Information is the most efficient wide-scale manipulation technique. Rewriting history, news censorship, disinformation, reality forgery are just a few of the procedures used by the ones who are in charge of information control.
The main support through which these influence strategies are put into effect is mass-media. If in the totalitarian systems, information means were controlled from the Headquarters, in democratic countries mass-media manipulation implies extremely complicated and subtle strategy elaboration, but with an extraordinary public opinion influencing force. And this because people got used to believing in the equity of journalists.
Yohanan Ramati, CEO of Jerusalem Institute for Western Deffence has accepted to offer the April 1994 issue of “Mainstream”, a New York publication, staggering information regarding the way nations and ethnic groups are being perceived. The image of these nations and ethnic group is being built, in the collective mentality, having invaluable political and historical consequences.
In Ramati’s opinion, the international display of the Civil War in Yugoslavia only showed the prodigious losses and sufferings of all the parts involved in the conflict, but with significant differences. Thus, the sufferings of the Moslems were usually displayed with the most amount of details, while the Croatians were barely mentioned and the Serbs weren’t mentioned at all.
Ramadi also noticed that in the Western-Islamic mass-media, just like in Israel, there was a strong tendency of “hatred injection” through propagandistic manipulation of the media. Usually the news showed the Moslem neighborhoods in Sarajevo, only showing Moslem people hurt, but never Serbs. This selectivity allowed the authorities to manipulate the facts in their advantage, leaving the unbeneficial facts ignored. The obvious question was, of course, who was supporting financially and who was conducting from the shadows the manipulation of international media and public opinion, therefore influencing the USA, the UK and other Western countries to support creating a second Moslem state in The Balkans.
The well orchestrated campaign of the Serb’s “demonisation” should warn all the countries about the outcomes of these kinds of manipulations, that can easily become life and death matters. In Y. Ramati’s opinion, the exclusive sanctions applied only to the Serb people are a disgrace for mankind. Especially since the Orthodox Serbs were the majority in Bosnia before being decimated by the fascist Croatian police and the Bosnian Moslems, who supported Hitler in the Second World War.
Fighting to disembarrass themselves of forceful imposition of Islamic fundamentalism in a country that once belonged to them and then was taken away by a handful of strangers, is a very natural reaction that any nation would have. And continuing the fight despite the penalties imposed by a cynical “international community”, dominated by its financial interests and not by objectiveness is a sign of honor.
There was no penalty applied when Russia interfered to overthrow the president of Georgia and helped replacing him with marionettes, after a bloodthirsty war. The same treatment applied to Syria when interfering in Lebanon, taking part in the destruction of Christian structures and replacing them with Islamic-Fundamentalist ones. Egypt is also a good example. After invading and annexing a part of Sudan (which was an unknown fact by the public opinion because the mass-media ignored not only the invasion, but also the refusal of the United Nations to debate it) there were no economic penalties applied.
On the other hand, the “international community” becomes suddenly very though when certain interests regarding oil exploitation are in stake. The best examples are the situations in Middle-Eastern countries, the best known one being the war in Irak.
To emphasize these ideas, Ramadi offers the example of “Ruder & Finn Global Political Affairs”. The company’s objective is a rather unusual one, at least for the regular public: manipulation of the display of international conflicts and the perception of nations and ethnic groups through mass-media manipulation, depending on the client’s interests. Meaning the Government or the ones who pay fees for this kind of services. In fewer words, “Ruder & Finn” is in charge of “intoxicating”, by request, the global public opinion.
By manipulating the international public opinion, the display of certain conflicts and nations becomes dependant on oil and financial interests. All that “Ruder & Finn” does is offering its services. This company, as well as other companies with the same profile, commercializes the international image of certain states. It is a new kind of commerce – a very expensive one. And their mission statement is, as noticed: “We are not paid to be moral!”
Uganda is located in East Central Africa. It is bordered by Kenya in the East and the Democratic Republic of Congo in the west. It shares a northern border with South Sudan and a southern one with Rwanda and Tanzania. It does not share the fresh water problems many African countries share due to the fact of its many lakes and rivers. Due to its terrain it does not offer a rich arable land, only about 9% of the land being occupied by permanent crops out of the total of 21.5%. It has a tropical climate which is generally rainy, except for the two dry seasons: from December to February and from June to August.
English is the main language, being taught in schools and used in courts of law, although Ganda or Luganda is prefered for native language publications.
It is governed by Yoweri Museveni as a republic and uses a mixed legal system of English common law and customary law.
Uganda’s first problems appeared when Britain marked its borders and grouped up several ethnic groups with different political systems and cultures ,the Baganda, Banyakole, Basoga, Bakiga, Iteso, Acholi, Basigu, Lugbara, all with an evenly distributed proportion, in total representing 68% out of its 35 million people. This cultural diversity prevented the establishment of a working political community after they achieved their independence in 1962. Two Dictatorships killed about 400.000 Ugandans in about 15 years. Things started to look better under the leadership of Yoweri Museveni started in 1986. Museveni brought a relative stability and an economic growth to Uganda. The first multiparty elections of February 2006 have kept Museveni at the rule.
