Civil resistance and digital media in Uganda : hybrid spaces of resistance and expression




Moriarty, Daniel Patrick

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This research explores the ongoing political resistance in Uganda under the guise of the National Unity Platform (NUP) and its leader Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, popularly known as Bobi Wine. The NUP, in its efforts to challenge the 37-year long rule of President Yoweri Museveni’s National Resistance Movement (NRM), has mobilized millions of young Ugandans through the adaptive use of various social media platforms. Evolving from a social movement into a formal political organization, the NUP’s resistance strategy has shifted into continued digital engagement and physical outreach into Uganda’s hinterlands. Taking a mixed-methods approach, this work seeks to present a trans-scalar view of the intersections between digital and physical spaces of political expression and resistance inside (and outside) Uganda today. The use of GIS to interrogate the relationship between telecommunications infrastructure and political unrest at a national scale presents an introductory context to the research. Content analysis of newspaper archives on the formalization of the People Power Movement into the NUP and forty surveys on the use of digital media and political action gradually “zoom in” the scale to focus on the emergence of the NUP and the environment which it finds itself. Proceeding to qualitatively focused methods, interviews with several members of the NUP (to include several of Wine’s chief lieutenants) highlights key themes of a digitally mediated resistance movement struggling to ground itself in rural territories. Lastly, a novel attempt at visualizing digital spaces in relation to a resistance movement is operationalized through participatory mapping. This research explores the unique ways in which Uganda’s political history and human geography affects the ongoing struggle for democratic reforms. Thematically, this work also grounds the NUP’s struggle in the global geopolitical competition between authoritarianism and pro-democracy movements, at times aligned or against neoliberal democratic states.


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