George Ogola writes in Quartz Africa about an unlikely silver lining to Uganda’s current shameful treatment of Bobi Wine: it has shown Kampala the true extent of the Ugandan people’s online organizing capacity. Social media, which the government has attempted to tame with an unprecedented tax, will from here on out be the Ugandan youth’s tool for changing their country:
President Yoweri Museveni has ruled Uganda with authoritarian firmness for the last 32 years. But even his most ardent supporters were shocked by the ferocity with which his security forces recently meted out violence on journalists and supporters of Robert Kyagulanyi, a musician-turned-politician popularly known as Bobi Wine.
Museveni’s grip on power remains exceptionally strong. His control of the country’s civic and political institutions is nearly complete after 32 years in power. But there are pockets of dissent emerging from digital platforms whose practical political consequences are being slowly realized.
Social media has become an important form of political participation – especially for young Ugandans who are institutionally excluded from meaningful participation in the country’s economic and political processes.
Museveni has previously dismissed social media as a platform used particularly by young people for gossip.
But that “gossip” has become an important form of political participation and protest vernacular. What cannot be published in the newspapers or broadcast on radio or television finds expression in tweets, memes or other forms of social media.