In defense of the blogren

Glenna at Uganda’s Scarlett Lion posted yesterday, wondering why the majority of Ugandan bloggers write about things other than politics:

But where have all the political blogs gone? There’s this one, but that’s also a newspaper column, or this one, not updated frequently, or this one that’s not by a Ugandan, and some others that are more general to Africa and not specific to Uganda.

Or were polticial blogs never there in the first place? There’s plenty of thoughts on boda bodas, Big Brother Africa, the bad weather Kampala’s been having lately, being broke, and other aspects of life in Uganda that certainly aren’t apolitical, but they aren’t exactly government budgets and school fires either.

My experience in Uganda has been that expat bloggers are the ones writing about politics, while Ugandan bloggers write more about their daily lives. As Glenna pointed out, this isn’t always true — in addition to the bloggers she mentioned, Tumwijuke at Ugandan Insomniac often writes about current events. But for the most part, for every political post you find, there will be fifty more about romantic escapades or beautiful Sunday mornings in Kampala. Commenting on Glenna’s post, Antipop explains:

To be honest with you most of us come to blogger to escape from it all. The fires, the term limits, the land wrangles, GAVI funds, presidential jet, potholes, fuel prices, press freedom, FDC, NRM,…it is everywhere you turn. the papers, the radio, tv, in the bar, even the woman that sells cassava roots in the market will have something to say about how the soaring prices have everything to do with a MUNYANKOLE president. the last thing you wnat to do is come to blogger and find it. I guess we are just tired. There is only so much whinning we can do.

As an author for Global Voices, a site that aims to “aggregate, curate, and amplify the global conversation online,” I admit to getting frustrated when something (like the ICC charges against Sudanese president al-Bashir) happens and Ugandans — who, as Glenna points out, are among the most affected, given that what happens in Sudan could have major repercussions for the case against Joseph Kony and his commanders — say nothing.

At the same time, the mission of GV isn’t to aggregate, curate and amplify just the political conversation online. As I understand it, GV is a bridge between the part of the world that’s constantly connected to BBC and CNN and the part of the world that’s not. If that bridge only includes politics, which often means stories of violence, corruption and election fraud, GV and its readers are missing out on a huge part of life in the countries we claim to represent.

One of the most important things to come of out last month’s
Global Voices Summit is that the political voices aren’t the only ones that need to be amplified. Cultural and social voices are equally important to an understanding of other places, and several recent posts attempt to present readers with a more nuanced view of countries that are only discussed internationally when a crisis brings them to our attention. I still get frustrated when something of political importance goes unnoticed by the blogren, but I think the bloggers who are using their blogs to write novellas or talk about public transportation play an valuable role in transmitting information about Uganda to the rest of the world.