Tuesday, December 31, 2013

/1Net: What works for me

Paul Wilson of APNIC was the first to take his time to do a blog post on /1Net. He did try to clear what was a kind of spider web in the minds of many. In the few weeks between that post and the end of the year 2013:

  • The call for nominations to /1Net Steering Committee has been taken up by all stakeholder groups and discussions are being fed back into the 1Net main discussion channel
  • The /1Net site has been redesigned to be IPv6 Compliant
  • The original “Coordination” list has gone from closed to open and its name has evolved from coordination to “Discuss.
  • Even in the midst of the different holidays that accompany the last days of every year, discussions are still heavily ongoing in the 1Net discuss list and if any signs, they are certainly going to get more intense when folks “get back from the beach”.

From the onset, I had set myself on “reserve” on the /1Net list, for reasons best known to me. However, I have read almost all the email exchanges, perhaps, except those that are on the IPv6 thread.  After the 1000 or so emails, here is what is rocking for me about /1Net at the moment:

First and foremost, the singular opportunity to have most stakeholders on one platform. In my 11 years of WSIS prepcoms, WSIS 1, WSIS 2, IGFs, ICANN and IG-related engagements, this is the ONLY time I have had one platform where I get an insight to the workings of the IG Business Community.

The second thing is the apparent “ease” with which the Civil Society transcended the nomination process of members to the 1Net steering committee. In so many years, I have come to believe that Civil Society is that stakeholder group that achieves the least consensus among itself. As a Civil Society actor, I have come to accept this “fallacy”, hook, line and sinker. /1Net has given me the opportunity to do a turn-around on that. This time around, the CS organized itself within the deadline, in a more or less efficient manner, whereas other stakeholder groups were needing more time to get things sorted.

The other great thing about /1Net for me is the quality of the issues raised. Most importantly, on transparency of representational networks. I have seen the likes of  BASIS, GIGANET, Best Bits, Diplo and IGC questioned from all angles. To varying levels questions have received their answers, at least, for those who are seeking information, collaboration and progress.

I have also seen pro-active engagement in circles that have not had the Internet Governance question as a centre-point of activity. This is the case of the Community Informatics network and the AFREN group. Individuals have been pivotal in piloting these initiatives and I’m really happy to see such engagement from the research and academia stakeholder group, a group, which I believe, have not had enough  platform allowance to bring its issues to the fore in the IG journey. 

Then there is the Africa representation question. Again? Yes, again! The debate is back. Are folks from Africa participating enough? Are they being represented? Do they volunteer for tasks?  Do they feel/think ably represented by anyone from the “Global South”?  After these initial talks, will Africans take  the issues “home” and take them up from there?  I’m keeping my eyes open.

/1Net’s positioning of itself in Brazil 2014 has been fast and furious. In only 2 months, the “Network” or "Coalition"  has set itself as a major partner in the Brazil International Conference on Global Internet Governance …. And beyond that, even future IG framework. Impressive! It is a space that needs to be watched..

As some still “observe” how things roll out with /1Net, I can only look forward to what 2014 will be from the /1Net lenses. But between now and then… some things already have happened for me..
Happy New Year!
Are the Acronyms and abbreviations  confusing?
1Net is the global coalition on the Internet. 1Net.org has info. APNIC is the Asia-Pacific Network Information Center. IPv6 is Internet Protocol Version 6. WSIS is the World Summit on the Information Society. PrepCom is Preparatory Committee (of the WSIS).  IGF is the Internet Governance Forum. www.intgovforum.org  has all the info. ICANN is the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.  IG is Internet Governance. BASIS is the Business Action to Support the Information Society. GiGANET is the Global Internet Governance Academic Network. Best Bits is a platform for Civil Society actions around Internet issues. www.bestbits.net has info. Diplo is the short form of The Diplo Foundation. www.diplomacy.edu has info. IGC is the Internet Governance Caucus of some civil society and other organisations. AFREN is the Africa Regional Education Network

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Internet Governance Forum opening ceremony speech

Nusa Dua Bali Convention Center – NDBCC
Bali, Indonesia
Official Opening session
[On behalf of Civil Society Stakeholders]
Address by Ms Nnenna Nwakanma
Africa Regional Coordinator
Volunteer organiser, Africa IGF
Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Ladies and gentlemen,
Good evening

My name is Nnenna Nwakanma. I am of Nigerian origin, living in Côte d'Ivoire. I love football and the Internet has made me a global citizen. I am part of the group steering the Best Bits platform of Civil Society Organisations in the IGF. I work for the World Wide Web Foundation as Africa Regional Coordinator.

The World Wide Web Foundation was established by Web inventor, Sir Tim Berners-Lee to strengthen and defend the open Web as a global public good and a basic right.

We work with others to make the web truly universal, open and free, through initiatives like the Alliance for Affordable Internet to bring down the cost of access, and the Web Index tracking the health and utility of the Web in over 80 countries.

We also put the open web to work to strengthen democracy and participation, especially by harnessing the power of open data.

And that is the reason we are here. To engage as Civil Society, to remind us of the key principles we agreed and signed up to.

The first is Human rights. We seem to be moving farther from it as we move further on the Internet Governance process. Human rights need to make a come back, and be kept at center stage.

The second is multistakeholder participation in an open, accountable and transparent manner at all levels. It is not clear how we have been collectively doing and it might be the right time to start measuring the adoption, the impact and the promises made in this domain.

The third is our development agenda. We must never lose focus that our collective effort in the Internet governance process is aimed at making the Internet a tool for poverty reduction, for health delivery for education at all levels, for the economic well-being of our world.

We must continue to extend the « Internet of opportunities »
Opportunities for indigenous people ;
Opportunities for illiterate and nomadic persons
Opportunities for rural dwellers
Opportunities for landlocked countries
Opportunities for Island states
And opportunities for countries made up of islands, like Indonesia.

