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Monday, 28 July 2014 04:26 By Andrew M. Mwenda
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How the internet has led to the growth of radicalism and the erosion of restraints associated with democracy

The growth of social media has created an important avenue for people to express themselves to audiences freely without the restraining hand of the governance structures of traditional media – newspapers, television and radio. These governance structures involve a hierarchy of power through which information is collected, processed (verified and assessed) and finally published and broadcast.

Usually, at the top sits the executive editor and below him/her are editors of all ranks down to the reporter in a hierarchy governed by a set of editorial rules and ethics that ensure every story meets a particular standard. This governance process allows a rigorous sieving of news to establish truth, accuracy, fairness, balance, integrity, context etc.  But as Karl Popper said decades ago, human society is inherently imperfect and a perfect society is impossible to create. So we have to content ourselves with an imperfect society.  So all too often, the governance structure of traditional media has failed us – untrue stories are published or broadcast, unfair and unbalanced attacks are made on individuals and organisations.

 
Sunday, 20 July 2014 21:21 By Andrew M. Mwenda
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Although bar gossip and street rumours can be true, here is why journalists should always look for proof

Yusuf Serunkuma is a PhD candidate at Makerere University’s Institute of Social Research. In that capacity he also teaches students. He regularly writes commentaries in newspapers and features on radio and television discussions on major national issues. He is loved, admired and respected by his family, friends, colleagues and the wider Ugandan newspaper-reading public. Quite often international organisations seek his advice on public policy by hiring him as a consultant.

Haggai Matsiko is a 25-years old reporter with The Independent, a newspaper that is read by Uganda’s elite and aspirational classes, ambassadors, business leaders and the academia. While in a bar with friends, the discussion (kaboozi) comes down to Serunkuma. Joseph Ekomoloit, a friend of Matsiko, claims that Serunkuma is a very unethical lecturer who gives female students high marks in exchange for sex. Ekomoloit claims he has spoken to many students at Makerere who have told him this story.

 
Sunday, 13 July 2014 20:06 By Andrew M. Mwenda By Andrew M. Mwenda
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How Rwanda’s growth since 1994 measures against other economies and what explains the figures

Rwanda seems to be a country of extremes. Its turnaround since the genocide has been as astounding as the tragedy itself. The scale and speed of the Rwanda genocide was unprecedented. Rwanda’s rapid state and economic reconstruction has been equally unprecedented. One measure for success of a country is the growth of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Because this is based on statistical evidence rather than on opinion, it is a more preferred way to assess the performance of any government.

For example, statistical evidence shows that very few countries in the history of humankind have sustained economic growth rates above 7% on average for 25 years. These include South Korea, China, Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan, Singapore, Mauritius and Botswana. Many countries have had short sprints at growth but have not been able to sustain it over a long period.

 
Sunday, 06 July 2014 14:04 By Andrew M. Mwenda
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East Africa has been billed as the next manufacturing hub for global markets. Will our politics allow it?

The South Korean ambassador to Uganda, Park Jong Dae, recently referred me to an article by George Friedman in the online journal, Geopolitical Weekly titled The PC16: Identifying China’s Successors. I became an admirer of Friedman’s work after reading his intellectually stimulating book, TheNext 100 Years; A Forecast for the 21st Century. He has an interesting way of looking at future global trends.

China has enjoyed fast economic growth averaging 10% per annum for over 35 years by making itself the hub for the manufacture of cheap products for global markets based on low wages. However, Friedman believes that China’s growth has reached its zenith and henceforth will be declining. This is because labour costs have started rising in China, thus reducing the competitiveness of her manufactured exports. China’s future growth will come from changing the structure of its economy into high-wage high-value goods hence leaving poorer countries to export cheap manufactures.

