them?

In a continent with less than half the average Internet penetration of the world, how effective have Africans been in having their voices heard? And what else does Africa need to do to ensure that it can exploit its vast potential and become a regular contributor to global conversations online?

Read the answers to those questions, and more, in the essay below: –

Leave a comment

Posted by on July 20, 2012 in Essays, HomePage


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Insights into reporting on children

  1. What skills does a journalist need to report on children? On Thursday last week, a group of journalists undertaking a Reporting on Children Course at Wits University got an opportunity to hear first-hand children’s on the matter. Below are live tweets on the meeting by the Online Journalism class; –
  2. KhumaloAndile
    A group of young primary school children from jhb who are media monitor wil b in a discussion with journos….. interesting #kidsjourn
    Thu, Jun 21 2012 05:32:26
  3. meltingpots
    #onlinejoun will be live tweeting about reporting on children #kidsjourn
    Thu, Jun 21 2012 05:14:51
  4. The session started with a general discussion between the children and the journalists. The children showed their understanding of media rules governing children when they asked that their names should not be included in the tweets.
  5. DineshBalliah
    RT @benon_oluka: Tweets on #kidsjourn class on reporting on children coming from @angiemubwanda @BrigitteRead1 @mamapheto @KhumaloAndile @Bhintsintsi
    Thu, Jun 21 2012 05:57:28
  6. benon_oluka
    Children now setting ground rules for the #kidsjourn tweets. Protect identities; no names, no addresses.
    Thu, Jun 21 2012 05:30:05
  7. Thereafter, the journalists and the children split up into small groups to discuss reporting on children and learn from one another. The sessions started with everyone drawing their experiences. The decision to draw was in keeping with a lesson we had been taught earlier, as summarised below.
  8. meltingpots
    To authenticate the engagement journos should encourage the children to “construct a representation of their social world”.#kidsjourn
    Thu, Jun 21 2012 06:57:49
  9. mamaPhetolo
    Key lesson: your approach can either break or make an interview with a child. Here’s an interesting video–cfqv3kn64 #kidsjourn
    Thu, Jun 21 2012 06:53:31
  10. The drawing sessions set the ball rolling….
  11. mamaPhetolo
    Kids r drawing “maps” of their daily activities as part of exercise to get them to open up. Live tweeting alongside @benon_oluka #kidsjourn
    Thu, Jun 21 2012 06:04:56
  12. KhumaloAndile
    Amazing how simple drawings can tell a story and make children open up about issues #kidsjourn #onlinejourn
    Thu, Jun 21 2012 06:25:20
  13. The online journalism class was not left out of either. Although they were busy tweeting, some of the journalists got down to drawing alongside the children.
  14. Bhintsintsi
    I have just painted my own #kidsjourn house. Ain’t perfect, but good. The kids’ ones look much better! #onlinejourn
    Thu, Jun 21 2012 05:48:39
  15. The drawings helped generate a series of topics for discussions. Interestingly, the children soon turned the tables and were asking more questions than the journalists.
  16. angiemubwanda
    #kidsjourn kids not happy with coverage on their issues. They are not included, many negative reports on rape, kidnapping, abuse comes out
    Thu, Jun 21 2012 06:20:28
  17. Bhintsintsi
    Boy: What I hate about TV news is it focuses on big people, like Malema and Zuma. Not much about kids #kidsjourn
    Thu, Jun 21 2012 06:39:29
  18. mamaPhetolo
    The kids believe the media is not telling enough child stories. They want to see and read more about such stories. #kidsjourn
    Thu, Jun 21 2012 06:52:28
  19. BrigitteRead1
    these are curious kids. Grilling the #kidsjourn journos for explanations on defamation, broadcasting, rape… Who is interviewing who?
    Thu, Jun 21 2012 06:27:33
  20. The sessions ended with the children telling the journalists what they expected from stories that are published about them and those that are meant for them.
  21. KhumaloAndile
    As most of #kidsjourn are media monitors, they want newspapers to write more about children issues bcz the feel that they r neglected.
    Thu, Jun 21 2012 06:37:04
  22. BrigitteRead1
    kids expectations of the media: don’t use gory pictures, more ve stories, dont just give the problem, find a solution too. #kidsjourn
    Thu, Jun 21 2012 06:39:24
  23. Bhintsintsi
    One of the kids says he loves Kidsnews. Watches it regularly. But wants more positive stories #kidsjourn
    Thu, Jun 21 2012 06:28:26
  24. At the end of the session, the journalists were too happy to have got the opportunity to get first hand insights on reporting about children from the children themselves.
  25. KhumaloAndile
    Small bodies, but never underestimate their minds because they know what’s happening…#kidsjourn #onlinejourn
    Thu, Jun 21 2012 06:27:27
  26. MMA_tweeter
    RT @angiemubwanda: #kidsjourn what an enjoyable session! journos leant the hard way, promised to give kids a voice and include more stories abt them
    Thu, Jun 21 2012 07:02:01
  27. mamaPhetolo
    @DineshBalliah thanks for letting us sit in on the Child reporting session with all those kids. Had a blast! #kidsjourn
    Thu, Jun 21 2012 07:06:16
  28. olweza
    Must say I enjoyed talking to media monitoring children today #kidsjourn
    Thu, Jun 21 2012 13:25:51
  29. MediaMattersZA
    RT @benon_oluka: #kidsjourn Many interesting dynamics about reporting on children. Wud be a great course for those dealing with children’s newspaper pages.
    Thu, Jun 21 2012 05:32:09
  30. The tweets from the Online Journalism class about the Reporting on Children session received some feedback from those who followed the session via Twitter.
  31. WarrenNebe
    @angiemubwanda @MediaMattersZA #kidsjourn Surely we need to construct narratives that will enhance a safer future, rather than traumatise?
    Thu, Jun 21 2012 06:28:59
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 26, 2012 in HomePage, Storify


Should citizen journalists be considered “journalists”?

