About June of this year, I received a phone call from a telephone number, +260-958-117-776. It was a male voice with a familiar sounding Kiganda/English accent. However, I couldn’t put a face to it in my mind. The fellow said he was calling from South Africa from a place he called ‘The people’s agency’. The blackmailer said he called to warn me about what he termed as “your ambitions”. He added “we are going to release information unless you can talk to us in a good way......” I have since seen several telephone numbers from this fake blackmail group send messages and redistribute them across social media.
I took this as a redundant annoying (crank) call and told the fellow to go find something better to do with his life. Suddenly in July, I begun to notice simultaneous despicable lies circulating on social media platforms and shared by some of the people we work with. These shameful lies target our business and my person. I asked a lawyer to take up the matter with UCC and file a complaint against the number and the source of the caller.
It serves no purpose to repeat these heinous lies here but just to say that the evil minded purveyors picked information from our website and our own public records submitted annually to regulatory agencies. They then run a ‘twist and pad’ campaign to build a cache they have been spewing out since.
This is to alert all the colleagues we work with in both the public and private sector, and our friends to beware of the following:
1) There is a rising tide of disinformation campaign against those who try to do the right thing both in the private and public arena. Among other things, the people behind this trend steal data records from businesses and individuals, create trolls (planting inflammatory lies online to sow discord, abuse and hatred) and some even malware viruses to compromise people’s accounts online. I suspect the reason they do this isn’t just the search for money but probably because they are scared of what those genuine people stand for in our country. These characters have one name: COWARDS. If they had a genuine point to make, they would do it in the open, they would seek a debate on what matters for both the private and public sectors in our country. In the book of Revelations 21:8, cowards top the list of murderers, liars etc who will burn in the sea of fire for failing to stand in the open for what they believe. If you have an issue, raise it for debate. If you are hiding, you are pretty cheap and unhelpful to the greater good.
2) In a fundamental way, this disinformation campaign raises further questions about our public communication arena as citizens. To defeat this tide of disinformation, should we as citizens and people of Africa collectively demand removal of fake accounts from ungenuine sources distributed by the big networks (Facebook, Twitter, Whatsup etc)? Are we not risking the foundations of trust and confidence in our young society, hurting the businesses that pay taxes and undermining genuine efforts by those who seek out the best in our public sector? Should the governments of Africa not take leadership on this issue at an international level because I see the EU and China have taken a stand against this torrent of fake news. If territorial independence and borders protect a country, why are we shy about digital independence? Disinformation is not innovation or creativity and helps no society to advance in any way. Instead a society fed on lies can never be free. It will be trapped in dogma and superstition and in the end produce quisling leaders. Institutions such as the Uganda communications Commission (UCC) and the sister agencies in Africa must demand digital independence to avoid the pollution of our young people’s thinking given the level of media illiteracy (the inability to check news sources and verify what one is reading) that exists in Africa today.
3) Should we the users of social media not restrain ourselves from circulating and sharing fake information about people; information we do not know the source of yet we attach lame comments such as “have you seen this?” and on we forward to innocent people. I suggest if we stop the careless sharing, in a greater way we will enhance the search for Truth and deny airtime to liars while at the same time strengthening the foundations of our society. We as users have a responsibility to stop the psychological and emotional warfare that threatens our values and moral fabric.
4) Finally, we must disincentivize politics in Uganda . We have made politics life and death as well as the butter and bread of our existence. What we feed eventually belches at us and it smells. Young people who wake up to no job are inducted into this lying underworld to get money. Some of our political leaders and civil servants are daily expanding their belts as businesses struggle to make monthly payroll and taxes. The behavior of some of our leaders, shameful as it is, remains a major attraction to the youth to get into politics as a way of making a living. This significantly undermines the work of People who struggle to teach enterprise as the future of our nation.
Isn’t it time we collectively as an elite take a stand against this runway consumption without production in our Politics? Thanks