 
Sunday, 29 June 2014 22:09 By Andrew M. Mwenda
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The changing face of the Ugandan army and what it says about Museveni’s plans for the future

Imade my career in the late 1990s and early 2000s in large part by investigating and reporting on corruption and incompetence in the Uganda Peoples’ Defense Forces (UPDF). The National Resistance Movement (NRM) came to power criticising previous governments for presiding over what it called “parasitic” armies i.e. the army depending on the taxpayer for its budget and on many occasions (under Idi Amin and Milton Obote II) looting from citizens.

The NRM promised to build a productive army. So beginning in 1987, the UPDF (then National Resistance Army) established the National Enterprises Corporation (NEC) as the productive arm of the army. NEC owned a weapons manufacturing plant, ranches, a mattress production company, a fumigation business, a pharmaceutical plant, established a construction unit and much more.

 
Sunday, 22 June 2014 21:34 By Andrew M. Mwenda
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How Lincoln made history on slavery and Museveni succumbed to the pressures for social conservatism

I have been forced by friends and fans to reply to Joseph Bossa’s otherwise good defence of former U.S. president Abraham Lincoln (The Independent May 02-08 and Daily Monitor May 11). In that article, Bossa makes two core points about the former US president: first that Lincoln was not a racist; and second that he was outraged by slavery and was always opposed to it. Let me allow Lincoln to speak for himself.

In a speech during campaigns for Senate to the congressional district of Charleston, Illinois, in 1858, Lincoln had this to say: “I am not now, nor ever have been in favour of bringing about in any way the social or political equality of the white and black races. I am not now nor ever have been in favour of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor of intermarriages with white people. There is a physical difference between the white and the black races which will forever forbid the two races living together on social or political equality. There must be a position of superior and inferior, and I am in favour of assigning the superior position to the white man.”

 
Sunday, 15 June 2014 21:13 By Andrew M. Mwenda
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How the arguments advanced to explain nations that have rapidly transformed are the same for the nations that failed

What made South Korea (and Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia) develop so rapidly that was absent in sub-Sahara Africa and South Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Burma and Nepal)?

I argued last week that while we have an idea about the factors that produce rapid social and economic transformation, we do not know how these factors interact with one another to bring this about. This is because even the worst development disasters have similar factors as the success stories.

 
Sunday, 08 June 2014 21:23 By Andrew M. Mwenda
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The problem is that economists, journalists, politicians, analysts, and everyone else think they know

I am writing this article from Seoul, the capital of South Korea. Sitting on the reading table in my suite in my hotel, I can see through the window a forest of skyscrapers stretching beyond what my eyes can see. When I walk to the glass elevator, on the opposite side of the hotel, and roll down from the 23rd floor to the lobby, I can see another forest of skyscrapers stretching for miles on end. East, west, north and south of where I am you see this endless stretch of high-rise buildings in the thousands. Down on the eight-lane streets, you see thousands of cars speeding by, a vast number of which are Kia, Daewoo and Hyundai i.e. made in South Korea.

 
Saturday, 31 May 2014 08:57 By Andrew M. Mwenda
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What the new executive editor at Daily Monitor is doing and what it means for our profession

The new Executive Editor at Daily Monitor, Malcolm Gibson, has begun a very important conversation about journalism at that newspaper which may be important for our industry generally. He wrote accusing journalists at Daily Monitor of relying on street rumors and idle gossip to shape their opinions about what is happening in the country. This has generated a lot of debate at Monitor and on social media. Rather than reflect on the issues he has raised, some journalists launched stinging criticisms of his assertions.

Gibson is an American with limited understanding of the intellectual culture of Uganda even though he has good instincts about it. I suspect that his cultural distance is both an asset and a handicap. It is an asset because it allows him to see our weaknesses without rationalising them as part of our overall psychology. It is a handicap because to change people, you need to understand their ways of understanding reality. Yet his criticism may turn the Daily Monitor newsroom it a zone of low intensity resistance. It will be unfortunate if his genuine efforts falter at the altar of bad approach.

 

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