A recent incident at Buddo Secondary School in Uganda involving a damaged suitcase and a government vehicle has brought the role of social media in holding those in authority accountable to the forefront. The driver of the vehicle, assigned to the state minister for Bunyoro Affairs, Jennifer Namuyangu, was accused of damaging a student’s suitcase beyond repair. The incident went viral on social media with many calling for action and compensation from the minister. The permanent secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) issued a statement calling the incident unfortunate and directed the driver to report to the acting director of traffic police for possible disciplinary action.
The utilization of social media as a means of expressing grievances and demanding accountability from those in authority is growing in popularity in Uganda, where over three million people regularly use these platforms. Social media has enabled heightened public scrutiny and pressure on various issues, resulting in the formation of public opinion and holding those responsible accountable. For instance, recently social media played a key role in exposing alleged corruption at Entebbe International Airport and bringing attention to a controversial issue in a children’s park.
Dr. Wairagala Wakabi, the executive director of the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA), believes that the rise of social media as a platform for public discourse is a positive development as it provides the public with a space to raise their issues and reach decision-makers in a timely manner. However, he also recognizes the downside of using social media as a tool for holding duty bearers accountable, such as spreading false information and lack of digital literacy. Despite this, he believes that the value of social media as a medium for public engagement and holding leaders accountable overrides the few negatives.
The incident at Buddo Secondary School has highlighted the growing role of social media in holding those in authority accountable in Uganda. While there may be some drawbacks, the positive impact of social media in shaping public opinion and providing a means for citizens to reach decision-makers cannot be ignored like Buddo Secondary School incident.