Op-Ed
Cartoon by Gado.

Akon In Uganda, the Laundering of a Dictatorship

Opinion: By lending his voice to the horrid spectacle underway in Uganda, Akon is in fact endorsing the Museveni regime.

Autocrats across the world have often used artists to sanitize their regime's brutality. One method that has been increasingly employed has been the recruitment of high-profile artists—mainly Western music stars—to work as essential spokespersons for a country's tourism ministry. These artists then work alongside government officials—oftentimes propaganda artists in their own right—to sell a whitewashed image of the country, one that is almost always at odds with realities on the ground.

While the introduction of global celebrities into the authoritarian playbook of reputation laundering is a more recent phenomenon, placing a country's tourism industry front-and-center has long been a go-to tactic to soften a dictatorship's harsh image. The former long-ruling dictator of Zimbabwe, for example, Robert Mugabe, was a trailblazer in this regard. In 2012, he convinced the United Nations World Tourism Organization to appoint him as their international envoy, despite his government's categorically abysmal human rights record.

Years later, Rwanda's strongman, Paul Kagame, signed a multi-million-dollar deal with Arsenal, the popular English football club. For the 2019/2020 season, players sported jerseys with "Visit Rwanda" prominently displayed on their chests and sleeves, all while the country's political opposition, media, and human rights community faced continual decimation through arbitrary detentions, disappearances, extrajudicial executions and alleged state-sanctioned murders.

Keep reading... Show less
Op-Ed
Photo by BADRU KATUMBA/AFP via Getty Images.

Opinion: The MTV MAMAs Shouldn't Be Happening in Uganda

"How can MTV and Viacom executives, who claim to be supportive of Black Lives Matter, now look the other way when those lives are African?"

Dr. Vincent Magombe is a Ugandan journalist, broadcaster and university lecturer.

Last week, MTV officially announced that its 2021 Africa Music Awards, the MAMAs, would be held in Uganda on February 20. The event, which has been planned in coordination with Uganda's tourism ministry, is being advertised alongside the hashtag #VisitUganda. If Uganda were free, it would be welcome news. But just as the MTV announcement was made, Uganda's most popular politician, Hon Robert Kyagulanyi, better known as Bobi Wine, was under house arrest, having dared to challenge Uganda's long-ruling dictator, Yoweri Museveni, in a recently concluded presidential election.

Most Ugandans believe that Bobi Wine was the clear winner of those elections, and that Museveni is once again forcefully imposing himself on Ugandans after 35 years in power. If allowed to stand, this will be Museveni's sixth consecutive term in office. There is growing evidence that a large number of Ugandans may be prepared, this time round, to resist Museveni assumption of power, in spite of the obvious dangers posed to them by Museveni's ruthless military forces, in particular the so-called Special Forces Command which takes its orders directly from Museveni's son Muhoozi Kaneirugaba.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

Kuti Family, Wole Soyinka, Chris Martin, Bono & More Sign Petition For Fair Elections In Uganda

The petition calls for "the African Union, US, UK, EU and all people of conscience to condemn in the strongest possible terms the ongoing assault on Uganda's opposition and commit to support a safe free and fair election for all Ugandan citizens."

Violence Escalates following Ugandan Students' ‘Fees Must Fall’ Protest

Eleven students have been hospitalized following military raids, more arrests and increased conflict.

popular.

Ugandans Are Using Sharp Humor to Criticize Their Country's Social Media Tax

The controversial social media tax has gone into effect in Uganda and citizens are using humor—and social media itself—to challenge it.