With the advent of social media platforms to Uganda and the wider Africa, came the opportunity for every African with access to show the world a piece of their country. Africa has never been showcased as deeper, clearer, indicatively, positively and negatively as ever before. Social media has allowed the world to see Africa in its raw form; the good and the bad as seen by Africans and not Europeans or Americans.
Through social media, corruption and political have been exposed and ridiculed, new creative talent has been discovered, communities are much more informed, social causes a creating a big and the news media has been redefined. This is all good; however along the way Africans are yet to define the continent and what happens there.
The African mentality more specifically to Uganda is largely biased in response to reading or writing. This is in part due to the extensively theoretically founded education systems were creativity is shunned upon and focus is instead directed to meeting the academic passing grade. Social media has created an environment that spurns creativity since the users hold the power to craft their message to according to preference and influence.
The downside to social media in Uganda and African at large is it has created a “bandwagon effect” of consumerism and “fitting the trend,” which has meant that the stories we are meant to tell as Africans have been lost in the clutter of western media craftiness.
My question arises from this dilemma, why even with the power of telling the African story in the hands of Africans is the story still being told by the West and its media.
As a Ugandan social media user, I particularly monitor how Ugandans use these platforms and it is a sad affair. One finds that when established international media organizations such as CNN with the exception of BBC which has a rich background on telling the African story; the main sources of “credible” information on what is happening on the continent are non-African .
This was reflected in a recent Twitter conversation where an African American Talib Kweli made a claim that the Lord’s Resistance Army rebel group in Uganda was engaged in targeted killing of gay people.
Much as this claim is short of ludicrous, it revealed how little the West knows about Africa.
So this elicits another question, why doesn’t the West trust /rely on Africa to tell its story ?
Reason: because Africa does not know how to tell its story. The Twitter engagement I mentioned earlier was an embarrassment for Ugandans, who tried to defend the falsehood of Talib’s claim but still could not prove to be reliable of being “well informed” about their own country.
It seems no Uganda has found it of any meaning to document the atrocities of the Lord’s Resistance Army and support their findings with credible video, imagery and causality numbers as well as accounts from victims of the war. The insurgency of the Lord’s Resistance Army as well as other countless untold stories reveals an insight into the bias among Ugandans and Africans at large of defining the image of the continent or their countries.
American or European media has largely been reliant on blogs, not as a source of stories necessarily but as a means to check the authenticity of its sources. As much as we think that the western media is controlled by the conglomerates, this is not entirely true. With the exception of international media, the domestic front of news in the western world is a co-op with the main news outlets relying on the blogs to validate their stories.
Everything is documented in the western world to the point that the continent is nearly out of stories to tell, and so they come to Africa to tell its stories.
In my experiences of writing research papers on various topics, I have found it nearly If not impossible to access information about broad topics in Uganda. No data repositories are existent and the content in place is outdated. Our national archive is so ill equipped, Wikipedia would provide a better alternative and so I search for blogs in the hope of finding any information but this never yields fruitful.
This could partly explain why even the authenticity on government figures of growth is contentious, but even then who is there to argue against what is says. No one has credible information. If Uganda had as many bloggers providing rich, well researched and insightful stories on Uganda, maybe our story would be told by us.
Yes social media has the power to bring down a president or send a tweep that has never been to China. But are these the stories that define Uganda, maybe ?