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2014 lessons from 2013 Ugandan PR crises.

Ugandas PR fraternity witnessed extraordinary crises last year. These PR crises dominated
international and local media.PR is relatively a new profession world over. More PR agencies
and organizations are seriously taking up crisis management as a pivotal function of PR.
ifferent organization managed their crises head on. !elow are insights into Ugandan PR
crises that dominated "#$%.
UCU sex-video scandal
"#$% was a year of leaked sex tapes and cele&rity nude pictures .Uganda 'hristian University
(U'U) was in a media scandal involving two students. * shot a sex video and the recordings
were leaked to social media. U'Us director of +tudent *ffairs, Rev Milton Tweheyo, came
out and pu&lically apologized, confirming that the two male students featured in the video
were indeed U'U students &ut the lady was not. Uganda 'hristian University did the right
thing of forgiving the students and setting the records straight. enying the incident would
instead prolong the crisis. -xpulsion has never helped people reform. Though U'U offered
counselling and forgiveness to students, it condemned fornication. The story teaches us a&out
the power of social media especially whatsapp,.outu&e, and /ace&ook.
Royal divorce
-nd of princess 0omuntale and 'hristopher Thomas marriage in 1cto&er. 2ots of counter
attacks were shared on /ace&ook and in traditional Media world over in 1cto&er last year.
Princess 0omuntale accused 'hris of a&use, domestic violence,and unfaithfulness. Princess
did not withhold any information and she utilized social media to share her side of the story
that yielded support and goodwill from the Pu&lic. 3f she remained silent then the crisis would
&e on up to now. Media wants nothing &ut the truth.'hris later apologized to the princess &ut
that never yielded any pu&lic mercy.
Suspension of r !usaala "y #$e Ca#$olic C$urc$.
*rch&ishop of 0ampala r. 'yprian 0izito 2wanga suspended /r. *nthony Musaala, who
authored a document criticising fellow 'atholic 'hurch colleagues in Uganda, accusing them
of sexual crimes among others. Mismanagement of /r. Musaala4s saga &y 'atholic 'hurch
put it in the media spotlight. The *rch&ishop was 5uick to suspend and give explanations
without assessing the magnitude of the crisis. The 'atholic 'hurch prolonged the crisis when
they overreacted. /r Musaala would 6ust &e transferred to another place or a commission of
in5uiry pu&licly instituted &ut not suspending him. *nd going pu&lic a&out the move was
wrong. *s 'hristians who preach forgiveness, the idea of peace talks would &e good. *ll
efforts should always &e done to stop crises from growing. 3t was a delicate time especially
that the Pope was 6ust settling in. *ccording to the *rch&ishop r 'yprian 2wanga,/r.
Musaala was suspended for the document, which damages the good morals of the Catholic
believers and faults the church teaching. /r. Musaala admitted to authoring the document
which widely circulated on the internet after &eing leaked. /r. Musaalas letter sparked pu&lic
de&ate concerning celi&acy in the 'atholic 'hurch. The saga also attracted enough media
attention. 7e was hosted on highly rated T8 shows and made it to the front page of daily
9ewspapers.
Police #or#ure of %x-!u&'ano 'or&er (assim Suuna.
-x:Mukwano worker Mr 0assim +suuna was allegedly assaulted &y police officers while he
was protesting in front of Mukwano factory in 0ampala. The incident attracted media
attention and went viral online. The incident faulted the Uganda Police force on its human
rights record and general operations. The Uganda police should &e credited for setting up an
investigation to pro&e the officers expeditiously and have them go through the disciplinary
process. The crisis highlighted the weak civil society in Uganda since there was no serious
action &y la&our unions.Mukwano faulted on goodwill to an extent.They did not also
highlight their milestones especially '+R. Though +mart Mukwano team activated their PR
tactics a little &it late, it helped clean their image. Releasing detailed information would
always work against you in the court of Pu&lic opinion. ;ood PR is communicating what the
pu&lic needs to hear instead of what they want to hear. The pu&lic always reacts to a crisis
&ased on emotions while supporting little avid against ;oliath which is not the case with
the normal courts of law.
)lleged gang rape ac# "y *uasa %mployees
* "%:year:old woman was allegedly gang:raped and sodomised &y five Pakistan nationals
working with .uasa.There were media reports a&out her &eing a&andoned &y some 9;1s.
