Over the last few days one of the most popular faces in the news is of the president of Uganda. I landed on article on the internet and replaced works like MUSEVENI for PUTIN, UGANDA for RUSSIA to spell just how much the government propaganda machine is running the show to ensure the president gets re-elected come 2016 and yet we Ugandans don’t seem to realize so because the word propaganda is a reserve for wars between Russia and the rest of the hating world. The article was initially posted on http://www.businessinsider.com/mauldin-on-russia-2014-11. The article is in full and I try as much as I can to switch words but leave it in its entire form.
Before I go further, let’s visit the definition of propaganda with the help of the Oxford English Dictionary: “The systematic dissemination of information, especially in a biased or misleading way, in order to promote a political cause or point of view.”
I always thought of the Internet as an unstoppable democratic force that would always let the truth slip out through the cracks in even the most determined wall of propaganda. I was wrong. After reading state media both on social platforms and print especially the New Vision, you would not want to read the, the independent media houses like the Daily Monitor or The Observer because you’d be convinced it was lying. More important, the state media like The New Vision is so colorful and well connected that you would not even want to read anything else, because you would be convinced that you were in possession of indisputable facts.
Ugandan propaganda works by forcing your right brain (the emotional one) to overpower your left brain (the logical one), while clogging all your logical filters. Here is an example The New vision has full resolution pictures with glowing articles of how much Uganda has surged forward under the guidance of the NRM government led by president Museveni on a day to day basis and this has increased in the run up to elections. Of course if you read The Daily Monitor or other Independent press you will probably see these articles but in the article there is a big chance of landing on extended quotes stating how a project that was to last five years all of a sudden had its life span moved to 15 years and so was the price with very little explanation of why.
What reader will not find in the State Media if it so happens to mention is that the That the president had a hand in these projects all of a sudden being handed away without following the proper legal regimes saying start the project and we shall let the lawyers follow later with the laws. The fact that Museveni helped to muddle the procurement of contractors is never mentioned. Facts are not something government media house is less concerned about. As all these glossy images and a lot of disinformation pump up your right brain, it overpowers the left, which capitulates and stops questioning the information presented because no one in their right mind should be questioning a project that in government words is going to change lives.
What also makes things more difficult in Uganda is that, unlike other countries that change their leaders periodically, who by default don’t trust their politicians – yes, even their presidents –we Ugandans still have the czarist mentality that idolizes its leaders. Museveni has been able to cultivate this to an enormous degree if you can Google the sole candidate story – most Ugandans think of him as a father figure with whole ministers literally going to war whenever succession is raised as a question for debate.
I keep thinking about what Lord Acton said: “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The Museveni we scorn today was not always like this; he did a lot of good things during his first years as president. The two that stand out the most are getting rid of state inspired violence towards citizens and instituting a pro business environment through ensuring stable peace and stability in most parts of the country. The amount of power Ugandans give their presidents, however, will, with time, change the blood flow to anyone’s head. Come to think of it, even Mother Teresa would not have stood a chance in Uganda against the president expect people what she been doing all these years but none questions what Museveni has been doing over the last 30+ years to qualify for another 5 years.
A couple of weeks ago some candidates were arrested for trying to carry out consultations from there would be voters and thousands came out in the streets to protest in Mbale as to why he even dared to carry out these consultations but in the all the years I have lived I have never heard about the president or his people carrying out consultation meetings to feed into his manifesto but somehow he deserves my votes whole heatedly.
In my misspent youth, I took a marketing class at the University of Colorado. I remember very little from that class except this: For your message to be remembered, a consumer has to hear it at least six times. The government media propaganda folks must have taken the same class, because Ugandans in the run up to the elections next year are getting to hear how great their president is at least six times a day in the media especially the state run paper New Vision that is in over drive with articles about the presidents day-to-day activities like they are an extension his dairy book.
Those aligned to change look at Museveni and see an evil old man with a hat walking around with a cane beating everyone into submission the ordinary Ugandans are shown a very different picture. They see a hard-working president who cares deeply about them. Every news program and article dedicates at least one fifth of its airtime to showcasing Museveni’s greatness, not in your face but in subtle ways. A typical clip would have him meeting with a cabinet minister bashing them for imcompetence. The minister or whatever district leader will be made to look very smaller and powerless in the presence of the president, and Museveni, looking very serious indeed, would lecture the minister on what needed to be done. Museveni is always candid, direct and tough with his ministers.
I’ve listened to a few of Museveni speeches even though regurgitated as usual, and I have to admit that his oratory skills are excellent, although his not in the league of his great friend Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. He doesn’t give a speech; he talks. His language is accessible and full of zingers. He is very calm and logical.
Ugandan’s look at the Museveni’s presidency and ask themselves a very pragmatic question: Am I better off now, with him, than I was before he came into power? For most the answer is yes. What most Ugandans don’t see is that Uganda’s GDP was 100 dollars in 1980 and its now 571 dollars as of 2013 yet in the same period Botswana’s GDP was 1000 dollars and today it sits at 7500 dollars.
I place prosperity in quotes because if you take away peace and stability under the NRM government it is in a worse place today than it was 30 years ago. We have more children schooling but very few are actually accounted for at the end of their schooling or graduate but no one wants to answer that question, the health care system is in shambles with no medicine in health centers and the government seems to have no clue on what to do with those suspected of engaging in corruption despite making several laws and setting up organizations to deal with corruption all they seem to get are the small fish.
But most Ugandan’s don’t look at things that way. For most of them, their lives are better now: No more lines to their deaths at the hands of the government forces and operatives, and the shops are full of food, the phones are always charged. Their personal liberties such as freedom of speech and freedom of the press are being chipped away one law after another but many have so much trust in their president that they don’t mind, whereas others are simply complacent.