Ladies and gentlemen

  • A basic broadband plan costs the average African almost ⅔ of their monthly income.
  • In the world’s 49 poorest countries, only 1 in 10 people has access to the Internet.
  • 25 Netizens and citizen journalists were killed and 157 netizens were imprisoned last year.
  • Since May 2012 alone 24 countries have passed new laws or regulations that could restrict free speech online, violate users’ privacy, or punish individuals who post certain types of content

This, therefore, is an urgent call to action.

  • A call to action for greater and enhanced cooperation of all stakeholders
  • A call to action for an affordable Internet for everyone, everywhere
  • A call for action in favour of accessibility, to make the Internet real for persons with disabilities
  • A call for action for a more efficient Internet Governance process at national levels, because that is where « home » is
  • A call for action in mainstreaming gender equity, youth engagement and remote participation at all levels of Internet Governance process.
  • To continue to enhance the capacity of the Internet as a tool for safeguarding social justice, equity, diversity, and multilingualism.

Ladies and gentlemen

The growing threat of unwarranted government surveillance across the globe deserves our attention. The current trend to justify rash and poorly considered expansion of state surveillance in the name of protecting us must be rejected. Humanity needs the Internet to be and remain, neutral, open, universal and free.

In closing my address, as we meet this year under the theme of Building bridges, enhancing multistakeholder cooperation for growth and sustainable development

It is important to salute the individuals who build bridges daily in the IGF journey :

  • People like Sir Tim Berners-lee, the inventors
  • People in the policy circles grappling with the new reality called the Internet
  • Nations like Brazil, that are actively seeking for innovative ways to make the process more participative and inclusive
  • People in the technical community, who make sure the Internet works
  • Organisers, volunteers and conveners of local, national, sub-regional, regional and Global IG discussions, instances and forums 

    Organisersations that are commited to the affordability of the Internet, like the council and members og the Alliance for Affodable Internet.
  • Organisations, like NRO and platforms that fund the IGF, especially Civil Society participation
  • To the people and governments who have hosted us, at all levels for these past years..

To the awesome people of Bali, the people and government of Indonesia.

To you, for listening,

Thank you.



Terima kasih

Nnenna Nwakanma.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Road to FIFA World Cup [Brasil 2014]: My take on the Africa Top 10

As African soccer teams enter the final round of the qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup tournament in Brazil,  I'm taking a quick look at the ten teams. By the way, Southern Africa is not just absent from the tournament, but also absent from the top 10.  But that is a matter for another time:

Algeria: Humm, Fennec? I am not sure.  What I know about this team is that they are keen on winning without having to do the work: sort of "by hook or crook".  Great football nation with some of Africa's greatest fans. But it does appear that they bring out their game when they play neighbouring countries..  If they make it to the final 5, how far can they go?  How well can they play?

Burkina Faso: I want the Stallions in. Bancé needs to scare some people on a global level.. They have the fastest growing  fan base in Africa. The President is a huge fan too and does not hide it. They did so well in the last African Cup of Nations and as Vice-Champions, I just wish for them to have greater opportunities to taste the world cup.  They have never been there.. and it will be HUGE if they make it to Brasil.

Cameroon:  Are the teeth that have been lost grown back? Eto'o has announced he is done with the team. Have the leadership issues been sorted?  I think there is something wrong with the Indomitable Lions and that needs to be sorted out first. Otherwise, they may end up in Brasil and be the  "scandal team", like France was in South Africa 2010. I still have my cherished dreams from the Roger Milla days, when we danced Makossa.. and Cameroon used to bring shivers.. but those days are gone.

Cape Verde: Oh please!! This is one team that should go to Brasil.  The team is young, the coach looks like a basketball player, and the players have vibes, style and swag.  The Blue Sharks gave us so much thrills in their African Cup of Nations outing that I just want them in Brasil.. to heat up the game!

Côte d'Ivoire: Humm. What can I say? The elephants are in a sort of "end of generation". Their qualification is most probable. Didier Drogba needs to be in Brasil. We need soccer artistes.. people who do "zouglou" and "couper-decaler" with football.  It does not seem that the level of the elephants has gone up since they played finals agains Egypt.. but hey! The expression that summarises my feelings is what they say in Côte d'Ivoire "L'éléphant, c'est un animal qui trompe". It says the elephant is an animal that "trompe", a word which means "trumpet" and "deceive" at the same time. Yes, the elephant trumpets: make a hell of a noise, gathers dust, scares adversaries.. but does not satisfy at the final run. Something akin to what someone said about the Holland team: a bra with lots of support and no cup!!

Egypt: Mega Africa Champion. Over and over again.  But does not bite "outside of the house". I dont know why.  Things have not been the same since the departure of Shehata. But it appears the team is re-consolidating. Will Brasil make or mar the Pharaoes? I cannot say.

Ethiopia: The team is still learning.  But is that positive or negative? Actually I dont know much about the team, but the only reason Ethiopia needs to go to the World Cup, for me, will be to show off the beauties!! Those Ethiopian girls rock. It will be good to have some awesomely beautiful Ethiopians give a run to the  Brasilian ladies for their beauty.

Ghana: These days, Black Stars seem to be stuck in a third-place kind of situation. I dont know how this will play out.. but if Ghana can place 3rd in Brasil.. then that will be HUGE. Plus, Asamoa Gyan needs to clear that missed penalty in a "world cup match".  So I am in favour of Ghana making the list.

Nigeria: Okay, being African champions is not enough. I was fairly disappointed at the Confederation Cup outing of the Eagles. But I will say Keshi deserves to be in Brasil. He has worked for it.

Senegal: These Lions give me the yikes. I'm not sure of them on the discipline end. Soccer is not just the game, but if you are going to Brasil as an African team, you need to represent  the continent well. I'm not sure here.

Whichever way the last round goes, we will support all 5 African teams..

We will go to Brasil.

We will come with the vuvzelas

And we will dance to the African beats..

Go teams!