There was an apology from the Pakistani community to Ugandans for the alleged act and they
also agreed to compensate her and clear medical &ills. These acts were crucial in &uilding
goodwill. <e saw growth of advocacy PR as women activists demonstrated outside that
.uasa 3nvestments premises demanding its closure till all suspects were arrested and
produced in court. +ome suspects have since &een produced in court.The incident also shows
the increasing power of the media.
Police pro"ed Red Cross "oss over smuggling
Police pro&ed Red 'ross &oss over tax evasion. Uganda Red cross +ociety secretary ;eneral
Micheal 9ataka lost his =o& over the incident.UR* and police raided 9atakas residence in
Munyonyo seizing suspected contra&and goods worth sh >##m.3ntegrity and goodwill of Red
cross was restored when the &oard replaced him.
Uganda +ournalis#s )ssocia#ion elec#ion flopped over irregulari#ies
-lections to choose a new executive committee for Ugandan =ournalists *ssociation flopped
in ecem&er last year after mem&ers complained a&out &loated voters register and stolen
electoral materials. The incident renews the critical de&ate on professional standards for
6ournalists. 3t is em&arrassing to have society watchdogs who are supposed to oversee morals
engage in fist fighting for &allot &oxes. +ome candidates agreed to pull out of an election they
suspected was marred with irregularities.
*ou#$ minis#er 'as ,uo#ed #o $ave allegedly endorsed rape of vic#ims 'i#$ revealing
clo#$es.
* 2ocal daily 9ewspaper ran a story titled ?3ndecent rape victims to &lame@ in which it
5uoted comments attri&uted to the .outh +tate Minister. *s a result of the story, the minister
was summoned to make a statement on the floor of Parliament on in which he faulted the
newspaper. This controversial statement caused a pu&lic outcry and some critics asked him to
resign. * local daily also reported that he had opened up a twitter account to manage the PR
crisis. 1pinion leaders like r 9or&ert Mao 6oined the critical side in an article. .outh
Minister 0iwanuka openly came out to deny the statement and clear his name which was a
good thing. To set the record straight, a local daily newspaper decided to upload the audio
recording of the ministers remarks made in 9tungamo on their we&site.
-$e .C/% and (0U P/1 saga
9ational 'ouncil for 7igher -ducation (9'7-) warned against universities that were
offering ?fake masters degrees and Phs. 9'7- protested awarding of some Phs &y
0ampala 3nternational university.03U issued media statement on the crisis as a way of
reassuring the Pu&lic.
2oman dies a# 0/( under unclear circums#ances.
* senior Parliament employee, Remmie <amala 9anono, passed on under 5uestiona&le
circumstances at 370.This crisis provoked a de&ate in parliament .MPs agreed to set up an ad
hoc committee to in5uire into the operations of private health service providers. <amalas
close relatives 5uoted in one local 9ewspaper say her death should have &een avoided had
the hospital authorities taken an urgent decision to operate her since her cervix had opened up
to four centimeters, not wide enough to allow for normal delivery. 7er family narrated that
she checked into hospital with intense la&our pains, and following several hours of trying in
vain, she asked to &e operated on. The hospital authorities, however, felt she should give &irth
naturally &ut later died after she &led nonstop. The Ministry of 7ealth was also tasked to
commission a study on the status of maternal health in the country for the purposes of
addressing the current challenges of maternal mortality.370 rushed to release a statement
which was a &it insensitive in the court of pu&lic opinion.
%min Pas$a fined 20m for noise pollu#ion
-min Pasha 7ospital was in the media for the wrong reasons. 3t was fined for noise pollution.
This was a dent on her image as a tourist destination in one way or another.
0rene .amu"iru3s arres# in 4apan over illegal drugs
9amu&iru was arrested at 9aita *irport =apan after her luggage was found with illicit drugs.
she claimed that she had no idea a&out what was in the luggage.3rene was scheduled to
perform in =apan. 3t remains a PR scandal though most Ugandans felt 3rene 9amu&iru was a
victim of a set up. *ll events were confirmed &y 3nterpol officials in Uganda. +ome &loggers
shared a theory portraying it as a PR stunt as a &uild up to her upcoming al&um launch. This
is a negative dent on her image. There will always &e online negative search results a&out her
regarding the incident . 'olleagues and relatives organized a church service to pray for. This
was a good PR tactic tool utilising the court of Pu&lic 1pinion. 9amu&iru tweeted after her
release and date of return. +he had a heros welcome in Uganda. This is still an ongoing
crisis. 3renes manager then Thadeus Mu&iru has since made a pu&lic apology over the same.
