Upholding National Pride: The Responsibility of Online Citizenship

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The wisdom in this John F. Kennedy quote that, “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country” is of great relevance to us as Ugandan citizens in this era of fast-moving information and news.

There was an unfortunate incident in Queen Elizabeth National Park where two foreign tourists and a Ugandan tourist guide were waylaid and gruesomely murdered by suspected ADF rebel group elements. The humanity in all of us leads us to condemn such heinous acts and empathise with grieving families for the loss of their loved ones. No human being should die in such a manner, and equally so, no one deserves to lose their loved ones in such a barbaric death.

That said, I would imagine that any patriotic Ugandan would so easily see through the schemes of these terrorists and enemies of our country as they carry out these atrocities. Their desire is not only to destroy our livelihoods but also to stain the identity of Uganda as a peace-loving nation. The goal of these terrorists is not to remove bad governance, as they claim, but rather to make the country ungovernable and portray it as a fallen state to the rest of the world. What does the quest of good governance have to do with killing innocent civilians, if I may ask them? More so, how does the blatant murder of tourists who have come to behold the beauty of Uganda have to do with fostering their agenda? They can claim good intentions to the rest of the world, but their actions only serve to expose their hidden agenda.

Adding insult to the pain of the recent unfortunate incidents is the response of some of our fellow Ugandan citizens. Within a minute, graphic images of the dead bodies and the burned vehicle flooded social media. And this seems to be the norm for a good majority of Uganda’s social media community, when it comes to negative information about Uganda.

The new trend of news sharing has turned into hastily sharing negative incidents as soon as we receive them. I am not saying this is only happening in Uganda; most of the breaking news worldwide is negative news shared in real-time.

The recent attacks on Israel is a very good example. This doesn’t change the reality that bombarding online platforms with negative news about a country has detrimental effects, not only on the country’s image but also on its economic and social well-being.

The repercussions of such impulsive sharing are far-reaching, extending beyond the limits of our borders. The murders in Queen Elizabeth National Park are unfortunate. However, they don’t represent the prevailing security situation in the country.

The rest of the country is safe and well protected, contrary to the impression of an insecure country that the negative news has portrayed. Tourism stakeholders emphasize the damaging impact of spreading unverified and inappropriate information, citing the subsequent reluctance of potential tourists to visit the country.

The resultant cancellations and postponements, driven by concerns over safety, pose a significant threat to the stability of the nation’s tourism sector.

It is imperative to exercise restraint and thoughtfulness when engaging with online content, particularly when it concerns the nation. It is crucial for us as Ugandans to learn from neighbouring countries like Rwanda, which have proficiently managed their global image, thereby promoting a positive narrative about their nation. Rather than spreading a culture of alarmism and negativity, we must exercise discernment and caution.

While constructive criticism and expression of grievances are integral to a healthy democracy, it is equally crucial to consider the manner in which we communicate our dissent. A harmonious and united effort is essential to protect and uphold Uganda’s image in the international arena. We must recognise that our actions, especially on social media, have the potential to either elevate or tarnish the reputation of our country.

In this digital age, where information travels at an unprecedented pace, it is incumbent upon us to verify the credibility of our sources before disseminating any content.

Blindly sharing material without due diligence reflects poorly on our judgement and contributes to the erosion of our national integrity. This does not imply turning a blind eye to the challenges around us, but rather advocating for a balanced representation that highlights our collective resilience and progress.

It is time to embrace a more positive approach to our online presence. Despite the challenges we are facing as a country, a lot more good is happening that we should share with the rest of the world.

Let us be the ambassadors of Uganda’s rich culture, stunning landscapes, and hospitable people. Let us exercise restraint, discernment, and an unwavering sense of national pride as we navigate the complex digital landscape. We should always be asking ourselves, What can I do for my country?

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