Go Africa!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Of Election Petitions, Ghana, Africa and democracy: #TheVerdict

I woke up yesterday,  Thursday the 29th of August 2013, very expectant. The 9-judge Supreme Court of Ghana was going to give the verdict of the case that opposed the New Patriotic Party of Ghana and the National Democratic Convention of Ghana.  NPP had petitioned the court, alleging the following:

1. Overvoting
2. Voting without biometric verification
3. Absence of signature
4. Duplicate pink sheets
5. Duplicate Polling Stations
6. Unknown polling stations

For 8 months, the legal battle had gone on and August 29th was the "today na today" day for the whole of Ghana. On Social Media, #ElectionPetition, which has been the tag all along, was joined by #TheVerdict.

Facebook, but mostly, Twitter, went crazy. The tweets were arriving in droves. For my part, I was tracking them like my life depended on them.  I followed the stories.  Here they are:

The Ghana-man story:
As for Ghana-man, paaaa, he took the matter "personally". There were calls for peace. Everyone reminded everyone of the importance of Ghana. Nobody wanted anybody to be a refugee. And Yes, Ghanaians foresaw that #TheVerdict may be followed by confusion, disturbance and even war. But s/he did not want to be the one to start it. So stay off the street, stay at home. Almost everyone did. Result? An un-announced holiday. No, it was "better than that", you could go from Spintex to Kaneshie in a matter of minutes!!  Even Accra Mall, of all places, was deserted. The term was "Judgement Day" for many.

The Police story:
Eh! Ghana Police! They brought out all the arsenal (add United, City, Chelsea, Liverpool and all the Premier League teams if you want to). No, Seriously, I did not know that Ghana Police was capable of such mobilization. Every city had police presence. Accra had police on land, on water, and even in the sky above our heads.  Chale!! Guys were ready oo!!!  Did they also go underground? Just asking..

The Ghana Media Story:
This might perhaps be the best story. GTV  and GBC, the official national broadcasting services were ordered by law to give live coverage. Every media house that had a transmitter put it to work.  I think the Gold Medal goes to the JOY group. They were all over and all online. Ghanaians were given the opportunity to air their views. Anybody who had anything to say had a place to say it. Simply phenomenal!

The Social Media Story:
Oh là là, Ghana Tweeps nailed it. They took pictures, they reported. They tweeted, retweeted, shared, and kept the hype. While we waited for the judges to give #TheVerdict, we even got to the point of asking people to share what they were doing while waiting.. It will be interesting to see a MashUp of the tweets on both tags: #ElectionPetition and #TheVerdict.

The Nana Akufo-Addo Story:
I bet Nana did not sleep the night before!  The team was up very early in the morning. They had prayers and even a group photo. My take is that Nana raised the whole thing one notch higher.  He arrived in court himself.

The John Dramani Mahama Story:
I dont think he worked the whole day. Maybe that should be taken away from his salary on  pro-rata. But hey, how many Ghanaians did anything else but watch TV, wait  for #TheVerdict, hear it, then discuss it? He dressed up in white, himself and the Vice-President. And waited, and waited, and waited, and waited... for the judges and their decision ... just like any other Ghana-man.

The Atuguba Story:
Your Honour, you made us wait oo! Our hearts nearly disappeared from our chests. Eight  months, over 24 million persons, investments put on hold, police mobilisation, almost 2 million dollars in live coverage, even a quasi national 'Atuguba' holiday.. Anyway, he arrived, finally, with the 8 others. To give a verdict that lasted for about 1/3rd of a minute:

“The first respondent was validly elected and the suit is dismissed”

Asa! Chikena! C'est fini!  That is #THEVERDICT.  Only then did we exhale.. and actually noticed that we were literally holding our breaths!! I tweet:
Okay, so now what? What is New Patriotic Party saying?.  It did not take long:
And Nana Akufo-Addo himself?  It also followed suit:
And all eyes turn to President Mahama's Twitter account.  He, too, does not waste time:
And now, I can finally get up and go have breakfast! Yes, breakfast at lunch time.

The STORY of the stories :
That was the story. But what IS the THE STORY.  The STORY of the stories?  That is the most important aspect of this post. What I have taken with me. It is a simple and straight one. Ghana's democracy has indeed matured. You may not have noticed it but:
  1. The Ghana-man story is the story of citizens who have realised that their country is all they have and it is their duty to keep it safe and peaceful. It is the story of citizens' Ubuntu. I am because we are. God Bless Ghanaians.
  2. The Police Story is the story of a force that is living by its creed, is ready to do its work and is up and alert. God Bless Ghana Police.
  3. The Ghana Media story is the story of inclusion, of freedom of information, of the right to expression, of citizen mobilisation,  of the freedom of speech. Ghana Media will  live long.
  4. The Social Media story is the story of  what the Internet can do as a development tool. Its power to crowdsource information. The mobile, immediate, global, multi-lingual, cross-cultural and unifying power of the web; simply priceless. We have become "Homo Numéris"
  5. The Nana Akufo-Addo  story is the story of an opposition that has decided to be democratic. To pursue differences at the appropriate places, in the manner set out by law, using legal and legitimate means. Nana, Ghana owes you.
  6. The John Dramani Mahama story is the story of a sitting president goes ordinary. Wake and go to work. For the 29th of August 2013, wake up, dress up, pretend you were ready to work, watch TV, spend time talking to friends and family on phone, but most importantly wait. Wait, wait, wait and wait... for the Supreme Court to decide, just like every other Ghana-man. JDM, Ghana will remember your calm, your self control and your humility
  7. The Atuguba (or Supreme Court) story is the story of a judiciary system that has come of age. A supreme court that reads the law, interprets it, and makes decisions based on the reading and interpretation of that law, without fear or favour. Your Honours, we waited for long, we lost some business during the wait, but it is well. You have spoken, and we shall go with you. Lead on!
Viva Ghana!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

AU SECOURS!! Ils vont me voler mon projet.

Depuis quelque temps, j'ai eu à causer avec des personnes. Des porteurs des projets importants. 

1. Ce sont des personnes qui sont sures de leurs projets.
2.  Ils ne veulent pas en parler à beaucoup d'homme, par peur de se le faire voler
3. Mais ils avaient besoin tout de même d'une personne de confiance.. et finalement ils ont décidé que ce sera Nnenna.

