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Communication at the MUBS Student guild

guild-office

Today I had a meeting with Peter Natukunda, vice president of the student guild of MUBS. Peter is responsible for the activities organized within the guild. After an introduction I could begin with my questions. It was very difficult to understand what he was saying, not only because of his accent but because of the grammar and sentence construction I am not yet fully familiar with.

He explained me how information is distributed within the Guild. When a piece of information needs to be mediated within the guild it runs through a hierarchical oral structure. The board of ‘ministers’ (around 30 students), all with a different function, like entertainment, premises etc. discuss in a general meeting what needs to be done. This is then forwarded to the Guild Representatives to the Council (GRC’s). These GRC’s on their turn tell the elected class leaders who in their turn must tell the rest of the students. All active members of the guild (the board, the GRC’s and the class leaders) receive an allowance. For class leaders this is 5000 Ush (€1.30) per meeting, GRC’s get 10.000 Ush.

Feedback information takes the same route only then the other way around. In the event a board leader has made a serious mistake and should be evicted, a referendum should be held where 2/3 of the students should register their vote against this particular board member. This has never happened because it would be too expensive and disruptive. When information needs to get out of the Guild, it has to be approved by the dean of students. Only then can it reach the principal’s office. In very urgent cases the President or Vice President can directly address the principal.

In the comming three weeks, elections will be held at MUBS, a whole new board and president must be democratically elected. Currently, 27 of the 30 board members of the guild hold a Pro-NRM (Ruling party) political position. The others are independent (not sure what is meant by this). The student guild of Makerere main campus was pro-Museveni last year but has this year been changed into a Pro Democratic Party (DP) stronghold. Peter would not be surprised if this happened in MUBS this year. For the coming Guild elections there are 5 presidential candidates at MUBS, Peter will not speak out for any of them but will cast his vote. Uganda has 3 influential Political Parties.
 
National Resistance Movement (NRM)
The ruling Party, Headed for the past 23 years by President Museveni
Forum for Democratic Change (FDC)
The Biggest Opposition Party
Democratic Party (DP)
A small Opposition party

New Media tools are used for campaigning during the election period. The main medium used is the mobile phone, in particular: SMS. Messages are sent in bulks, there are services in Kampala that let you send a huge amount of Text messages to a database of choice. These messages sometimes involve propaganda, where the one candidate will try to discredit the other candidate. One of the advantages of these ways of campaigning is that candidates can campaign ‘underground’, so that other candidates will not know the exact strategy of his rivals. Facebook and email are also used for campaigning. It also helps to use mobile phones to call influential students to get them on your side. An electronic online voting system was designed by some students at Makerere, unfortunately it was not exhaustive enough to rely on the results. Therefore ballots were used at Makerere.

By analyzing established communication structures and looking at Ugandan practices of information dissemination I want to get a better insight in the Ugandan information flow. Looking at ‘political’ and hierarchical organization among students, I can see into the roots of the broader political information structures. I will look into the campaigning process and to some of the ceremonies during the election. All these observations, how trivial they may seem, can eventually provide insights in where New Media technologies could help increase accountability, transparency and accessibility of information.

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