Yesterday I attended the opening of the Forum on Media and Economic Development in a Globalised World, organized by the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Government of Rwanda, and I must say, I was challenged by one of the speakers, Prof Charles Okigba.
As a rule I hate attending conferences because they rarely actually effect any change and all they end up being is a glorified talking shop, where the speakers ‘speak’ just to hear the cadence of their own voices. But Prof. Okigba was a revelation, at least to me.
Prof. Okigba, a don in North Dakota State University and a communication specialist, presented a paper on ‘Communication for development- Adaptation in a globalised world’.
While he talked about many things, what I took away from his presentation was that we had to change the dominant paradigm vis-à-vis communication if we are to effectively manage communication as a tool for development. In a nutshell he said, and I certainly hope that the good professor finds a way to correct me if I’m wrong, the ‘classical’ methods of communication, which we swallowed hook, line and sinker from the West, have not brought us the development that we expected.
Therefore, we need, as Africans, to find our own methodologies in communication to get our messages across to our populaces.
I find this argument extremely relevant as a Rwandan because, for too long, OUR solutions for OUR problems have been misconstrued and deemed ‘unworkable and uncivilised’.
One of the issues that Rwanda, as a nation, has been facing is the misconception that the government is a ‘press predator’. The only reason that the government is being called that is because the ‘communication paradigm’ is western in value and doesn’t acknowledge the realities of the Rwandan situation.
If we change the dominant paradigm and base the workings of the press on the needs of the people, then we would be able to change the conversation from ‘predator of the press’ to ‘protector of the people’. For example, one of the pillars of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi was the hate media that was led by Kangura.
Kangura enjoyed ‘freedom of the press’ but ignored wholeheartedly the ‘responsibility of the press’. Since the dark days, the local media has made baby steps on the road to redemption, but for someone to say that the Rwandan media is ready to be unleashed in all its glory is foolhardy.
The challenges that Rwanda is facing are solved with local solutions. The situation in the media isn’t any different.
On a totally different note, I was shocked to find myself a target in the hate campaign my government is facing. I’m simply a writer but if you read the article ‘Seven signs that signal the decline and fall of Paul Kagame’s regime’ written by Dr. Theogene Rudasingwa, you’d think that I am a crack trooper in some kind of fascist army.
After calling me ‘young mind’ (which is true) he continues writing “every evil regime has its henchmen and sycophants”. It amazes me that this kind of reasoning is employed by someone who went to school.
Just because I believe in something doesn’t make me a henchman or a sycophant; it simply means that I have taken a stand and I have principles. I don’t think that my government is perfect.
No government is. Because I believe that the men and women are working as hard as they can to give me and my family the best future they can, I support them. I’m inherently selfish.
If a government consisting of my father, uncle and grandmother didn’t give me what I need, I’d not support them. So, when you call me a ‘young mind’ (like your more intelligent than I am simply because you are older) that is ‘sycophantic’ I feel insulted.
This ‘young mind’ see’s through you. I pray you give me something more to chew on intellectually one of these days, but until then I’m not convinced. I went to school you know.