As regional integration goes into full throttle and the East African Community (EAC) begins to look more of a reality than a far fetched dream, one begins to wonder what this will entail as far as media coverage is concerned.
One would assume that media houses in the region would put more emphasis on regional issues and give as much coverage as possible. One cannot doubt the amount of coverage Common Market negotiations, Customs Union single tariff talks have gotten. I would say job well done, so to speak, to you, the 4th Estate.
One thing though I have observed as a media practitioner, the press within the EAC should seriously consider putting cross-border values in mind and think twice before publishing certain things, or else we risk seeing all these achievements regional integration has registered in the past crumbling to pieces.
The media has the power to make or break things, just like that and in this let’s face the truth. Last week, boys in The Observer embarked on an aggressive investigative campaign to analyse Rwanda’s decision to award President Yoweri Museveni with a medal for his role in the liberation struggle, needless to say, the publications that followed were about to provoke a diplomatic row between the sister countries.
One wonders whether Ssemujju Nganda would have rejoiced had the two countries decided to break ties. Some of us live ‘cross-border’ lives and we know what a jovial relationship between Rwanda and Uganda means.
Another reason I would cite that really calls for regional media to respect cross-border values is the cartoon which appeared in the latest issue of The East African.
The cartoon shows President Paul Kagame in an office, showing a journalist a pile of skulls and human bones in the corner saying “I keep this so that folks like you can come and see”.
I find this cartoon very offensive not only to the person of the President but also to a country that is just recovering and healing from extreme pain caused by the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The sadistic tone of statement apparently from the President and the satirical laugh on his face, as suggested by the cartoonist, does not only undermine the impact of the genocide but it also mocks the whole idea of keeping memorial sites to remind the whole world what really happened. Needless to mention, the cartoon can be classified as Genocide negation and revisionism.
It is very distasteful and it makes one wonder how even the editorial team of The East African could let such a cartoon pass.
The cartoon suggests that President Kagame keeps human skulls and bones in his ‘office’ as souvenirs to show his visitors that the Genocide took place in Rwanda.
Who doesn’t know that it happened? I find the whole idea of the cartoon insulting to the person of the president and I think The East African owes him an apology and also to the millions of Rwandans hurt by the nature of the cartoon.
Why kill the Hippos?
Recently I was in Parliament where the Minister of Trade and Industry, Monique Nsanzabaganwa was presenting a report regarding the compensation of people who had been victims of wild animals from the National Parks.
In her report, the Minister said that the government is seeking a long-term solution and has already embarked on strategies to prevent these marauding beasts from attacking, injuring and trampling people to death.
Among other things, she said the Ministry and the tourism office were working with the army to kill some hippos which escape from the parks and about 7 of them had been killed already. The hippos, said to be found in valley dams or in people’s farms, are shot on sight.
Personally I think this is not a good idea and not a long-term solution, unless the long-term solution is to finish all the hippos. But ideally, that’s not the best option.
The solution would be tranquilizing them and ferrying them back to within the confines of the park probably until the time when the electric fence is completed. Some countries in Europe and Asia where such animals found in tropical Africa cannot be found could actually pay millions to have them in their zoos.
It’s ironical that the Rwanda Development Board/Tourism and Conservation office, supposed to safeguard wildlife and promote tourism is collaborating in this act of killing the giant animals. Much as we acknowledge the menace they cause, killing them is not the best alternative.