Après une/des discussion/s "de haut niveau stratégique et d'une sécurité de niveau 10", je constate:

1. La plupart des porteurs des projets sont débutants
2. La plupart de ces projets ne sont pas encore écrits.
3. Les porteurs n'arrivent pas à bien les articuler en 5 - 10 minutes
4. Les porteurs du projet veulent une rencontre face à face, avec moi. Ils croient que je saurais les propulser...
5. Je constate que le milieu dans lequel ils veulent exercer leur est inconnu, pour la plupart
6. Pour ceux qui connaissent un peu leur milieu, leur expérience est de moins de 2 ans
7. 80% de ces projets prennent la Côte d'Ivoire pour le monde entier
8.  J'ai constaté un manque criant d'étude de faisabilité. C'est rare qu'on prend en compte des acteurs qui sont déjà sur le terrain.  J'ai pas vu un plan pour la concurrence
9. Les porteurs du projet manquent des contacts clés
10. La moitié de ces projets sont des illusions.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Frequent Traveler? How to travel with Kenya Airways and NOT be miserable

It has been a long time  that I have not flown on Kenya Airways. That is, until this month, when I had to do two back-to-back trips on the airline.  My last two trips before those were on Ethiopian and Emirates.  Yes, Emirates.  That far. Abidjan-Dubai, Dubai-Nairobi.  And for my next trips, it will most probably be Emirates.  The question will be: "Why do that long distance?" And the answer will be: "Because I dont want to be miserable".

For many a Frequent Traveler (allow me to use initial capitals, in respect for those who do miles and miles in the air) what you want is to arrive and face the business for which you traveled. 

Anyway, here are pieces from my experience:

  1. Dont buy a business class ticket
  2. Buy travel insurance, if you can 
  3. Leave 4-5 hours of transit time in your booking
  4. Bring your own blanket 
  5. As much as you can, do not check in luggage
  6. If you are checking in anything, keep a day's provision of clothes in your carry-on
  7. Please set yourself in "Patience, perseverance and no-worry" mode for the whole of the trip
  8. Check in online
  9. Arrive at the airport early, earlier than usual
  10. Choose a seat up front, if you want to have a choice in the meal/drink service
  11. Keep 1 kilo short of the allowed baggage 
  12. Insist on getting receipts for all payments made
  13. Please print "Final Destination [Airport Code]" for both legs of your trip
  14. Wrap your bag, taking care to have the "Final Destination" tag visible
  15. If on transit, insist they put the yellow  "TRANSFER" tag on the bag
  16. Once checked in,  go and verify the boarding gate printed on the boarding pass/on the screen (especially if in NBO)
  17. Ask AGAIN, at the gate, when they will open or start boarding and keep an eye.
  18. Do not expect announcements in any other language other than English and Kiswahili
  19. Make mental  time for  a one-hour delay in take off.
  20. Do not expect the crew to be friendly, mind your business
  21. Keep a credit {not debit} card or cash if you plan to buy something
  22. Try as much as possible not to request  the attention of the crew
  23. If on transit, and you need to ease yourself in NBO, make ample time, you may need to queue
  24. If for any reason you miss your flight due to late arrival, insist that  the new booking be printed, especially if it is on a partner/another airline
  25. Keep cash/cards handy. 
I have no plans to explain stuff I have written here.  You may still have  a great flight with KQ without doing any of the above..

Bon voyage!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

African Unity at 50 or the Burden of our Nationalities

It was a very impressive month of May for me this year. I followed the 50th anniversary of the Organisation of African Unity, now African Union.  The round tables, the semi-circles and the plenaries.  Most of the debates are decades old and the same questions that were asked 50 years ago are still on the  table. They have aged but are still alive.

Incidentally, I travelled to Stockholm, Sweden about the same time. Like is the case in many of these gatherings, the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and SIDA - The Swedish International Development Agency, the organisers of the Stockholm Internet Forum, had done a great job of  making sure that key Freedom of/on the Internet figures from Africa were there. From East to West, North to South, via Central.. they were folks from all across Africa. There were more Africans there, than we had at the Africa Internet Governance Forum in Cairo, last year.

I met Jacob Akol, from South Sudan, in Stockholm. He gave me a book, with a very provocative title. I committed to reading it and since I have been traveling since then, I have been reading bits and chunks of it.  It turned out to to be not just an impressive book, but also one that came in time. Akol, in his memoirs really did a region by region experience of Africa, recounting very sordid experiences of human suffering, resilience, wickedness and corruption. He has been to almost all 54 countries of Africa.
I am happy I asked for an autograph before even I opened the book to begin reading. I will cherish it. And yes, if you see "Burden of Nationality" anywhere, buy several copies, one for yourself, and for others.

My other May experience was in the visit of a friend. Of Zimbabwean origin, this friend had to visit a Francophone country in West Africa. Granted, that particular country did not have a consular representation in Harare. So my friend asked, and yes, you guessed right, she had to go to the French embassy to get this visa:
For frequent travelers, one can see that this kind of "République Française Visa" was the ones used at about the same time the Organisation of African Unity existed. Before France and other European countries started issuing  the Schengen travel visas.

I asked me several questions:
  1. So in May 2013, an African national still goes to a European embassy to apply for visa to visit another African country?
  2. So after so many years of "Independence", African countries are still being diplomatically represented by "colonial masters"?
  3. What is the meaning of  Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) if ECOWAS countries cannot issue visas for sister countries in locations where they do not have consular representations?  In the case of my Swedish visa, it was issued by the Belgian embassy in Abidjan
My other "burden of nationality" story in May 2013 was that of  a Nigerian IT Professional, officer in a Pan-African Foundation for IT, who was booked for the eLearning Africa  Conference in Namibia. After having obtained the Namibian visa, he now had to obtain a transit visa from the Republic of South Africa. The total duration of his transit, going and coming, was not up to 24 hours and he was not going to be stepping out of the airport in Joburg.  He was certain the transit visa was not going to be a problem and packed for the trip, planning to pick it up and head straight to the airport for check in. He was refused the South African transit visa. Yes, the trip was called off.

