Response to Mirundi Hateful Lies at Media Houses

Hello my name is Odrek Rwabwogo. I am running this message in response to several months of deeply offensive online and FM radio stations’ lies propagated by some elements in the media and given a base to grow by some moderators and reporters on various channels. Some of these channels include Impact and Pearl FM radio stations and some gutter YouTube sites. While I can complain directly to the faceless western YouTube channel that has no interest in Africa other than dominating the minds of our young people, I prefer speaking directly in my own voice to my fellow Ugandans and a number of African brothers and sisters, many of who I work with and have heard these lies and continue to send me messages, worried about the potential harm these fake voices may cause to my person, my family and my work. I would like to use this opportunity not to fight back as many have been asking me, but, instead, to teach and perhaps find some minimum ground with the people who spread this negativity. Most importantly I want to reach out to you all, listeners, to assure you that these fake voices purportedly attributed to me and the despicable content the voices carry, are a lie from the pit of hell.

The term ‘Moderation’ in English can be equated to the role an electric transformer unit plays in managing the flow of an electric current. Its main role is to step down the high voltage power, allowing it to be consumed in a safe manner. A transformer unit tames excesses and surges, giving the right amount of wattage to the consumer. If that analogy helps you the moderators and reporters understand your role in communication, it is also telling of how much you have violated the fundamental principles and ethics of providing moderation in the media and how you have sadly abandoned the basics of reporting, the provision of facts and contexts to your listeners, in many of your shows. You seem to want to go on air seeking to hurt not to build.

There are three principles everyone who has the privilege – privilege - because not many of us do have it, of going on air, must preserve. To preserve a thing is to give it value and to stick with it long enough for it to make a difference in your life or in that of an institution. These principles, you have instead, blatantly impelled on the wall of ignorance and, if it were not for the feeling that you probably don’t know what you were doing, I would go after you at all levels.
I would seek due recompose so as to make up for the injustice that you have persistently fostered on me by allowing a concocted, deliberately fabricated voice purportedly mine, to run on your stations.

Here are the three principles. Perhaps you can use them to train your reporters and moderators to exercise due care:

