Thursday, May 31, 2012

Kenya explosion underscores need for counterterrorism in Uganda

Media-counterterrorism seminar
 We college teachers often worry about making our lessons   relevant.   Thus, we’re always coming up with creative ways to connect what we teach with our students’ lives.

Sometimes, though, the connection is made for us.

Here in Kampala, Uganda, our lesson on peace media and counterterrorism (sponsored by the US Embassy and Center for Global Peace Journalism) is taking on a special urgency this week. This is because neighboring Kenya suffered a terrorist attack a few days ago. A bomb exploded in a crowded marketplace in Nairobi, injuring 33 people. Authorities are still investigating the bombing.

Prof. John Hamilton leads the discussion
It was under the cloud of the Kenyan attack that our seminar participants, journalists and local government officials, teamed up yesterday to create an action plan for collaborating on anti-terrorism projects. Instructors and Park University professors John Hamilton, Ken Christopher, Carol Getty and I were gratified to hear the conciliatory language used by the participants as they described how they planned to cooperate. This congeniality is especially noteworthy given the traditionally adversarial relationship between press and government, particularly here in Uganda. (I elicited laughter with the phrase “Not exactly best friends”.) One group of participants said that media and local leaders should march “hand-in-hand” to combat terrorism, while others pledged cooperation for “a more secure Uganda”.
Media-counterterrorism seminar
 The participants’ ideas on potential collaborations were also well-conceived. These include educating the public about Ugandan anti-terrorism laws, creating pamphlets on how the public can remain vigilant, and arranging briefings for average citizens by security officials. All the while, the press would work with the officials to keep the public aware, informed, and empowered.
Prof. Ken Christopher, right.

Although the professors urged the participants to nurture the anti-terrorism seeds we planted this week, I suspect in hindsight that we really didn’t have to do anything to get the participants engaged. All they have to do is turn on the news or open up the New Vision newspaper and see the banner headline: “Uganda on alert after Kenyan terrorist attack.”

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