This one really broke me. While Heads of States are feasting and congratulating each other on the 50th anniversary of African Union, or is Unity.. everyday Africans, like me, are asking questions:
  1. What exactly is African Unity?
  2. Why  do we still go through strenuous and humiliating visa procedures for travel within Africa, after enduring the humiliations inflicted on us by non-African countries?
  3. When will African Union become a union of citizens and not of heads of states?
It is June 9, 2013 today. There is talk for a vision and an African  agenda  for 2063.  What can we say, if we look back from the scramble for Africa in 1884, to the days of the slave trade, the Independence of the 1960s,  and all these years of "freedom"...

The first  50 years are gone and next slate of 50 years is being discussed:
  1. Will you be around and alive in 2063? Many of us will not
  2. Will Africans still  be blaming their colonial masters for everything?
  3. How many African Heads of state will still be battling "imperialists" and "Western neo-colonists"
  4. When can  Africans travel freely, at least in Africa?
Simply put, when are we, in Africa, going to get rid of the burden of our nationalities?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Africa's first Twitter War : the good, the bad and the ugly

Thursday, March 21st will be a day to remember. No, there was no earthquake, no Tsunami and no extraordinary bomb blast in the "bomb nations" part of the world. But there was huge violence. No, not just violence, it was war. The kind of war that strikes you with a boom. First because you never saw it coming, and second, by the time you realized what is happening.. things have really gone bad. Very bad.

It happened on Twitter.

The background is the reported « not so nice » welcome and hospitality that the Kenyan Soccer team received in Nigeria, in preparation for a match. News got back to Kenya and Kenyans on Twitter (KOT) decide to give Nigerians a piece of their KOT mind. And there was a return from Nigerians on Twitter (NOT). There was fire for fire.. The war is still on, and may not subside any time soon.

The Good

Can anything good come out of a war ? This time, I will answer "Yes, Social Media has made it possible".

For one thing, both countries were Twitter Trending Topics almost the whole day. It will be good to see the exact number that the tweets that had #SomeoneTellNigeria, #SomeoneTellKenya, #SomeoneTellNigerians and #SomeonetellKenyans or their close likes actually generated on Twitter. Some tweets received retweets in the thousands.

The other good thing is that for once, we can have a different kind of war. This digital or social media war has gone on with an arsenal made up of computers, tablets, mobile phones, and Internet connection. Make no mistake, there is a financial cost to it : hours of data package, bandwidth, electricity, phone credits and human energy were expended.

This is the kind of war for which the Security Council of the African Union will not have to meet. No Mediator will need to be appointed, no negotiation meetings will have to hold and no  MIS* or UNM* peace-keeping force will be needed. No world power will have to « take its responsibilities » and impose itself on the warring countries. All of that wont happen.

Yes, I was amazed at the mobilisation. At the speed at which tweets arrived and the intensity in the posts. Unbelievable !! Kenyans on Twitter, Nigerians on Twitter !! Irrespective of what they were saying, this was a clear demonstration of AOT – Africans on Twitter !! We followed.. from Cape to Cairo, Dakar to Djibouti. Ghanaians and Tanzanians did not want to miss it. And yes, Global Twittosphere, Social and tradition media cashed in !!

You know what I really found « good » ? The possibility that people have to bring out all the violence in them.. to out it.. without needing to purchase arms, shoot bullets or launch grenades. The violence was intense, and I was personally surprised at how much of it is latent …. seething underneath.. while we do emails that end with « best regards », post Bible passages, and exchange niceties.. all of that.. just waiting to explode.

The Bad

Did the people who launched into the war take time to find out what exactly the problem was? Did Nigerians and Kenyans get the full story ? Why will any African engage in trading insults on a sister country? Do people realise that the  "Internet never forgets? Twitter may have given people the opportunity to out their violent thoughts, but did they really weigh their tweets ? I got the impression, in reading some of the tweets, that some just saw the war, saw in it an opportunity to be a Twitter mercenary and got "Twirecruted". No matter the perspective from which we look at it, heaping insults on the Internet is a no-no. There may be boomerangs.

The bad here is that people are engaging in a war whose every bullet is seen, calculated, and recorded. These tweets may hunt people later, in ways and places that they will least expect.

The bad is also that football, instead of being the opportunity for  the consolidation of ties, of friendship and of humanity  is now being used to fuel violence.

The Ugly

The hate speech. Photos that should never have been online, characterising human beings as animals. I was scandalised to see people use skin colour as a weapon. These tweets, of Africans by Africans will fuel the wheels of racism. Even in war conditions, there is something called the International Humanitarian Law, something called crime against humanity. In this Twitter war, I saw Twitter-genocide, or should I say Twittercide.

There are criminal minds out there. There are individuals looking for the slightest provocation to go a rampage. There are extremists waiting for tweets like these to instigate physical violence.. Someone somewhere is looking for a valid reason for a violent retaliation. I have begun to ask myself if very soon we will not be having Twiterrorism.

Imagine if Nigeria and Kenya shared borders ?

Quo vadis...

I am asking myself questions. Is this current (Twitter) generation better than the one before? What has this generation learned about African Unity? With all the wars in Africa, have we not lost enough to be wiser? How come our use of technology, instead of being constructive, is increasingly becoming destructive; self destructive?

Moving forward

I have taken a line from the Kenyan, the Nigerian and African Union anthems and this what I see :

« The Labours of our heroes past shall never be in vain. Let all with one accord, in common bond united, dedicate ourselves to rise together to defend our liberty and unity »


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Les Éléphants à la CAN2013: Quand nos adversaires parlent de nous, tendons l'oreille

Je suis arrivée à l'aéroport international Murtala Mohamed de Lagos le dimanche 3 février aux alentours de 15 heures 20, heure du Nigeria. Le match entre le Nigeria et la Côte d'Ivoire allait commencer dans une vingtaine de minutes.