The situation in Uganda has received a growing international scrutiny over the past year through the “Kony 2012” project started by Jason Russell, the co-founder of the NGO Invisible Children. With that more and more people found out about Ugandas fight in the north with the Lord’s Resistance Army of children, led by Joseph Museveni for the last 3 decades, an army backed up by Sudan’s government.
Things would seem to take a good turn with the discovery of oil, but that apparently started more problems than it solved.
Uganda strikes oil
A country slightly bigger than Romania, Uganda’s exports consist mostly of coffee and fish. The country dreams of industrialization, while 40% of its population survives on less then 1,25$ a day. Their dream seemed within grasping distance with the discovery of oil deposits in Lake Albert Rift Basin, near Lake Victoria, just a couple of years ago. In 2006 Uganda’s government signed a production agreement with a London-based oil company called Tullow. Uganda expects to make an yearly revenue of around $2 billion which would lift Uganda to the rank of a middle-income country, a rank which very few sub-Saharan African countries have. Beside that a refinery will be built along with work on infrastructure making available new work opportunities to the population.
With all that, oil may prove to be a poison rather than a cure for poverty. International experts consider Uganda to be among the most corrupt countries in the world. Several government officials, among which the countries’ prime minister, have been accused of million dollar bribes from the oil companies even before production had even begun.
These series of scandals delay the much anticipated starting date of the oil production. In mid October Uganda’s Parliament voted in an emergency session to freeze all oil contracts and commence the investigation of the country’s prime, internal and foreign ministers as they were thought to be the target of the British Tullow oil company’s bribes. All 3 officials were asked to step down. Tullow Oil denied the allegations, calling them “outrageous” in a letter addressed to the Parliament while the officials under scrutiny also denied the bribes. Despite that, Sam Kutesa, Uganda’s prime minister, who was also in the authorities eyes for being part of another scandal regarding the use of public money to renovate a private hotel, along with two other officials involved in the hotel affair resigned.
Uganda is estimated to have more then 2.5 million barrels of oil reserves, however the government’s lips were generally shut regarding the production-sharing agreements the country made with the oil companies, the president saying that “this is like a war”, and that one does not “discuss his war plans in public”. Despite President Yoweri Museveni’s 26 year of governing the country, his popularity is decreasing, and rumor seems to point out that the bribery allegations are a part of some politicians campaign to see who will lead next.
Uganda’s fate seems to be more and more like that of Angola, Gabon and Nigeria where oil “spilled” over the corruption-filled government only intensified the class disparities.
To add to the current problems, the government’s purchase of $740 million worth of fighter jets from Russia was severely criticized as being costly status symbols rather than useful weaponry. The government responded promising to repay everything back with their future oil revenues, as the money was necessary to keep the oil production up due to the proximity to Congo.These critics are believed to only be interested in creating distrust in president Museveni, as conflicts with Congo have already started.
To avoid conflicts in Congo construction was started on a pipeline through Kenya to the port of Mombasa.
Beside the conflicts between the Ugandan Peoples’ Defense Forces and the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo the deposits are located near and within wildlife protection areas and environmentally sensitive regions. The poor management will probably lead to fights in the area due to the environmental degradation.
The newfound oil reserves are an economic boost not only to Uganda but to Kenya’s Kisumu city. Kisumu airport is currently being upgraded to international standars, and the city is getting ready to provide services for the passengers that will soon be traveling through the area.
One of Uganda’s main problems is the fact that investors come and go, and this only leads in millions of dollars being “washed away” in kickbacks and secret deals. According to diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks, Tullow Oil accused the Italian company ENI of trying to bribe Ugandan politicians, including the president and the prime minister with more than $200 million to win over the rights held by Tullow’s onetime partner, Heritage Oil in an report sent to the American embassy.
Taking all that into account critics believe the bribery allegations to be only the means to make Museveni and all close to him lose grasp on the country. With all the accusations Museveni said during a news conference :”I have never let Uganda down. Uganda will not lose, and cannot lose under my leadership.”
Uganda’s problems aren’t all internal. Even though America is already involved into solving the bribery scandals, the US stated that its interest in the affairs is not a strategy to get a hold of the oil. The US government announced it will deploy troops to help Uganda fight off the rebels of the “Lord’s Resistance Army” who are at the moment in the Central African Republic. This action is strongly criticized, as America only just started helping in the war against Kony shortly after the discovery of the oil, while the LRA had been a threat for a long time already.
The Kony Campaign
Kony 2012 is a film created by Invisible Children, a 30 minute documentary done with the help of film maker Jason Russell in an attempt to draw attention to Joseph Kony and increase United States involvement in the issue. The film’s main purpose is to “promote the charity’s ‘Stop Kony’ movement to make Ugandan war criminal Joseph Kony internationally known in order to arrest him and bring him to justice for the atrocities committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army(LRA).”
