By Odongo Lango
In the 2016 US Presidential Elections, Cambridge Analytica, a defunct British political consulting firm that was involved in influencing hundreds of elections globally and that came to prominence through Facebook in conjunction with alleged Russians Hackers mounted a targeted and concerted misinformation war that eventually, it was proven by all US American Intelligence Agencies, tilted the results of the US Elections to the candidate of their choosing. By achieving this, these malevolent forces demonstrated their evil powers to shape public opinion, bend narratives to their will, and rig elections at their beck and call. If they can do it to the world’s only superpower — The United States of America — then the rest of the third world countries are chicken feed.
The Uganda 2021 elections might be the first election, in Africa, that is falling under the influence of nefarious shadowy forces that are using their cyberspace to influence an election, and poison the well of the public opinion. For example, recently, when well-coordinated riots broke out in Kampala and other cities following the arrest of musician-cum-politician, Robert Kyagulanyi, popularly known by his stage name Bobi Wine, the disinformation campaign went into overdrive. Doctored images and videos were widely circulated on social media, some of these videos from other countries or 10 years old images taken during similar riots of the Walk to Work. The images of arsonists, robbers, and rapists who staged roadblocks, harassed innocent citizens, vandalized vehicles, robbed, and molested women with wanton abandon were conveniently edited out by these the trolls.
Given the hostility and lawlessness that was being displayed by the rioters, the security forces responded with restrained and proportional force. Unfortunately, despite the disciplined response, innocent citizens were still caught in the crosshairs. No one, not least this government, enjoys the loss of life of citizens. It is a stain in the image of Uganda in the eyes of the international community that political and legal matters that can be competently handled by the courts are still resolved through primitive means. The vast majority of Ugandans do not support unlawful means for acquiring state power. The country has gone so far from its checkered history as a failed state in the ’70s and 90’s that no one has the appetite for a repeat. The Ugandan voters are perfectly capable of resolving leadership questions through the power of their franchise as demonstrated in the last five election cycles.
Instead of forging common ground and encouraging a language of peace and moderation, the collective opposition has ratcheted up their dystopian rhetoric. The acerbic and cruel FDC spokesman, Ibrahim Semuju Nganda, has been callously inciting hatred, tribalism, and revenge through demonizing language. Over the weekend, on Capital FM’s Capital Gang, the FDC hate-monger in chief heckled, interrupted, and generally disorganized the premier weekend talk show on the city radio.
So this is the opposition playbook. Sow hatred. Incite violence. And spread enough disinformation to, improbably, win this election.
The NRM, on the other-the-hand, has chosen a higher and a nobler plane. Instead of rancor, the NRM is patiently showing the program of change to Ugandans through small town hall meetings with a limited number of attendees strictly observing the COVID-19 SOPs, instead of holding mass coronavirus super spreader events being done by the opposition. Instead of sowing hate, the NRM is crafting a thread of unity and patriotism. Instead of violence, the NRM is promising ideas and enterprise to uplift the citizens from poverty.
Let’s be clear. The Government of Uganda is perfectly capable of decisively and overwhelmingly defeating any asymmetrical methods the opposition can bring. Choices have consequences.
In all civilized countries, when a policeman tells you that you’re under arrest, you surrender immediately. If you resist arrest, the authorities have a constitutional mandate to subdue you. Politicians must stop defying the police. The consequences of defiance are not good.
Many pundits have wasted a vast amount of ink opining that the recent riots were a testament to the government’s popularity. On the contrary, the participants in the riots are well-known malcontents, their methods, though destructive, rarely a threat to the government. For cool-headed players, history should be a lesson, that the future belongs to the organized rather than the angry.