The first is the Principle of Attribution: When someone on air attributes or mentions a statement or gives out a piece of information about another party not on air, the Moderator/Reporter must help listeners to separate fact from fiction, truth from lies by interrogating in a very firm and impartial manner, the source of that statement. Why? Because information is food for the brain, the listeners make their minds up by making points of reference to the name this statement is attributed to. It is called ‘issue framing’ in communication. Now, when a statement is not provable, it has no right to stand in a public forum. It should be discarded and an apology given immediately. It does not even have to wait for a disclaimer at the end of the show. It should be recanted immediately for its source is dubious. That you could repeatedly run a fake voice attributed to me and not even bother to call me to find out whether indeed this was my voice, is beyond my comprehension. It is a sign of irresponsibility for someone moderating a programme and even worse, it casts a long shadow on the station’s values. Some people think this kind of behavior by the media people is a reflection of the press freedom in our country today. They quote the hundreds of radio stations' existence as if quantity replaces values. No, I see differently. I see it rather as a sign of potential anarchy if the citizens and our social and political institutions, do not arrest this trend soon. By not questioning various concocted voices, spoken with a particular ethnic slant, a slant deliberately meant to distort people’s thinking, cause disaffection and anxiety against a particular group of people, you not only endangered the reputation of an innocent private citizen but even more, you failed in your duty to shine a light on an injustice fostered on a community. By your omission of what is legitimate radio protocol, you gave a platform not just to falsehood but also actively promoted a stereotype about an ethnic group. When I heard the ‘manufactured’ voices, I was reminded that for many of our elite, perhaps history has not been a good teacher. I have recorded this voice note coincidentally on a particularly important day in the history of our country. On June 15, 1891, Capt. Fredrick Lugard, a stranger, fortune hunter, and an invader searching for gold, diamonds, ivory, and territorial control for his franchise they called the Imperial British East African Company (IBEAco.), crossed the Kazinga channel, the little piece of land between lakes Mwitanzigye (Albert) and Masyoro or what some call ‘Rweeru’ (George). He had a band of raiders, about 200, composed of Zanzibaris, Sudanese mercenaries, and some local guides. He successfully attacked and dislodged a small force of Omukama Kabalega of Bunyoro from the channel and took control of Katwe salt mines which then was a huge prize of long-distance traders. A few months prior to this, Lugard had been gladly seen off in Kampala by some of the leaders of Buganda kingdom and he crossed through Buddu area, picking up Kasagama, a prince from Toro he planned to use against Kabalega; and arrived in Nkore where he was welcomed with a blood brotherhood ceremony. In just under a year, Lugard a foreigner with no prior knowledge of these areas, simply by trickery, mercenary action, raiding, and capitalizing on our parochial differences among our leaders and communities, he had almost the entire Uganda signed away to his company and to Britain. He ate us piece by piece due to our differences. Two years later, Kabalega, even with his lack of a general thought out uniting national ideology and his crude organizational tactics, he tried to force back the invaders out of what would later be Uganda but he lacked the support of other leaders. They would not put their differences aside and rally to the cause to mobilize peasants against foreign invasion. Many of the leaders, fell in bed with the invaders simply to gain a tactical advantage over their neighbors with whom they had had some acrimonious relations. They did not see the big picture of the total loss of sovereignty in the end, for all. For example, when Kabalega re-conquered Toro in early 1893 and did a pincer movement by simultaneously sending an expeditionary force across the Nile, and overrun Busoga to the East, encircling the invaders in central southern Uganda, no one came to his aid. Nobody seemed to want to chase away Col. Colville’s bands of raiders who the latter had simply mobilized from Sudan and Zanzibar. Kabalega had gained a strategic advantage over the invaders by encircling them but he could not press home to victory because he lacked popular support from the very communities and leaders, he was fighting in because he was perceived as an ‘enemy’. On 02, March 1895, when his forces gained a tactical, and I should say, a psychological advantage over the invaders at the battle of Kajumbera island. I suspect this battle was either on Lake Kyoga or river Kafu. I am speaking to the remaining elders of Bunyoro to confirm this location. Kabalega capsized two of the five canoes carrying four white officers. They were Mr. Dunning, Mr. Cunningham, Mr. Vandeleur, and Mr. Ashburnham. They had over 2000 militia of local Baganda regulars, Sudanese, Zanzibaris, and some Indians, and two strategically located maxim guns mounted on platforms on the bank of the water and firing repeatedly at Kabalega’s forces. In a battle between modern technology and somewhat courageous African leadership, Kabalega forced a hasty retreat of the Whiteman in the early hours of the morning. Both Dunning and Cunningham were severely injured and the former died of his battle wounds later. No local leader saw this hugely symbolic gesture of an African force ridding the country of the new invaders. Instead, our forefathers could not bring themselves to stand together as people who shared linkages over five hundred years and fight as one force against a common invading enemy. Never mind that all these people being separated by the shallow differences that the white man capitalized on, all came from at least one ancestry at the end of the Bachwezi empire in the year 1500. Our unity and history had been so strong that even with the Luo invasion from the Nubian highlands in Sudan and the end of the Chwezi rulership, the Luo-Bito kings and headmen had to accept and adapt to the culture they found in order to flourish and govern.

Therefore, today, when I see educated people with a very short memory - because 130 years ago when Lugard was doing this, is just simply five generations, it is recent; people trying to divide us based on tribes and faking voices as if the voice of a person explains their character, experience, behavior, and actions, and you, in the media, giving these retrogressive expressions an open forum, I feel compelled to remind you that you to study and learn from history. Let it be your teacher. Do not fight a brother because by doing so you play in the hands of today’s global invaders. They haven’t changed character; they have only shed their skin and they want us kept divided and weak so that Africa and our countries are their playgrounds. For example, many in the Western world today will not tolerate a rising Uganda and the unity of East Africa because our rise and unity will necessarily push for geopolitical space and a voice for Africa. These forces must out of their age-old selfish interest, by trickery and trinkets, keep us engaged in tribal, religious, homosexuality, western forms of democracy conversations; the type of conversations that very rarely deal with the core issues of trade and investment, the true and greater security of the African peoples, the social-economic change millions of peasants in our country and Africa, badly require and the quality of leaders we need, regardless of where they come from. I have in all my life refused to be drawn into fights about individuals for I know that this is a very debased and depressing conversation.

