So Tunisia happened, Egypt is happening, and questions and opinions are now emerging, speculating on who will happen next in this great continent of ours.
Tunisians were successful and Egyptians are slowly but surely forcing change. There are other Arab countries with Revolutions of their own but it is all Egypt now, stealing all the world attention. But can this happen in Sub-Saharan Africa is the question I have been pondering over. Do the demographics in Sub-Saharan Africa have the capacity to constitute similar revolutions given that the transgressions of both Egyptian and former Tunisian leaders are similar to those of most African leaders. @Shelisrael asked me a couple of days ago “how are Kenyan viewing these upheavals in Egypt and Tunisia?” And I have posed various questions on Twitter to get a sense of what Kenyans feel about these revolutions.
No Revolutions Here
From the tweets I have read by Kenyans on Twitter and a couple of Facebook updates, the message that is being sent out is there will be no revolutions here: not for lack of issues that would otherwise spark revolutions but rather for lack of homogeneity that would make such a revolution possible. Have you found it curious that fears of a revolution have been felt across the Arab Nations as opposed to the greater African region where Tunisia and Egypt both belong to? Isn’t it curious that other corrupt African octogenarians who have hoarded power through oppressive regimes for decades are not in the least worried (or at least don’t seem to be) about the happenings in Tunisia and Egypt? The much you can see about revolutions in these countries are scattered tweets about the hopelessness of attempting a revolution in their respective countries or retweets of the happenings in Egypt.
If you ask me, I believe that the demographics of non-Arabic African countries have a lot to do with the nonchalant attitudes that the likes of Mugabe have towards the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia. Generally looking at what Kenyans have posted on Facebook, Twitter, and on blogs, Tribalism is emerging as a leading hindrance to any form of revolution in Kenya. The others are Police Brutality especially in memory of the 2008 post election violence, a largely conservative middle class that would rather tweet than walk the streets (Malcolm Gladwell would shake his head in acknowledgement to this), and our love for Tea Breaks – (thanks Dickens for pointing this out). Most countries are too divided internally that the consensus to revolt against a Government is never a cause for worry to most of these leaders. Take Gbagbo for instance, Ivorians have a major case to revolt but Gbagbo is still sitting pretty in office with ECOWAS and AU revolting on the behalf of Ivorians. Why? Because the country is split and though I don’t understand the mechanics of it all, I can say with certainty that it will boil down to either religious or tribal divides.
Does Social Media Spark Revolutions?
Evident in all these revolutions has been the role of social media especially in organizing and getting the word out. But it is not social media that sparked these revolutions but rather the stark realities and incidences on the ground that have caused people to react both online and offline. Given the crackdown of the Internet in Egypt, it is clear that social media does play a major role in the revolutions but it would be wrong to say it sparks them. It facilitates them in a big way though; making it a great though not indispensable tool for revolutions. Take note of the fact that the revolt in Egypt did not falter or end because the Internet was shut down. The revolution has persisted nonetheless. Kenyans are now in the process of signing an online petition that is looking to get 1 million signatures to compel the Government not to withdraw from the ICC. Can these million move to the streets? Can a revolution really happen online with a signature and a tweet? As PLO says, “Revolution’s don’t write letters telling you they are coming.”
The True Value of Social Media
While a revolution may not be sparked by conversations on social media channels, depending on how social media is used, social media can drive these revolutions. Social Media can be used to plan and organize movements on the ground. Social Media can be used to get the word out through citizen journalism because where traditional media have no presence or the capacity to have a presence, it is citizen journalists who have come out to bridge this divide by sending out videos, pictures, tweets, and other information that wouldn’t otherwise come out. And even with the blockade of the Internet in Egypt, it is interesting to see how people have rallied to help Egyptians on the ground to get their word out. This has been through ingenious methods such @speaktotweet where Egyptians can call a Google number, leave a message and it will be transcribed as a tweet by an army of volunteers. There are other ways Egyptians are circumventing the internet blockade.