Deux semaines plus tôt :
J'avais fait une prière au Bon Dieu que j'ai pris le soin de poster sur Facebook. Je confiais mon cœur à Dieu, car je ne voulais pas que « mon cœur meurt » comme on le dit à Abidjan.

Une semaine plus tôt
Au fur et à mesure que les matches se jouaient, j'ai commencé à imaginer la possibilité que les Éléphants s'affrontent aux Super Eagles un peu trop tôt. Au dernier jour des matches de poule B, il n'y avait plus aucune question. Le cauchemar allait devenir réalité.

Alors, je suis inondée.. sur Twitter, sur Facebook, par courriels, au téléphone, dans le quartier, à l'église. .. en tout cas, partout où les gens savaient que j'aimais le foot et que j'avais et le Nigeria et la Côte d'Ivoire comme pays. « Tu supporte qui ? ». « Tu es de quel coté ? ». « Tu regarde le match où ?... On attendait ma réponse.

Samedi soir, je dois faire ma valise. Demain, j'ai un voyage à effectuer sur le Nigeria pour le compte d'un client. Je sort mon maillot Éléphants. Il fait parti des ces choses que je voyage toujours avec. Je le regarde.. et pour une fois, je me rends compte que je n'allais pas avoir des difficultés à choisir. Cela m'a beaucoup étonné. A quel moment exactement suis-je devenue totalement ivoirienne dans mon affiliation sportive foot ? Ça, je ne saurais le dire.

Alors, maillot.. entre dans la valise.. ton pied mon pied. Et sur le champs, je décide même d'en acheter pour offrir. Normalement je voyage aussi avec le café "Made in Côte d'Ivoire". Mais cette fois-ci, il n'y aura pas plus grand cadeau que le maillot authentique des Éléphants. A l'aéroport, j'en achète.. pour ma sœur et pour mon client aussi. Sept mille Francs chacun, total 14 000.

Atterrissage à Lagos. Il ne me reste qu'une quinzaine des minutes. Je balaie le hall d'arrivé des yeux, pour me rassurer que je pouvais regarder le match là. Oui, il y a un poste Télé dans un bureau, mieux, il y un écran géant coté public. Le comble!!  Je récupère ma valise et je m'installe confortablement. Il y une foule : des officiers, des travailleurs, quelques autres voyageurs. Je change le dollar et j'obtiens le Naira. J'achète une carte MTN pour alimenter ma clé Internet. Je me connecte.. et je déclare sur Twitter.. que je soutiens les Éléphants.

Fin de match.

Je suis sonnée, complètement. J'envoie mes impressions sur Twitter 

 En suite je me interroge 

Je suis fatiguée, épuisée. Je me sens lourde. Et mon cœur continue de battre, pas en mouvement « woyo » normal, mais en « Couper- décaler ». J'ai pitié de moi. Moi qui croyais que j'allais offrir des maillots pour réconforter les gens au Nigeria. Pauvre de moi. Supporteur Maso.

Et là..

Et là, les nigérians commencent à analyser le match. Je ne sais pas pourquoi.. j'aurais du partir.. Mais malgré moi, je tenais à savoir ce qu'ils pensent des Éléphants. Et j'ai entendu des choses :

Ils se croient plus grands que les autres : Je ne sais pas, moi, mais en tout cas, les experts dans le domaine nous avait donné favori. C'est pas seulement la Côte d'Ivoire qui se levée un jour pour dire que la Côte d'Ivoire est favorite. Je ne sais pas si cela a apparu aux autres comme étant trop d'orgueil.. Mais je me souviens très clairement que le discours officiel a toujours été qu'il fallait respecter l'adversaire. Peut-être qu'il y avait un double discours. Je ne sais pas.

Ils se disent une grande nation de foot : Je ne comprends plus rien. De mémoire, la première fois que j'ai entendu cette phrase, c'était avec Son Excellence Jacques Anouma. Au temps de Dieng Ousseynou, on ne le disait pas. Cette phrase tire sa genèse de la qualification des Éléphants au Mondial 2006. Pour un pays qui a pu se qualifié en 2006, 2010 et 2014, est-ce qu'on avait pas un petit droit de se croire « une nation de foot » ? L'histoire du foot ivoirien peut ne pas égaler celle d’Égypte, du Cameroun, du Ghana ou du Nigeria. Toutefois, les faits sont là.

Ils croient tellement en leurs Stars : Et alors? Didier Drogba, Yaya Touré, Koné Touré, Gervinho, Kalunho. Il fut un temps où les Stars étaient des nigérians, des ghanéens ou des camerounais. A quoi ça sert une Star nationale si moi, je peux pas « faire mon petit malin » avec son nom. Est-ce les ivoiriens qui élisent les meilleurs joueurs africains ? Ou bien on s'attendait à ce que les Éléphants aillent à la CAN sans nos Stars. ?

Ils pensent que c'est  le classement FIFA qui gagne un match : Mais quand les autres pays nous faisaient peur avec leur classement FIFA qui est venu parler ? Pourquoi est-ce quand j'occupe la première place, du coup, on veut plus que le classement sert à quelque chose ?

Ils se sont foutus eux-mêmes de leur propre gueule, en offrant une si grande formation à un entraîneur-stagiaire : Bon, voyons. Le choix d'un entraîneur est fait en consultation, et surtout par un Président et un bureau de Fédération qui est élu. On peut pas faire confiance à nos leaders ?

Défaite ou Échec ?

C'est là le but de ce billet. Je ne m'attendais pas à ce que les Éléphants quitte la CAN de cette manière. Comme un ami me le disait, « on a pas perdu le match, on s'est perdu dans le match ». Les fans n'ont pas retrouvé le jeu des Éléphants. On avait pas vu cette rage de vaincre, le fighting spirit.., un engagement pour faire honneur à la patrie.. de la vraie fraternité. Je l'ai vu, cet esprit avec le Niger, l’Éthiopie, le Congo, l'Afrique du sud, le Cap Vert.. le Mali.. le Nigeria... et le Burkina Faso.

