Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni is now a very active member of both Facebook and micro-blogging site twitter, all social media platforms, with Ugandans now able to interact with the commander-in-chief without the need to go through the rigorous bureaucratic steps.
However, this now recognized active particpation of the Uganda leader has come as a result of the commitment of some individuals especially the versatility and enthusiasm of of Sarah Kagingo.
Kagingo (@SarahKagingo), a former guild president at Makerere University, was appointed Special Presidential Assistant On Communications close to two years ago to ensure that what the Commander-in-Chief says is represented in the right context, and in real time, a responsibility she has done justice to.
World leaders, celebrities and institutions alike are increasingly taking to social media platforms in an attempt to make themselves accessible and available to the ordinary person.
After realizing that a very ebullient section of the Ugandan public has been left out, president Yoweri Museveni decided he needed someone to draw him closer to the online community on Facebook and Twitter, and what a choice in Sarah Kagingo.
The online community is one that carries itself with so called ‘elitist attitudes’; they don’t attend public gatherings of political nature that according to them should be graced by the president’s peasant supporters.
In a few months, president Yoweri Museveni’s Facebook page (Yoweri Kaguta Museveni) now boasts of a whooping 128k likes and still counting while his twitter (@KagutaMuseveni) has a staggering 40k followers in just under four months.
The public now doesn’t have to wait to read newspapers to know what the president has been up to but rather follow Kagingo’s timely updates on the country’s number one.
In addition, she has made sure the president’s accounts are verified. Introduced in June 2009, the verified account system provides Twitter readers with a means to distinguish genuine account holders from impostors.
A recent ‘Twiplomacy’ study by Burson-Marsteller ranked the world’s politicians in terms of their performance on social media platform Twitter.
It is an annual global study looking at the use of Twitter by heads of state and government and ministers of foreign affairs.
President Yoweri Museveni was ranked 20th among the most influential world leaders despite the few tweets he has so sent out. US president Barack Obama tops the list.
As of 25 June 2014, the vast majority (83 percent) of the 193 UN member countries had a presence on Twitter. More than two-thirds (68 percent) of all heads of state and heads of government have personal accounts on the social network.
In order to ensure that the public gets to interact with the president, Kagingo has masterminded the creation of the hash tag #AskM7, in which the president has a ‘one-on-one’ online with members of the public.
During this session that happens twice a month, tweeps as tweeter users prefer to refer to themselves are free to ask the president anything they feel needs urgent attention.
The first session was held on Sunday 29 June.
Political observers believe that with the 2016 general elections ‘ruthlessly’ drawing near, this interaction gives the president the edge over those who intend to compete with him.
What Social Media Experts Say Of President Museveni’s Presence And Kagingo’s Contribution
Those who know the importance of social media platforms and how they are defining communication agree that Kagingo has gone a long way in positively changing the president’s image.
Arinaitwe Rugyendo, a man credited for promoting social media use and who encouraged the establishment of the platforms for the president says;
“I have known Sarah since our Makerere days. She’s a very consistent woman. She’s been consistent about the correct side of Museveni and i believe her.
He adds; “She took to social media to exact that. She is trying to make a lukewarm president warm up to the realities of social media. I think her work is finally connecting Museveni to people, through her, ordinary citizens do not need an official clearance to talk to the president and shoot him questions”
Agaba Bills Ronald, an Author contends saying the public partly knows the human side of the number;
“Sarah has effectively broken the walls of the magic mystery of the presidential schedules often capturing the human side of the president” Bills said via @
Renowned Pastor Martin Ssempa who uses @martinssempa says “President Museveni is now more present in social media and we can follow him from Rwenzori to London in spite of the fearsome Presidential Guard Brigade”
“President Museveni’s image is better than before, however the best from Sarah is the real time pictures and press releases, a move away from the media centre that sends them in the evening and without pics.” Collins Hinamundi, a digital and new media consultant says.
Dalton Kaweesa, a journalist says Kagingo has been key in closing the gap between the president and the ‘elite group’ that spends most of its time online.
“She has bridged the gap between Museveni and the noisy and often misinformed elite group prompting delivery of what goes around in State House. Time is key in communication, a shift from old media to new has also helped penetrate the youth” Dalton said.
However, some critics have identified areas where Kagingo can further better the president’s platforms.
Veteran Journalist Angelo Izama says president Museveni’s “Image is keeping with the times and is more accessible to a younger generation” thanks to her. He however adds that the operation is on a small scale and should be institutionalized.
Simon Kasyate, Eskom Uganda’s Corporate Affairs Manager who previously worked at the European Union office in Kampala says “Any leader taking to social media is reading the sands of time correctly. HOWEVER when u get to
#Askm7 coming and the tweets are not coming in on a regular basis or questions going unanswered for months, one wonders if the move is achieving its objectives”
In her own words, Sarah says; “I’d like to be remembered as one who woke Gov’t to the social media and how I communicate president’s activities promptly”