UGANDAâ€™S No1 COLUMNIST.. INFORMED, CONTROVERSIAL AND PROVOCATIVE
On the Uganda media front, two important and far-reaching events occurred this week. (How nice to kick off with something as simple and straightforward as the media. I am only joking!) Starting with
On the Uganda media front, two important and far-reaching events occurred this week. (How nice to kick off with something as simple and straightforward as the media. I am only joking!) Starting with my favoured paper, The New Vision, also of course this columnâ€™s home, changes were made at the top.
William Pike, the perennial chief since the late â€˜80s (of the last century!) stayed in place, albeit with a small change in titles: he is now CEO and MD - Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director. If an average term was, say, three years, Pike is currently about to enter his seventh. I trust he is a supporter of lifting presidential term limits! Pike has been extremely beneficial to Vision, and the other way round. By not being directly a Ugandan, although he is fully one in heart, he has not been sucked into our tribal maelstrom, so often at the very centre of our political life.
He has also learnt on the job where to draw the line between subservience to the government which owns the paper, to independence on behalf of the Ugandan people who own the government. Thus on many occasions the paper has fiercely attacked, where it thought it necessary, branches and their leaders of the government itself.
This, as we are aware, is no picnic! Some, especially the less politically and socially sophisticated, of whom we have a fair number, have hated such an approach. But they must be rigorously resisted. Their natural habitat is with regimes which come down like a ton of bricks on any perceived slight against themselves. This is not the open ground of the Movement as I understand it. Please God long may it continue. (If necessary we shall name names, in the current jargon!) But back to Vision. Pikeâ€™s job of Editor-in- Chief has now gone, most deservedly, to his long-term deputy David Sseppuuya. I understand he will have a probation time of three months before he becomes substantive.
This is the right way to go and I am sure David will do a very good job on his way to the very top. What is a must is that Government resists the urge of inserting â€œpraise singersâ€ who will make this paper a meaningless and unreadable arm of propaganda. For that is what the aforementioned conspirators above have in mind. That is not the same as saying that The Vision at the end of the day (and its beginning) is not owned by the State. It is and must support its owner to the hilt, but including the capacity of positive and constructive criticism. Let us now turn to The Monitor which continues to improve out of all recognition: this week it has been reborn as the Daily Monitor, re-designed, and very attractively too.
Ever since the perennially hating Onyango Obbo was booted upstairs to Nairobi, at the suggestion of some of us, the paperâ€™s attitude and policy started changing. Now journalistically it often pays more heed to facts than political invention. And now the new physical look. Pike & Co had better look to their laurels. Another reason for leaving professional highly trained people in place, as the Vision always arranged.
I was not in London last week for the debate on whether Uganda should give Museveni a third term. Actually this was a misnomer, because the accurate point at issue was whether Uganda should lift the two-term presidential limit.
There is a difference, hopefully explained to the audience, as much as to our Dear Donors. By all accounts the debate, sponsored by the Royal African Society, was a lively but peaceful affair. Still I couldnâ€™t help noticing that three of the four main speakers were from western Uganda, two Banyankole and one Muhororo â€œcousinâ€. If Norbert Mao had taken part, that would have been 3.5 westerners.
So be it. More relevantly, halfway through this week I saw a picture on the cover of New Vision which gave me sharper concern. The leader of the Government side, my friend Amama Mbabazi (incidentally a very good speaker) sported a green substance which, on closer inspection, turned out to be a fresh banana leaf. When suitably dry, but not before, it becomes essanja (from which ekisanja comes). Is it my imagination or was Mbabazi looking not his ebullient self?
Beside him was our High Commissioner in London, similarly green-leafed, looking as if someone in the audience was taking the mickey; behind them a robustly built younger man, appearing either very uncomfortable, or on the point of breaking into nervous laughter, or both. You ask yourself did these gents come dressed like this, perhaps on a train or public omnibus?
How did their fellow passengers take it? And the London Bobbies (police)?
Did the team debate in this attire?
If so, did the audience listen attentively, or was it too busy containing its sides in holding laughter back? After the leaves were donned, did their wearers look at themselves in the mirror? I hope I am not the only one who thinks that this wearing of leaves (dry ones included) has reached a point not far from an albatross round our necks.
What started as a pun, for essanja, the dried leaves, and ekisanja, a determined period of time, has now gone way over the top. And to think of exporting it to other places, in this case sophisticated London City? Reader, your columnist was deeply upset. PS: Veep if you retreat further youâ€™ll fall off the cliff!
Keep The Vision clean