Donc de quoi s'agit-il ? De quoi souffrons-nous ? De quoi parlent les nigérians ?
Ils se croient plus grand que les autres : Non. Aucun pays n'est plus grand que l'autre. Les matches de foot ne se joue pas par apport au pouvoir économique d'un pays. Ce sont 11 joueurs qui s'affrontent. Ni plus, ni moins. Ne peut donc se dire plus grand que celui qui a su maîtriser son adversaire, et cela, seulement après le match !

Ils se disent une grande nation de foot : Peut être qu'il faut revoir cette phrase et la pensée qui est son fondement. La Côte d'Ivoire sera grande. Ça, je le crois. Mais pour l'heure, nous sommes en construction et en reconstruction. La grandeur est un poteau qui bouge chaque fois. Je n'ai pas beaucoup entendu des discussions de la demi-finale. On l'avait prise pour acquise.. Mais que nenni !!

Ils croient tellement en leurs Stars : Cette CAN 2013 a démontré que « Les Stars, on fait rien avec elles ». Triste et douloureuse vérité. Combien dans la liste des 11 de CAF sont encore en Afrique du sud ? Pire, les Stars que nous avons sont « en voie de retraite », sans que la relève ne soit préparée. Les stars ont certes l’expérience, mais les choses commencent à changer. Et elle doivent changer.. On ne peut pas toujours laisser le destin national du foot d'un pays aux mains des professionnels qui jouent à l'international.

Ils pensent que c'est classement FIFA qui gagne un match : Humm. On est numéro 1 chez FIFA.. mais le Cap Vert a su montrer à l'Afrique du sud « qui a mit l'eau dans coco ». Autant je respecte la FIFA, autant je sais que son rôle est politique. Au final, un match va se jouer entre 11 et 11.. dans des conditions qui ne sont pas les mêmes qu'en Europe. On a beau classer une équipe nationale mais tant que les joueurs ne mouillent pas les maillots, ne font pas la fierté du pays, ne s'engagent pas cœur, âme et esprit.. le supporteur que nous sommes « on fait rien avec ça »

Ils se sont foutus eux-mêmes de leur propre gueule, en offrant une si grande formation à en entraîneur-stagiaire : Je suis d'accord. En tout cas... Sabri Lamouchi lui même savais ce que la plupart d'entre nous pensaient de lui. Je n'ai jamais été convaincue par les raisons que le Ministre et la FIF nous ont donné pour le limogeage de Zahoui François et l'engagement de Lamouchi. On nous a dit de faire confiance.. et de juger Lamouchi par ses résultats.. Bon, candidat.. approche-toi !

2014 est l'année de la Coupe du Monde. 2015 sera l'autre année de la CAN. On viendra faire le post-mortem de la CAN 2013. On nous demandera de faire confiance.. de soutenir les Éléphants, de prier.. et tout ça. Comme les éternels masos, on va recommencer... Mais moi je dirais aux et autres.. parlons-nous, écoutons-nous.. mais surtout..

Quand nos adversaires parlent de nous, tendons l'oreille

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Algeria.. the surge, and no apologies

This time last week the war on Mali was only a few hours old.  I had already asked my questions concerning it.  One of the questions was  on where the arms were coming from, or at the very least, where they were being transported from. Today, it is clear that the war is no longer in Mali alone.  One of my key questions has also found its answer.  There is a terrorist back channel in Algeria.. 

And the Algerian branch of the Nebula has shown itself in no uncertain terms.. and the Algerian Army has also responded in no uncertain terms.

The  story I:
On Wednesday the 16th of January,  very early in the morning, a truck load of armed men storm a gas platform in the South  Algerian desert  town of In Amena. Some 40 Westerners and hundreds of Algerians at the platform are held hostage.  The kidnappers request that "France stops its aggression in Mali" and "possibility to leave the country"

The Story 2:
A bit before the hostage, Algeria had closed its borders with Mali. When the news was made known.. I had a chill. . because in its history, I have known Algeria not to be a nation that negotiates with terrorism. It did not take  30 hours before the Algerian army responded to the terrorists.  Algeria responded with a surge. A surge whose first report comes to 34 hostages killed, 14 terrorists  dead, hundreds rescued.


No negotiation policy:  Algeria has always made it clean and clearly known.  The official policy of the country is  NOT to negotiate and NOT to pay any ransom.

There is no Army to train. I have been to Algeria and I am yet to see any Army or police that is as ready as the ones I saw in Algiers anywhere  in Africa. These ones are not like the ones in Mali, they are capable, equipped and  and ready.

No "international community" needed:  No, Algeria did not wait for the Maghreb Union to meet, and inform the UN General Assembly, to request the UN Security Council to vote..and listen to what the countries with veto will have to say. No, Algeria is not doing all of that. Because that is the time that terrorists use to re-arm and consolidate.

Sovereignty: Algeria has made it clear.  This is happening in my territory, against my people, in an Algerian company.  This is a problem that concerns me, even if some hostages are not Algerian citizens.  I will solve it my way.

The aim of this post is not to hail violence, or to make a light case of the human lives lost.  But just to note that Algeria has shown key qualities that have been lacking in many African countries:1) a clear policy, 2) preparedness of the defense capacity, 3) agile decision-making  and rapid response in emergencies, and 4) a clear sovereign responsibility.

There may be regrets later, there may be clarifications to nations whose citizens would have been among the victims, there may be explanations later to the larger Algerian populace..

But Algeria will never be blamed for not taking action when action needed to be taken.

It is in this that I agree with Algeria: Have a policy, Be Ready,  Decide, and defend your sovereignty.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Mali: How long will the war take?

War has started in Mali.  It started on Friday January 11, 2013. The French government, responding to a request from the Malian government kicked it off. In  his address, the French President, François Hollande said France will give its support to Mali in this war  "as long as it takes"

And that is the question. HOW LONG WILL THE WAR TAKE? When will it end?

