Kampala, Uganda | URN | A government driver who damaged a student’s suitcase at Buddo Secondary School has been directed to report to police as investigations of misconduct against him start.
The directive follows a public outcry about the driver of a government vehicle registration UG-0915Z which reportedly damaged a child’s suitcase at Buddo Secondary School over the weekend. One of the parents who witnessed the incident used social media to appeal for help to the student, and mounted a search for the driver.
As the post went viral, the vehicle was traced to Jennifer Namuyangu, the State Minister in charge of Bunyoro Affairs, whom netizens are now asking to return to the same school and compensate the child, whose property were damaged by the driver.
“Dear Hon. Jennifer Namuyangu, State Minister Bunyoro Affairs. We’ve been told that this car was assigned to you. If it’s true, go to Buddo with a new suitcase and apologize to the kid or else…” Gabriel Buule posted on his Twitter.
But while the debate continued, the Permanent Secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister Keith Muhakanizi issued a statement calling the incident unfortunate. Muhakanizi says that the offence committed by the driver was very grave and puts the image of the Office of the Prime Minister in disrepute.
He directed the driver to report to the acting Director of Traffic in the Uganda Police Force on Tuesday, February 7, 2023, at 10 a.m. The driver has also been asked to show cause why disciplinary action should not be taken against him through a written response which is also expected on Tuesday 7, February 2023.
But Livingstone Ssenabulya, the Director of Studies at the school notes that the driver knocked on the suitcase in error because the student had placed it in the reversing space but hastens to add that officer from Buddo Police Post and the regional CID officer had visited the school to investigate the matter.
He, however, acknowledges that the money that was given to the learner wasn’t enough to repair the suitcase
The utilization of social media as a means of expressing grievances and demanding accountability from those in authority is growing in popularity in Uganda, where over three million people regularly use these platforms. Social media has enabled heightened public scrutiny and pressure on various issues, resulting in the formation of public opinion and holding those responsible accountable.
For instance, recently social media played a role in exposing alleged corruption at Entebbe International Airport and bringing attention to the controversial issue of rainbow paint in a children’s park, which resulted in the removal of the paint.
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Dr Wairagala Wakabi, the Executive Director, of the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA), believes that the rise of social media as a platform for public discourse is a positive development, as it provides the public with a space to raise their issues and reach decision-makers in a timely manner. He also believes that offline mechanisms have sometimes failed to provide solutions.
Wakabi, an expert in the field of ICT, research, and media training, recognizes the downside of using social media as a tool for holding duty bearers accountable. He notes that some individuals may spread false information, leading the public to act based on misinformation. However, he also notes that, largely, social media platforms can be effective in shaping public opinion and holding those responsible accountable.