On a Sunday evening of March 4 this year, President Yoweri Museveni rolled out social media posts, announcing he was firing one of the most powerful men in his government – Gen. Kale Kayihura.
Kayihura, who had been an Inspector General of Police (IGP) for more than a decade, was to lose the expansive authority he once assumed and a string of other top-notch privileges.
But there was one thing he would not surrender – a Twitter account with the handle, @IGPUganda.
This Twitter account, at the time, had more than 50,000 followers.
In the days that followed, another shockwave hit the internet when Cynthia Nyamai, a Kenyan public relations guru hired by Kayihura to run police social media accounts change the handle of a bot she had created in the names of her president, Uhuru Kenyatta, to @IGPUganda.
Kenyan PR guru Cynthia Nyamai and team were running Office of IGP account and when Kayihura got fired, they changed IGP account into Kale Kayihura's personal account then modified a Uhuru Kenyatta bot account they were running as (@_Ukenyatta) and gave it to the new IGP Ochola. pic.twitter.com/8giFIzzsdN
— ands JEFF (@andsjeff) March 13, 2018
While in power, Kayihura had lots of people he disagreed with but among the rifts that stood out was that he had with (now former) Executive Director (ED) of the Kampala Capital City Authority, Jennifer Musisi.
But when on October 15, Musisi sent her resignation letter to the man who fired her nemesis, she exhibited similar traits as the man whose administrative police she detested, lending credibility to the well-worn phrase, ‘like poles repel’.
Musisi has switched Twitter handles, owning the account (@KCCAED) that had more than 160,000 followers, transferring the one that used to be under her name to @KCAAED.
Why is it crucial to talk about these two events?
In May of 2013, the Cabinet of Uganda directed the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (MoICT) to ensure that every Government Ministry, Department, and Agencies (MDAs) opens a Twitter and Facebook account to improve communication with the Public.
Reason: “The Government of Uganda is committed to the principles of Open Government, which means transparency in process and information participation by citizens in the governing process public collaboration in finding solutions to problems, and participation in the improved well-being of the citizens,” reads a statement on National Information Technology Authority – Uganda (NITA-U) website.
Following the directive, NITA-U unveiled a 39-page document outlining the guidelines the different government agencies, ministries and departments would rely on to implement the project.
On page 13, one of the guidelines spells out that government officials are prohibited from promoting their personal accounts on government platforms.
It reads: “Government MDAs shall ensure that their employees do not list or cross-promote personal accounts on Government platforms unless authorized. Be clear that your views are your own when using your personal account.”
Though somewhere it is indicated that you can do so when permitted, there’s something important to note: people managing these accounts are facilitated by the taxpayers’ money.
For instance, in the case of Kayihura, Nyamai is said to have been earning US$15000 per month (about Shs55 million = 667 million a year, which would pay 1800 police constables per month).
The account which Gen. Kayihura gained control of, at the time of posting this story, had 58081 followers and the last activity on the timeline was a retweet in April.
The new IGP Okoth Ochola has a new account, which has 5661 followers (at the time of posting).
At KCCA, the public relations team handles a number of social media accounts, including those in names of individuals (i.e. @PeterKaujju, the spokesperson; @JenniferMusisi, former ED. That Musisi’s name is still listed shows you how inattentive and slow-moving the team is.)
In both cases — Musisi and Kayihura, two things are clear: their successors have to start afresh, implying that old the information that was shared gets lost on top injecting enormous resources in creating that data.
That being said, is this going to stop with these two individuals or there’s more that’s going to happen before Members of Parliament change the laws to prevent this from reoccurring?.
To begin with, the presidency has promoted the social media accounts in the name of Yoweri Museveni, making them way bigger than the only prominent official accounts run by that office, the State House pages.
If the most powerful man in the country is not setting an example, who will? Surprisingly, Uganda Police which has been through the crisis already did not bother to set up an official account for the IGP.
Apart from the two issues above, social media is a huge hub for parodies and public figures are the major victims. So, if a given government agency put times in establishing an account and it is taken over by a leader at the end of their regime, it comes with a huge setback.
For instance, in the case of Musisi, her handle was verified by Twitter, making it easy for her followers to identify her from parodies. She lost the ‘badge’ after swapping the handles.
Several prominent figures in Uganda, including former security minister Lt. Gen. Henry Tumukunde (retd) and Brig. Kyanda, the Chief of Staff of the Land Forces in the Uganda People’s Defence Force, have been victims of impersonation on social media.
How Ugandans have reacted?
Fred Mwebya, the self-proclaimed Ugandans on Twitter (UoT) president, in a WhatsApp exchange with SautiTech pointed out that the current guidelines set by NITA-U are “weak”, suggesting:
“Government needs to ensure that all social media platforms that belong to ministries and authorities are government property and all public information stored on them is archived and considered public property. Usage of government platforms for personal reasons should be criminal and considered a case of data mismanagement.”
Our Government institutions have continued to make the same mistakes all the time where official office social media pages are taken by the individuals leaving offices. It happened to Police and now to @KCCAUG. This is a shame and we should stop it immediately.
— King Of East Africa 🇰🇪🇺🇬🇹🇿🇷🇼 (@Ugaman01) December 15, 2018
— Micheal Lubowa (@lubowami) December 15, 2018
Changing the @KCCAED Twitter Account to @JenniferMusisi is criminal and I intend to move this point to @Parliament_Ug to sensitize institutions that public official social media accounts are not personal property.
Ndugu @PeterKaujju and the entire @KCCAUG team, this is wrong! pic.twitter.com/69N9Phv9Wf
— King Of East Africa 🇰🇪🇺🇬🇹🇿🇷🇼 (@Ugaman01) December 15, 2018
You are welcome to go to parliament.. Though I think you should have gone to court if you are aggrieved so much..
— Ssempa = Gabriel Baaba Gwanga'Mujje (@martinssempa) December 15, 2018
That was a personal account. The error was in ignoring advice to have the handle changed early on, just before the verification.
— Joseph Owino (@JosephOwino) December 15, 2018