“Africa committed and determined to ensure and build democracy”
Venue: Dakar - Senegal
Date: 26, 27, 28 November 2015
Revolutions will be tweeted.
In November 2015, the Africtivistes will meet in Dakar, Senegal's capital. During three days, the continent’s web activists, bloggers and web citizens continent will gather to discuss topics such as (i) citizen engagement through media on participatory democracy; (ii) transparency; (iii) accountability; and (iv) e-participation.
The first day will serve as an ice breaker. This casual format will allow participants to get to know each other "for real," in person, as they have had to rub shoulders for years on social networks. The focus will be on creating a core in each country and the creation of poles by area of intervention along the lines of Africtivists. This first session will be followed by discussion and sharing of experiences on e-activism and civic engagement in Africa. Following this, the Africtivists web platform will be presented and officially launched with the creation of accounts of individual members by country.
In the afternoon, there will be a training on security and internet, online anonymity and the presentation of our private social network in partnership with Clemson University in the USA.
The second day will be devoted to work and workshops. Sessions on democracy and e-activism, the importance of the internet and the existing internet laws in Africa. Beyond the workshops, there will be a retrospective of civic engagement in Africa with various citizens' initiatives launched through internet since 2010. A part of it will be devoted to presentations and practical exercises on citizen journalism; from spectators to stakeholders [the smartphone revolution]. With Twitter, journalists are seldom the first to witness an event and report it. This will an opportunity to highlight the real power of the movements of citizen journalists, case studies #SUNU2012 and #civ2010. A workshop section and group work will be organized.
The third day of the meeting will be an opportunity for each group to present their works. Participants would have been asked to work in groups. Each participant will be assigned to a group based on the answers provided in the identification and registration form. Each group will appoint a team leader and a rapporteur. Thus they will work on different topics:
• Workshop on Transparency
• Workshop on the Community
• Workshop on the Impacts of civic engagement
• Workshop on Information (access and broadcast)
• Working groups on the charter or code of conduct Africtivists and draw up a draft action plan to be implemented.
During this first edition, #DEMOCRACY and #ACTIVISME and will be the two watchwords of this annual meeting.
Canal France International (CFI) is the official partner of this event. As such, there will be breaks to present and talk about current and upcoming CFI projects.
Furthermore, Clemson University in the USA, through the Professor Richard Brooks’s Quality Foundation, will accompany this edition at technical and logistical levels. Much of this support will focus on the security of data and the different members of the Africitivists League. Apart from launching a private social network in the darknet, software supports are also expected. Professor Brooks will talk about security and censorship.
In addition, the NGO Artice19, through its Regional Office in Dakar, supports the initiative. They are expected to enlighten participants on the texts and jurisdictions on the right to blog.
The NGO Internet sans Frontiere is committed to providing technical support and thus, a conference will be hosted by their expert on stakes of internet in Africa, democracy and submarine cable networks.
At the end of this edition, the various web activists will be equipped to safely publish information. They will be actively involved in the democratic process at home, find the external medium on which to rely to relay information and have extensive understanding on security and internet.
The Dakar summit will mark the birth of citizens’ dynamic around synergy of action on #ACTIVISME and #DEMOCRACY in Africa.
In Africa, crises happen very often in post or pre-election periods. For a real economic development strategy, Africa must first ensure free and transparent political transitions. The stability of African States is above all the prerequisite for any development and democratization process.
As an illustration, some alarming figures on the situation in Africa:
● 3248 died during the post-election crisis in Cote d’Ivoire in 2010;
● 800 deaths during the post-election crisis in Nigeria in 2011, according Human Rights Watch;
● 24 people killed after the announcement of the results of the 2011 presidential election in the Democratic Republic of Congo;
● More than 1000 dead and 600,000 displaced in 2007 during the post-electoral crisis in the Central African Republic;
● Between 800 and 1 500 dead with between 180 000 and 600 000 displaced during post-election crisis in Kenya;
● More than 800 dead in northern Nigeria following the April 2011presidential election;
● The President of the Constitutional Council of Senegal assassinated during the election period in 1993.
We will discuss some of the most glaring reasons by giving the example of some countries where the electoral process is often punctuated by violence and serious failures of electoral institutions. These bitter findings are real threats to civilian peace. For the bad practices that affect the credibility of elections’ results lead hopelessly to protests heralding post electoral conflict with unpredictable consequences.
The case of the DRC: it is mostly related to the voting, counting and tallying for details and referring in details to the different observation reports. These are essentially:
● Violence against observers and agents of political parties by the electoral officers and security officers but also the fact that witnesses and observers could not access the tallying centres;
● Changing the constitution to introduce a presidential election in a single round;
● Failure to fund civic and voter education and election observation;
● The total exclusion of the civil society in the management of the electoral process;
● Most media houses sided with a given candidate and broadcast messages that incited hatred and violence;
● Worse, low civic and voter education of the population for lack of funds.
- The case of Guinea: since its independence in 1958, the first truly democratic and open elections were held in Guinea in 2010 (presidential) and 2013 (legislative). The elections saw a strong mobilization of citizens hoping to carve out the democratic destiny of the country. Turnout was estimated at nearly 60%.