A man must meet another at an idea level and win or lose the argument at that level, not at the level of ‘where does someone come from or what they ate last night', as I hear on many of your shows. For example, in 2015, when some of the leaders in the NRM took away my right to participate in an electoral exercise, citing religious and tribal connotations as if anyone chooses where they are born or as if birthplace means one gets low or high brain cells, I completely refused to be drawn into those shallow debates. This is because I know very well what matters for the greater good of our unity as a country. I have learned from history to forgive and to work hard at wherever God places me. Just to conclude this point, I want the listener to think counterfactually: What if Kabalega had beaten off all the offensives of the Whiteman and all the tribal leaders had come to his aid regardless of their petty differences – what would we have been as a project in national unity and state-building? We cannot accurately tell but we can point, in order to understand, at China. China was militarily weak and technologically backward but so united at a cultural and values level. That trait among other circumstances, helped it to fend off for over 100 years, the deep and worst incursions into her territory by the western powers, till it stood up again in October 1949.

While I understand that the media as well as western arts, entertainment, and law are still young and are very much a function of social-economic progress, you have no excuses as reporters and moderators to not exert yourselves and do the best to keep our young country growing, strengthening - together. Perhaps, many of us shoot straight from peasantry into the newsrooms and do not care to learn and this is the reason we permit these kinds of fabricated stuff on air. We should disabuse ourselves of the habit of shallow views and surface analysis of building a nation. As a news forum, you should be a seeker of truth not a purveyor of lies. My deepest concern is that when you broadcast in this negative manner, you irretrievably damage the honest political discourse that our country needs; you promote disinformation as the basis for decision making and you undermine the growth of a harmonious society. It takes partners to build a better country and you should stand high among those partners as media houses.

I have belabored the point of Attribution to give you context and perhaps a deeper understanding of its importance.

The second principle you violated is that of Objectivity. Every human being has some form of bias given how and where they grew up and what shaped their early thinking. This is why you have superstitious people often dressed in modern clothing but their thoughts and actions so medieval and anti-progress. These days, we live in a society with fast information which often is simply rumors dressed in brightly decorated colors, so attractive to an itchy ear. As Moderators and reporters, you owe it to your listeners to fact-check what is brought to you. The rule is to do a minimum of five times of checking in order to confirm or reject its authenticity. Why must you do this? Because objectivity and truth are absolute ground zero for hard work and stamina in reporting. It isn’t for the lazy reporters and moderators. You must put a freeze to your personal feelings, biases, and opinions and those of your guests because they really do not matter. What matters is impartiality and facts. Somehow, one of you, in the management of one if the radios was a little bit honest with me when I called her on hearing these voices. She said, they host Mirundi, vulgar and abusive as he is, because he apparently, is somewhat popular with the audiences. I was taken aback but not entirely surprised that in these stations, there is a deliberate blurring of lines between what is true and factual and what is clearly misleading and termed popular. If a family or an institution is run by what is popular and less by what is principled and true, it risks a very negative harvest. If you are a purveyor of a public good like a radio station, I want you to picture a public water well. In a particular part of our country recently, I was walking by a supposedly protected water well that most villagers use. I instead found people had defecated around it one side while on its northern side, some were happily fetching water for domestic use while others washed motorbikes, vehicles with oil along with clothes. That kind of water well can only set stage for disease in that community. Likewise, a station purveying unchecked information and lies poisons an entire community. Radio Mill Collines in Rwanda in 1994 should be your example when you press these borderlines. You ought to be careful.

The third principle you violated, is the principle of Honesty: When you allow the airing of speech that is intended to sustain a false belief, speech that is disingenuous, deeply insincere, and outrightly deceptive, you as a reporter or the moderator of the programme are seeking to drive a wedge in our society, you seek to separate people even if you might not see the immediate effect, you seek to destroy relationships and to harm a nation in the long run.
In some of these stations where the voices have been running, I have deeply embedded relationships for many years and I have respect for the owners of the stations. I have appeared on these stations before and my voice is known. By you allowing dishonest speech, you undermine these relationships and force court battles and injunctions, the very things I never like to do for the greater good of our unity as a people. Dishonesty is a cancer cell and all it needs is a host. Cancers are parasites that only need hosts to create a symbiotic relationship. This relationship is self-serving for both the host and the visitor. Without a host, there no multiplication of cancer cells. Therefore, if you host a liar, you the moderator, and the station are as good as the liar and under normal circumstances, you should be held accountable for what is said unless you recant it.

Next time, I have an opportunity, I will shed light on why I think some of the liars you host are motivated to do what they are doing against innocent people. For now, I hope you can correct this mistake you made with a public apology and we all move on.

I thank you

Odrek Rwabwogo
Farmer and Entrepreneur & teacher of national collective values