The film has spread virally and as of 19 March 2012, the film had over 83 million views on video-sharing website YouTube, and over 16.6 million views on Vimeo with other viewing emanating from a central “Kony2012” website operated by Invisible Children.However due to overwhelming exposure the Kony 2012 website crashed shortly after gaining widespread popularity. Like many other campaigns before it, Kony 2012 was promoted and endorsed by a number of celebrities that expressed their own concerns and support regarding the purpose of the campaign. Among them we can mention: George Clooney, Angelina Jolie, Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Nicki Minaj , Bill Gates and Kim Kardashian. On April 20, 2012, supporters of the campaign have been urged to place posters in their own hometowns that can be acquired from Invisible Children’s online shop in an attempt to increase awareness regarding the problem among the general population. Action kits have also been created that include campaign buttons, posters, bracelets, and stickers.
In order for Kony to be successful and achieve its goals, the campaign turned its attention towards obtaining the support of a select group of influential individuals that can easily give the campaign more credibility. Apart from the “celebrity culture makers” listed above, the campaign also received recognition and support from 12 “policy makers” who hold enough political power to keep US Government officials in Africa. This list includes former U.S. president George W. Bush, the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, as well as U.S. senator John Kerry.
It goes without saying that some people had a skeptical if not outright aggressive attitude upon seeing the implications of Kony 2012, many dismissing it on the spot as nothing more than a cheap media manipulation trick. How is it that suddenly this issue is brought up and given high priority and widespread media coverage after almost an entire decade during which the LRA under the leadership of Joseph Kony committed atrocities that went almost completely unnoticed in the civilized world? And adding to this, the U.S. suddenly decided to deploy 100 combat troops in Uganda in order to “maintain peace” right after a 1.5 billion barrel oil reserve was discovered in the same country. Author and human rights advocate, Adam Branch asks, ‘How are we, as US citizens, allowing our government to militarize Africa in the name of the “War on Terror” and its effort to secure oil resources?
The Kony project received much feedback and support as well as criticism all over the internet, people posting videos on youtube or discussing on their blogs the implications of such a documentary and how it may affect Uganda in the near future. Bernard Keane, a highly regarded blogger posted an article in a rather cynical and straightforward manner, saying the following:
“The Kony video is an amalgam of every manipulative social media cliché and cyber-utopian stereotype: the white paternalism, the Hollywood stars, the tightly edited graphics and edgy images (graffiti! face masks!), the earnest narration, the message that social media can change the world, the solipsism that nothing is quite real until white middle-class Westerners know about it, all in the name of justifying unilateral US intervention in Uganda.” He then ends up his idea with a rather subtle hint towards the true intentions of this “liberation crusade”, intentions that are not all that subtle upon closer inspection. “Oh, which has a lot of oil by the way, but we won’t indulge some of the more lurid conspiracy theories circulating online”.
Surprisingly enough, growing criticism came even from Uganda. Critics argued that Kony and his LRA left northern Uganda 6 years ago, and are now conducting their operations in the jungles of neighboring countries. Rosebell Kagumire, a Ugandan journalist even declared that “This paints a picture of Uganda six or seven years ago, that is totally not how it is today. It’s highly irresponsible”.
“Irresponsible” is probably the best word that can describe the situation because in an ironic twist of fate Kony 2012 might prove to actually be more harmful than helpful to Uganda from an economical as well as political point of view. Due to the support and attention received by the campaign, Kony might decide to retaliate once again in Uganda, a decision that would throw the country in turmoil and social chaos once again after a 6 year period of “peace”.
Dr Beatrice Mpora, director of the community health organization Kairos commented: “What that video says is totally wrong, and it can cause us more problems than help us .There has not been a single soul from the LRA here since 2006. Now we have peace, people are back in their homes, they are planting their fields, they are starting their businesses. That is what people should help us with.” Some officials even went as far as stating that the video aims to make Joseph Kony famous.
Even the common people of Uganda showed reluctance and even hostility upon seeing the Kony video. A screening of the film in Lira was met with jeering and some of the spectators even resorted to violence, throwing objects at the screen and staff present there. People accuse the producers of devoting too much time to Kony and the filmmaker while neglecting the conflict’s victims and the atrocities they went through during their struggle. People complained that the film was focused more around “whites “ than the Ugandan people.
Taking all this into account one can easily conclude that while the intentions of Kony 2012 are noble and have a humanitarian side to them, the timing chosen for the campaign is peculiar to say the least if not downright ridiculous. So how come these problems that have been present in Uganda more than six years ago are slowly taking the spotlight in western media only now when the storm has already passed? Needless to say, the idea of bringing Joseph Kony to justice in order to answer for his crimes still stands, yet help seems to be arriving a bit too late. Once again we cannot turn a blind eye to the implications that the newly discovered oil reserve might have on these actions and how the U.S. Government might have hidden reasons for devoting their attentions to this war zone (conveniently late one might say).
Courtney from Study Moose
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