0im Tumwesigye was arrested &y the police over the scandal. 3rene struggles on to save her
image.
!edia siege "y Uganda police
The Uganda Police o&tained a search warrant authorizing the search of the aily Monitor and
Red pepper premises for the letter allegedly written &y ;eneral +e66usa. Uganda police closed
Red pepper and aily monitor together with two radio stations after declaring them crime
scenes.The Uganda Police responded with excessive force which attracted unnecessary
attention. Most -ast *frican 9ewspapers carried an editorial on media siege. The media siege
dented the Ugandan image locally, regionally and internationally. Most critics think the
government should have handled the media issue &etter. 3nternational and regional
newspapers, U+ -m&assy in Uganda, Pu&lic Relations *ssociation of Uganda (PR*U),
politicians, human rights activists, and mem&ers of the civil society condemned the incident.
The most famous hash tag was 4Amediasiege. 1n May %#, "#$%, Media houses were allowed
to resume operations. aily monitors reopening was allegedly after negotiations with
government according to a government statement. This introduced a de&ate on future
compromised editorial policy of the aily Monitor. Monitor pu&lications responded to the
issue in pu&lic notices ?MonitorB <hat we agreed with government@ reassuring the pu&lic
a&out their editorial policy of pu&lishing all news as long as they are in pu&lic interest.
(yam"ogo universi#y #ui#ion scandal
<hat started as a tuition crisis spilled into a strike which left at least one student in6ured.
+tudents protested against &eing &lacklisted &y the university administration for failure to pay
tuition. Management alleged that the students forged documents such as receipts and
examination cards to illegally sit exams. Police instituted a pro&e which revealed more rot at
the ten year old university. There have &een several arrests and interrogation of senior
management staff in connection with the scandals at the institution. 0yam&ogo University
has &een a nursery &ed for scandals for some time.
.ince /enry sues .a&uma## over pira#ed music
The Police and court &ailiffs seized merchandise over illegal sale of music. The artiste insists
he has never released the al&um nor given permission to 9akumatt to sell his music. 3t was
also alleged that the supermarket had &een running a promotion where, whoever &uys a
7isense Plasma screen takes home the singers ' for free. The al&um on display was titled
Omukyala bamukwata Mpola which was a wrong title as the correct one is Mpola Mpola
according to 9ince 7enry. The artiste has since opened a case against 9akumatt and C:Done
3nternational. 3t pro6ected the regional supermarket in a negative way.
S#ar -imes sued over alleged ou#da#ed decoders
igital pay Television provider +tar Times was dragged to court for allegedly distri&uting
outdated decoders. Two +tar Times pay television su&scri&ers and Uganda 'onsumer
Protection *wareness *ssociation (U'P**) sued +tar Times for failing to stop selling
devices that dont meet U'' specifications. They are seeking orders to exchange their
decoders with the new technology. 1ver $%#,### +tar Times pay T8 su&scri&ers allege that
the firm has continued selling them outdated technology which is yet to &e switched off
instead of a modern decoder with a &igger fre5uency spectrum capa&le of carrying higher T8
content and compati&le with digital. This puts a dent of 5uestiona&le service 5uality on star
Times though U'' has pronounced its self on the issue.
Conclusion
Uganda has witnessed increased power of pressure groups and the media. <ith &ad news, the
&est move is to own up and apologise if possi&le. The sooner the &etter. This may give you
more control of media coverage. !est proactive PR 'risis management re5uires daily media
monitoring for crises. Remem&er PR takes time and re5uires a clear strategy.PR Practitioners
need to stop leaving PR 'risis management to only their legal and operation departments,
they should fully &e involved in every step.3 commend the inclusion of !est 'risis
Management *ward category in the Pu&lic Relations *ssociation of Uganda (PR*U) annual
-xcellence *wards. This has created a greater understanding of crisis management.
Ivan N. Baliboola
The author has worked with some of the most well-known and infuential East
African brands in construction, healthcare, Insurance, cosmetics, and banking.
He carries a wealth of experience in marketing, ublic relations, crisis
management, and social media. He is a proud Award winner of a prestigious
ublic !elations Association of "ganda excellence award. He has #olunteered his
life to addressing en#ironment and health related causes. He is also a blogger,
professional critic, and strategist.
nbaliboola$gmail.com