In the past, ‘movements’ that would always bring about change were always associated with mass numbers of people on the streets, marching, sloganeering and chanting words of revolution. This is fast changing. The past couple of months have given birth to a new form of movement here in Uganda – the WhatsApp ‘movement’.
Lately, I have been fascinated at how much organizing and mobilising happens on WhatsApp. Yes, mobilising for change! As I write this, I am on three WhatsApp groups; whose deliverable is to organize three different wedding functions respectively. The four other groups that I am on discuss current issues and once in a while, members on these forums will throw around some interesting ideas that in real sense could actually transform the country. The other two, are really ‘SACCO’ kind, self-help groups; while the other is an old students’ group. All these groups serve a noble purpose – to organize for some kind of change.
Over the last month or so, the WhatsApp ‘movement’ has managed to beam the laser light into the scourge of cancer. It has mobilized Ugandans to help cancer victims – and it has done this very successfully! At a personal level, I have had to change my lifestyle and specifically, my eating habits. Ever since the social media-based cancer awareness campaigns begun, I have embraced eating healthy. Fruit and salad platters make a bulk of my daily meals. I know of colleagues who too have been moved by these WhatsApp-based campaigns.
Because the WhatsApp ‘movement’ has become so strong, we must use it powerfully and responsibly. It is a strong vehicle for positive change – socially, economically or otherwise. Gone are the days when change would be ‘brought’ by a gun mounted Toyota Land Cruiser or Land Rover Santana. Today, change is a function of ‘soft power’ – information sharing, knowledge sharing. Gone are the days when physical strength would count. Today, bringing about positive change is a mental game. Actually, compare it to a game of chess.
In the world of ‘soft power’, the gun mounted trucks, mambas, teargas canisters, pepper spray, are rendered irrelevant. In such a world, intimidation, coercion and militarism become inapt; tact become more apt than might. That is the world we are living in today. These are the modern times of information revolution.
I now would not be surprised if the WhatsApp ‘movement’ is the single largest party in Uganda at the moment – with its membership stretching beyond the twelve or so million number that has been thrown around by one of the political parties. On this, I can comfortably, loudly and publically announce, I am a member of the WhatsApp ‘movement’. Call me a ‘movementist’, on this I am.
Now that the WhatsApp ‘movement’ in Uganda seems to be enlisting membership every single day, So, whoever is out there thinking that a swam of grim looking people will cover the streets and
As the WhatsApp ‘movement’ grows in leaps and bounds, I would like to see tanks and grim-looking corps on the Kampala streets replaced with ‘soft power’ responses from government. In this case, government should be seen to be keeping both the corps and the citizens off the streets by providing concrete answers to the questions that the people raise.
Targeting ‘soft power’ with ‘hard power’ is like treating malaria with paracetamol. It just cannot work!
Besides the nudes and foul language that at times punctuate sensible conversations on WhatsApp, I am increasingly getting convinced that Uganda now has another ‘movement’ that could bring about, not just a mere change of guards, but rather a fundamental positive change, if well harnessed – the WhatsApp ‘movement’.