For starters, where is Mali?
Located in West Africa, Mali (which means Hippopotamus) is one of the major Sahel countries. It used to be mentioned in studies related to illiteracy, Female Genital Mutilation, Gender and  desertification.  For music lovers, it is the land of Ali Farka Touré, Salif Keita and the legendary blind couple, Amadou and Mariam. 

Perhaps the old city of Timbuktu, of 333 saints, is even better known among scholars than the country itself. It is famed for being one of the oldest learning centers in human history. Its buildings are hundreds of years old and its sacred sites have been classified under the UNESCO's world heritage sites.

What happened to Mali?

Mali has had a turbulent past, but in the last decade or two, we were under the impression that its democracy was getting consolidated.  In fact, the country was already preparing for presidential elections in just over two months and ATT - Amadou Toumani Touré, the outgoing president, was not in the race.  Then out of the blue, on  March 21, 2012, in what seemed first like a mutiny, Amadou Aya Sanogo, a Captain in the Malian army announced that in a coup d'état, they have ousted the president and his government, taken over power, and are now the new masters in the country..

The key reason that Sanogo and company gave for kicking out a legitimate government that was on its way out? MNLA! 

Who is MNLA?

Mouvement National pour la Libération de l'Azawad. A national separatist movement for the northern Mali, which they called Azawad.  MNLA  had occupied a big chunk (the part in darker green on the map) of the country. They were armed and was breathing fire.. and Amadou Toumani Touré was not going to war.. he preferred to negotiate.  Sanogo and his men said they were ready for war.. not talk.

What is the problem in Mali?

MNLA is not the problem. ATT was not the problem. For all the trouble they were worth, MNLA  was not, or at least is no longer the problem. The separatist group has played out all of its cards and has run out of finances. At the moment,  it has even done a turn-around on its initial reasons for occupying the north.  MNLA no longer wants an Azawad, it  will be happy with an autonomy.  MNLA, in linking up with MUJAO -Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, bit off more than it could chew.

MUJAO, which may well be the other name of Al Qaeda in West Africa, is this nebulous group that has become a pot-pourri of  every terrorist group that has been looking for a geographic base.  MNLA, in its quest for "territory" has offered more than half the landspace of Mali to be a sort of Azawadstan.. where all extreme religious groups, kidnappers and sucide missionaries can call home! Having recovered arms from Libya, and with the influx of like-minded extremists from all over the world, it only took a few weeks for MUJAO to kick out MNLA, instal Sharia and begin what has become a real Azawadstan! That is the problem!

Captain Sanogo and the military are part of the problem! I cannot not ask the questions: what makes a military guy think he is more knowledgeable than the president on country issues? Why will the military think "war" when the Commander in Chief of the country is saying "negotiate"?  Why will a democratically-elected President be removed from office barely 2 months to the end of his term?  How long will it take for Africa to understand that a Coup d'Etat  has not solved any development problem anywhere in the African continent? Why will Sanogo not listen to ATT when he says that a lot more is needed in solving the MNLA problem, say he is ready to fight, take over power, only to begin to ask for international help.  If he had come to the same conclusion as ATT, why was ATT not reinstated? Sanogo is a problem.

Ego-cracy is a problem.  There is no doubt that  the selfishness of some self-serving, power-loving,  influence-obsessed individuals is at work here.  Whether it is masked as Coup d'Etat, MNLA, MUJAO, Al Qaeda or whatever.. People who use freedom, liberty, religion or political rights for selfish purposes. Men (mostly) who think their ego translate into the desires of a million others.. and lead thousands to death just to satisfy themselves, feel right, or get ahead..  These egocrates are a problem.

Arms dealing is the problem. A cursory look at the geographic situation of Mali shows that from all corners, the country is thousands of kilometers inland. It does not have any access to the sea.. unless it uses the permission of a neighbour.  So where are the arms coming from? Libya? Algeria? Niger? Where? Who is selling arms to MUJAO? Who pays for it?  Where?  How? 

What wont end..
Following a United Nations Resolution 2085, the war has started. But when will it end? At  the moment, support for the war is flowing in from all angles.  What we know for sure is that in the not-too-far future, the French government will have spent its belligerent libido, reach a political orgasm... and naturally withdraw.  So will all other "friends of Mali".  Will that be the end of the war?

The fights: The war will one day be formally declared as over.  Like in Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Liberia, Angola, Sierra-Leone,  and Côte d'Ivoire. But the fights will not end. The ethnic sentiments from the part of the country that lost the war will remain.  Ask the Igbos of Nigeria. The superiority sentiments of the group that won the war will not just go away.. The cleavage, the distrust and the anti-patriotic sentiments will not just go away.  These remain.. and last very long!

The loss: Before now, Mali was a poor country.  It is getting poorer. It will hit rock bottom and rebuilding the economy will take many years.  The loss in productivity, the bit that has been gained on the road to democracy, the international esteem.  All of that is lost for now. And the lives? How many families will lose loved ones? No matter what reconstruction or reconciliation will be put in place, some losses will take a long time to be recovered... and  may be NEVER .

The trauma: Ask anybody, the emotional scars of violence run deep. The sound of ammunition's as they go off leave indelible marks on people's minds.  Malians are traumatised: burnt homes, dead bodies, black military boots, the military uniform, the armoured cars, guns, RPGs,  bullets, blood.

The refugee-related issues: Hundreds of thousands of Malians are displaced. The refugee status is one that leaves its mark also. As a refugee, you live from hand to mouth, you do not save.  As a refugee you blame others for your problem, it is never your fault. A refugee basically depends on donors for livelihood. A refugee  is a pitied individual, once s/he can elicit more pity from you, the more s/he gains.  A refugee has little self worth, trust, esteem. Refugee women have had to use their bodies in exchange for means of livelihood. Refugee men have been forced to give up their women.. to be able to survive.  These refugee-related issues do not wash off.. They do not go away when warring parties sign off the war..

The war in Mali has started. How will it end? When will it end?  Will it ever end?