“Continue being critical, speak your mind to the extent that it balances the story of hope, progress and missed opportunities” these are the words of Cyril Ramaphosa the Deputy President of South Africa while responding to a question on gagging freedom of the media and journalism. The words speaks of what is regarded the core of good and influential leadership. And I believe these words should help us inculcate better attitude towards freedom of speech. Since this is the spirit we need to have for us to cause transformation in our beautiful continent.
With rich history of Ramaphosa in fight for social justice for the people of South Africa; we can take his word seriously. We can believe him; because he has shown his willingness to help in restoring dignity of the people of South Africa.
We are supposed to be allowed to speak of what we think is not working well. We need to be given opportunity to express our concern on the state of economy in our various countries in Africa. We need to be given space to audit the actions of those in power. For this, I believe is what social justice demand from those in power.
However, the current affairs in my home country Kenya are shocking. Contrary to what Ramaphosa asked the press to do, here, any dissent voice critical of the government is under serious scrutiny and openly castigated . In most cases, even without proper investigation journalist and bloggers are being arrested.
What is more disparaging is the fact that those in the government are not able to give sufficient details to the public on critical issues. With this kind of deficiency, citizens are hungry for information; hence, whoever offers that gets their heart and mind.
For instance, failure by the government of Kenya to give enough details and proper accounts of the Eurobond utilization has given room to speculation, some that maybe cheap propaganda. Its ramifications, erosion of public trust in government institutions.
As I write this piece, the level of despondency in my country is rising at an alarming rate. Just a few days ago, Kenyans on Twitter were petition the US government to help in uncovering the mystery of the Eurobond heist. To me, this was unnecessary if the government of Kenya would have taken proactive position in explaining the usage of the borrowed money.
Besides the Eurobond, is the deadly terrorist Attacks at EL-Adde Somalia by bloodthirsty devils – al-Shabaab which claimed unknown numbers of our gallant soldiers. This issue has not been addressed adequately by the government . The fact that the available information is so scanty; there is room of misinformation and spread of propaganda from different quarters.
In such cases, when bloggers take to their blogs and write what they know or don’t know, no matter the the authenticity; I wonder who should take the blame? To this end, I think, the government should take a bigger share of the blame, for they have a sole responsibility of informing the public of what happens in their territory. They should be the first source of information. However, when they abdicate this responsibility; the vacuum would be filled by bloggers and worst, their enemies propaganda .
On the other hand, my intentions should not be construed to mean I support malicious attacks on the government; but as encouragement to the state to be proactive in sending relevant and timely information to the people.
At this point, it is important for the governments to understand that propaganda; inaccurate information from their side is as dangerous as its absence. They should know better, propaganda, erodes its credibility. To engage in malicious attacks is against their opposes would be counterproductive to the prosperity of a government.
Therefore, it is imperative for any government to know that freedom of speech empowers people to realize their mistakes and weaknesses. Freedom of speech gives room for progress. It is true, freedom of speech would enable people tell the story of a nation which in turn will be beneficial to economic, social and political growth of a country.
As Ramaphosa rightly said to journalist and the press in South Africa, “I would urge you to tell the story of south Africa, that despite all its challenges, is emerging from the darkness of oppression and division into a new dawn of peace and freedom, equality and prosperity.” I would love to urge all Africa states to let people express their opinions and concerns for that is the true spirit of Ubuntu.