AFRICA: POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA REACHES NEW HEIGHTS

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Dec. 28 (GIN) – Social media networks in 2015 reached new heights in organizing popular protest and calls for change.

Some of the most effective campaigns used Twitter with such hashtags as: #BringBackOurGirls to demand action on the fate of 276 girls kidnapped in April 2014 by Boko Haram in Nigeria. Since then 57 have managed to escape but 219 are still missing.

#OscarTrial - Under this hashtag, South Africans kept close tabs on the trial of Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius, accused of killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in 2013. With widespread interest in the racial elements at play, the case moved from an initial finding of manslaughter to one of murder.

#147notjustanumber was the hashtag referring to the 147 students and school employees murdered by terrorists at Garissa University College last April in Kenya. One of the alleged killers was identified as a son of a Kenyan government official.

#FeesMustFall and #NationalShutDown were the South African students’ call to arms against school fee hikes. From Oct. 14-16, WitsFeesMustFall, by University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) students, received roughly 20,000 tweets per day.  By Oct. 22 the number was 200,000.

#ManderaKillings – In a Kenyan city where 14 were killed by Al Shabaab in July, a mass grave was discovered this month, believed to be the work of security forces. Some 59 people are reported missing in that county bordering Somalia.

Other Twitter groups include: #BeingFemaleInNigeria, created by author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’, #PopeInAfrica, #MugabeFalls, #BurundiCrisis and #BurundiDialogue, and #TheAfricaThatMediaNeverShowsYou.  In addition to Twitter, Facebook is also widely used for mobilizations.

Politicians have not overlooked the power of social media. During recent elections in Côte d'Ivoire, candidates not only toured cities and villages; they also moved the contest online, feverishly posting campaign updates on Twitter and Facebook.

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