Racism in the media: The Monitor journalist, Chris Obore is a Banyarwanda hater

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By Jacob Seaman

Ratib, a childhood friend from Kakira, reserved one praise for Ugandan media: Chris Obore. He would never miss a show—radio or television—on which Obore was speaking. And his dream was to meet Obore. I gave him that wish once at Centenary Park during a journalists’ drink-up. Today, I wonder what he would think of the same journalist he idolised, not just because of the xenophobic and ethnically mind-boggling social media post by the journalist, but so much more… As you read this, Chris is prepping for a disciplinary hearing.

In a Facebook post, Obore went bananas, blaming most of the current social, political and economic woes in the country on Banyarwanda. He claimed that Rwandans have hijacked almost everything in Uganda from State House—where they are the beneficiaries of sponsorship to universities—down to the grassroots. The post said Rwandans are so proud that they only think of themselves as humans, all non-Rwandans as animals of sort.

Well, the same proud guys were at the forefront of returning peace and tranquility to Ugandans when, selflessly, they staked their lives and fought off bad regimes of the past. Sure, we might argue that nothing has changed since Museveni and his NRM are swinging the pendulum backwards. But that is subjective. What you can never take away is that the Rwigyemas offered their blood for Ugandans. If some Banyarwanda remained in the country and are messing it like Obore claims, then whose problem is it? Should not the ‘true’ Ugandans like Obore defeat such idealism? Or, perchance, they are sunbathing, thumb in the nose digging for diamonds as they wait for another “bunch of proud, arrogant and selfish Tutsis and Hutus” to defeat the system Obore claims is pervasive to say the least?

The so-called Banyarwanda are a tribal grouping whose status is clearly enshrined in the 1995 Constitution of Uganda. The law says they are Ugandans. Focusing a bigger problem on ethnicity is not only diversionary but also pervasive and smacks of poor upbringing. We have a lot to learn, and from none other than the Rwandans. On March 18, 1997, remnants of the Interahamwe militia infiltrated Nyange School and attacked students during evening preps. The gunmen asked Hutus to one side, and Tutsis to the other. The unspoken word was death. Chantal Uwamahoro and Helena Mukamana stood their ground, saying “there is neither Hutu nor Tutsi in this class; we are all Rwandans.”

The gunmen sprayed bullets killing four students. That was after brutally killing the defiant girls. Today, they are martyrs. Today, Rwanda is pushing for ‘Ndi Umunyarwanda’ where ‘Rwandanness is a national agenda. The spirits of the Nyange Martyrs must be doing some good job. What of Ugandans?

Obore and the tirade

Chris Obore’s apologists argue that the Monitor Investigations Editor is being ‘crucified’ over a ‘mere’ Facebook post. There have been arguments that he has a right to his opinion. But was it Obore’s opinion? Highly unlikely. The people behind the motion to ‘censure’ or defenestrate Obore are said to be looking past the Facebook post. Behind the noisy journalist that my buddy Ratib idolised is always a huge presence of a silhouetted figure for which he speaks and deals, according to whispers in the media fraternity.

Faced with a battering from all sides, Obore turned around to deny the post. He claimed his account had been hacked into. Well, these things happen. But if a hacker has the audacity to ‘edit’ a post, then that hacker must be braver than Michael Wallace (Scottish insurgent who led the resistance to Edward I and briefly gained control in 1297 until Edward invaded Scotland again, defeated and subsequently executed him) and Benazir Bhutto combined.

The same ‘hacker,’ apparently, was in the newsroom defending the post before he later realised his follies. The ‘hacker’ also went on air and alluded to the post, to the effect that he was being trailed by security or something like that. And what more, the ‘hacker’ called others who tried to criticise the motive and tone in the post “Rwandese apologists.” You know, in an era of Assange and Snowden, let alone TVO and Baba Jukwa, such a hacker can come-by.

Then there are those going around accusing NTV’s Maurice Mugisha of being behind the move to defenestrate (I just like that word, thanks to Isaac Imaka) Obore. They claim Andrew Mwenda is using Mugisha to see to Obore’s journalism epitaph. Without even going into the circumstances under which Obore left or was axed from Red Pepper around 2007, it is “sine spe derelict revertendi.” Are you confused? I also don’t understand it. I just mean, tagging Mwenda into this is as incomprehensible as what lawyers say when they are arguing in a casino. Mwenda is a man of clout. He has the ears of several honchos in Nation Media Group, as well as Monitor’s MD Alex Asiimwe. Whereas Asiimwe has been eerily close to Obore since the OPM scandal, the fact that Obore’s apologists are pointing fingers at Mwenda means they know what it means by ‘big is big.’ If Mwenda wanted to push Obore out, he would just nudge Asiimwe and a few shots in government, not so?

Across the wire, I have been accused of fanning the Obore-gate on social media. Someone I respected a lot said I was trying to be a spokesperson for the Banyarwanda. And all this, before I even blogged about it. People expect that because my name, Odongo, has the northern connection vowel ‘O’ I should just rhyme like the rest. The whole lot of bunch with ‘O’ have thrown their brain to the gutter. Isn’t that deeply ironical considering that Obore was supposedly chastising Banyarwanda over tribalism? Must having a name with the initial ‘O’ enslave me to that apathy of playing diapers to another person’s leaking a**?

I refuse to be pegged like a goat skin to dry among the flies. I can never be that diaper my friends are playing, neither would I ever be the proverbial fly who followed a stinking corpse to the grave. Those in it should tread knowing a dog has 40 days. Let them exhaust the calendar with care.

So, why no sacking?

Monitor is very fond of running headlines calling politicians accused of scandalous incidents to resign to step aside to allow investigations. However, when months ago Facebook bug Tom Voltaire Okwalinga posted that one of Monitor’s staff was receiving a bribe, the management hardly butted an eyelid. And, for Obore, too, Alex Atuhaire, the news editor, hastily penned a statement after the Banyarwanda community petitioned Monitor over the conduct of Obore. The statement did not show that “Obore had been asked to step aside to allow investigations against him” like it is wont to be called by Monitor if it were a politician. Not that I care. But if you dedicate an entire spread asking Amama Mbabazi to step aside over oil kickback allegations, why not give just a line to your own?

Asiimwe said MPL was investigating the allegations. Sources said Obore will appear before the disciplinary committee this afternoon, but several Monitor staff who talked to this blog say there will not be much from the hearing, calling it a “mock exercise that can’t produce the same result as the one from last month.” The ‘one of last month’ saw Managing Editor Don Wanyama cut to the chase with a terse dismissal announcement.

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