The concept of citizen journalism, as defined in various online sources, is based on public citizens “playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing, and disseminating news and information. According to Wikipedia, citizen journalism is also known as “public”, “participatory”, “democratic”, “guerrilla” or “street” journalism.

As noted in the Citizen Media Network, the idea behind citizen journalism is that people without professional journalism training can use the tools of modern technology and the global distribution of the Internet to create, augment or fact-check media on their own.

History of Citizen Journalism

As the video below shows, citizen journalism started as far back as the 1960s. It may not have had that name at the time, but the advent of citizen journalism started with an ordinary citizen who was not a trained journalist filmed the assasination of US President John F Kennedy.

Citizen journalism continued to gain ground. In 1999, its growing influence was yet again shown when the brother of Indian army officer, Capt. Saurabh Kalia, took to citizen journalism to seek justice for him. The story of Capt. Kalia’s brother is in this video.

However, it was during the attack on the World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001 that the power of citizen journalism as a global force was felt. This marked the first collective public usage of the media and, as Dan Gillmor shows in his book, We the Media, it changed journalism for good.

“News was being produced by regular people who had something to say and show, and not solely by the ‘official’ news organisations that had traditionally decided how the first draft of history would look. This time, the first draft of history was being written, in part, by the former audience. It was possible — it was inevitable — because of new publishing tools available on the Internet,” writes Gillmor.

Citizen Journalism Takes Root

Since then, there have been many changes. Over the last decade, citizen journalists has gone mainstream and brought to the fore lots of important stories. —New social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Storify, etc, and new technologies like smart phones, Ipads, and hidden cameras, have led to rise of citizen journalism around the world.

Citizen journalism has changed the face of journalism through user-generated content and its immediacy. As a result, it has gained recognition even within mainstream media where leading traditionall news organisations like CNN and Al Jazeera now have programming dedicated to citizen journalism.

Citizen journalism has also already shaped history. During the Arab Spring, when revolutions swept across several Arab countries, citizen journalists kept the world supplied with information on what was happening in those countries. In Syria for instance, as shown in this video, citizen journalists have kept the world informed about what is happening in a country that has largely locked out traditional media.

Is Citizen Journalism “Journalism”?

Despite those successes however, the question lingers over whether citizen journalism can actually be described in the same was as journalism.

Experts argue that citizen journalism does not have the kind of core guiding principles that anchor mainstream media like a code of ethics, full disclosure and fect checking mechanisms. Due to a lack of benchmarking guidelines, citizen journalism often comes off as biased, ethical deficient, and lacking in credibility.

Nevertheless, crowd-sourced journalism or citizen journalism is here to stay. Therefore, for it to work more efficiently, there is a need for basic quality control mechanisms that help anchor citizen journalism in the same way that mainstream journalism is governed by basic rules.

Below is a power-point presentation on the subject: –

Leave a comment

Posted by on June 22, 2012 in Essays, HomePage


Graphical presentation of primary school enrolment and completion rates in South Africa

Leave a comment

Posted by on June 20, 2012 in HomePage, Infographic


Multimedia Fairytale blog: The story of Badang

Had you ever heard of the story of Badang from Singapore?

Well, when online journalism lecturer Dinesh Balliah asked the class to recall a childhood story to illustrate a multimedia exercise, what came to my mind was the story of Badang, “the strongest man in Singapore.”

Badang was the only sons of two poor farmers who worked hard daily till they died. Badang then moved, as a young man, to work as a slave for a rich farmer.

The weak link

But Badang was small-statured and the weakest of his group. Yet their work involved clearing fields before the next planting season.

Because he was a slave, he never got paid. Instead, they received only handfuls of rice, which were not enough.

To add to their daily food portions, Badang and other slaves used to catch fish. But every morning, he would find his trap empty.

Trying his best

Badang’s friends laughed at the fact that he would not be able to find and arrest the thief. He had no choice but to try, so Badang armed himself and went to wait for the thief.

And guess who the thief was? A demon!

Badang was scared of confronting the demon. However, after eating, the demon fell asleep. Badang’s anger overcame his fear, and he tied the demon’s hair to a rock.

Badang and the demon. IMAGE: ITBM

When the demon woke up, it was very scared. It promised to grant Badang any wish if he spared its life.

Strength for life

Badang asked to be granted strength. The demon granted Badang his wish, but on condition that he uses it to do help people and do good deeds.

From then onwards, Badang used his energy to help people. He cleared the field for his landowner and was set free. Then he went and helped two different Kings in many different ways.

Badang eventually retired. But he had done so much good that when he died, he was mourned by very many people, including one of the Kings, who sent a marble stone to be placed at the head of Badang’s grave.

Leave a comment

Posted by on June 18, 2012 in HomePage, Multimedia