Food & Society

Information flow and the great awakening

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By Gonza Muganwa

The captivating events sweeping the Arab world seem set to influence global consciences in ways larger than improved outlooks towards Arab societies. The Al Jazeera news network describes the revolutions as ‘the Arab Awakening’ and you can’t agree more. For long, the general view had been that the Arab people are better off under authoritarian regimes and do not perceive the need for democracy.

No one can claim that anymore. Analysts agree that one major factor that has altered the game play is information and how it is being accessed in our times. Technological advancements and the advent of social media, the boldness of the traditional media like the Arab satellite channels have delivered a breathtaking awakening indeed.

The fact that information tools have advance in such a way that popular communication is possible is essential. For instance, in Syria as the al Assad clan violently attempts to suppress demonstrations amateur videos posted online are keeping the news out of Syria flowing despite the dictatorship refusing to allow formal correspondents access.

The great information flow means that people can closely relate to those thousands of miles away and take their struggles as their own.  Since it is now fact that long entrenched authoritarians can be challenged, contagion is the catch word here.

Our greatest interest is when will this awakening move south of the Sahara to bring about a much needed new order.

Whereas the end of the Cold War democratized to a degree many countries in Africa, it seems a new push is needed not only deepening democracy but also altering the structure of the nation state.

In the last decade or so, the cause for democracy did not seem to be advancing as ‘elected autocrats’ seemed to dominate. Being a military general camouflaging as an elected civilian leader is not enough. The depth of institutional building has to be in such a way that accountability is not only in form but also in substance.

But this second decade of the 21st century proves that things can only get better, technology shows that we cannot go backwards long term.

Places to hide for tyrants and their apparatchik are diminishing fast because of information flow. Closet secrets can be posted by confidants on a blog without being noticed and callous details of state secrets and rumors are ubiquitous on the internet.

Even in public arenas, media get things happening; look at the ongoing chaos in Uganda where images of opposition politician Kizza Besigye being battered by security officers where broadcast instantly sparking riots by supporters.

The tormentors didn’t escape with one security man who seemed so overzealous being immediately identified by the public and exposed with even his wedding photos circulated widely leading to targeted anger with reports that his village home had been attacked.

In Arabia an obvious factor is the unwillingness of all the security forces to die with the strongman, only in a few areas where tribal politics comes into play like Gaddafi case. It is important this ideal of being on the side of the people other than the rulers is respected worldwide.

In the awakening, one myth has been debunked; that providing stability and some economic growth at the expense of greater human and civil rights can work long term. That Bahrain with its very high standards of living is in chaos and the palpable anger in Saudi Arabia proves that all of mankind deserves the full package of stability, development and full democratic rights. Your pursue shortcuts at your own peril.

Citizen participation actually is essential for stability other than the belief that silencing people can be sustained. The moment a popular mass conscience exists in such a way to effect change and can be directed towards that purpose, no force can stand in the way.

In many black Africa countries conditions needed to generate the social pressures needed to spark revolution exist for sure. Since there so many authoritarian and expired rulers deserving a kick in sub Saharan Africa, the question is when will the tools of information flow be put to use to effect revolution? This is a question that will be answered sooner than later.



This post has already been read 16264 times!



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