KAMPALA, UGANDA —
This presidential and parliamentary campaign cycle has already been dubbed Uganda's first social media election.
Many people, young and old, have taken to Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp to give their opinions on the campaigns and the candidates running for office. Various hashtags have been trending, but the most significant are #Ugandadecides and #UGDebate16.
Daniel Mumbere, an avid social media user and presenter of the TV show Hashtag, has been very happy with the way Ugandans are engaging with politicians on social media.
"I would have loved to see where we actually preempt [the politicians],” Mumbere said. “We'd say: 'Let's talk about hospitals today' and then they respond. But it's been the other way around. But I think, ultimately, it's been a good start."
So good, in fact, that one candidate — Amama Mbabzi — even announced his presidential bid on Youtube.
And it’s no wonder, according to media trend watcher Angelo Izama, who said traditional media doesn’t offer enough for young people interested in the elections.
"Traditional media doesn't have the pace or the space to accommodate all the arguments,” Izama said. “Most of the voters are born in the era of the mobile age. So there's this generational conversation, which is also done through new technology because the mobile phone is the default [device] of the new generation."
Smartphones and social media could also be used to monitor polling stations. However, the Electoral Commission has already banned their use.
“It’s putting us in a position where we have to act extremely carefully, but also recognizing that with a phone, you can do just as much harm as good," Izama said.
A group of university students in Kampala started its own on- and offline campaign, dubbed #IchoosepeaceUG, to promote a calm election Thursday.
"I reach out to people, take a photo and then upload on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram, WhatsApp and then a message is spread all over," said Davidson Ndyabahika of the I Choose Peace campaign.
The group hopes to avert the violence which has been seen in previous elections in Uganda.
"I'm looking at a Uganda where, after voting on Thursday, I go back to class on Friday. I don't want to find myself as a refugee in another country," said campaign member Ian Musimenta.
Social media in Uganda. It's trending.