Beyond this enthusiasm and the malfunctions of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), this long election process took place in a very agitated political context, leading thus to serious human rights’ violations.
Lack of access to the right information greatly contributed to inflame tensions.
In its final report of election observation mission for the 2010 presidential election, the European Union (EU) noted that:
"The structural lack of resources and sometimes the low level of training of journalists limited the quality of the information relayed."
Regarding civil society, the observer mission of the African Union noted in its final observation report, this important recommendation:
"Put in place a better synergy of action and develop common and harmonized programmes of citizen election observation."
In most African countries, the most reports of national and international observation missions regularly highlight the same weaknesses on many levels. Unfortunately, the recommendations made by these experts to correct these continuous failures remain dead letter. These unpleasant findings result from numerous technical, institutional and socio-educational weaknesses pointed out above.
The main cause of these obstacles to democracy is both a lack of political will to hold democratic and credible elections and the low voter and civic education of the population.
The most dramatic effects are: (i) lack of transparency; (ii) dispute of results leading to violence; and (iii) violations of human rights during and post-election period. Development programmes are thus being mortgaged.
Therefore, for some African countries securing and guaranteeing an electoral process remain to date democracy goals.
What has changed:
With the arrival of the internet on the continent, citizens are equipped with a new weapon of communication, speech and policy questioning. Monitoring, criticism, remarks and comments on various government missions are done in a simpler manner and have become more accessible to the population.
In the 2000s, started the first public information spaces on the internet with discussion forums portals, personal profiles and secure messaging services. These tools have significantly improved citizen involvement in African politics.
Three years later, in 2005, blogs, social networks and video blog platforms have changed how citizens live their citizenship.
In 2010, Cote d’Ivoire backed on the mobilization of connected youth to help rebuild peace.
In spring 2011, there were at least 156 million blogs, and not less than one million new blog posts published daily [Source: http://www.blogpulse.com/].
In the same year, an unprecedented revolution occurred in North Africa with new media and internet playing a central role.
A year later, Senegal experienced its first "Soft Revolution". A peaceful, gentle and citizens' revolution relying exclusively on new media to ensure and guarantee the electoral process until the completion of a free and transparent presidential election.
The Africtivists Project
"The digital revolution, a chance for Africa!"
Faced with this chaotic situation recurring in most African countries, African actors, bloggers, whistleblowers and web activists feel challenged. It is imperative to harmonize our vision of the African cause and to combine our means of action to provide concrete and appropriate solutions to such major problems that hinder the development and unity of the continent.
The League of African Cyber- activists for democracy (Africtivistes) as a dynamic association extended to all African countries, focuses on "Consolidation of democracy" not only at the level of each country but also especially at the continental level. We mean by consolidation of democracy, any action leading to a real democracy, a participatory democracy, a cyber-democracy, an e-governance and an effective anchoring of democratic culture in our respective countries.
Also, apart from the occasional issues of crisis resolution - in some countries - Africtivistes.org wants to be a democracy sentinel of African countries. As such, it is determined to intervene directly or bring in stakeholders in the different processes of political and social change. It leads and drives development projects and citizen involvement in democratic systems. It obviously develops strategies to monitor and supervise the political leaders in their actions and in the realization of their promises to encourage transparency and good governance. It will be a showcase of the stimulated citizenry in Africa and is listed as a database of various African initiatives and projects around the following themes: (i) good governance; (ii) transparency; (iii) participatory democracy; (iv) accountability; (v) the fight against corruption; and (vi) against impunity.
Africtivistes for what concrete actions?
Africtivistes intends to be the leading web platform for African citizens but also of all Web players in Africa. It should serve as a sentinel of democracy for all African countries. Each cyber-activist appointed as coordinator in his/her country will have a profile on the platform and will be responsible for controlling the actions deployed in his/her country.
The League will offer prevention of pre-electoral conflict, a response to crises and electoral process, a Web solution for information sharing and transparency. This collaborative platform aims to advance and develop the African continent with innovative ideas.
Publications and reflections, with the aim of raising awareness on each situation experienced on the continent, will appear on the platform to enable the whole community to take part in the action for a suitable and sustainable solution.
All this must be done in a spirit of social cohesion, mutual support, sharing, freedom, peace, respect and justice.
We want to inculcate a new mentality to Africans, "It is not because we do not share the same view that we cannot evolve together."
We want, through, this platform be an intermediary between the people and our leaders, by offering them a communication framework with the population who are always the first victims of conflicts.
The launch meeting in Dakar (Senegal)
From the outset, it is important to stress that this fundamental meeting was to be held in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. Unfortunately, recent events in the land of upright people have required us to hold this important meeting in Dakar, especially because of the political and social situation in the sub-region as a whole. Indeed, the relocation of the launch of the League has three concerns about security, namely:
1. The presidential election, if it takes place, is supposed to be held in November at the same time as the launch;
2. The stability will still be precarious during this post-election period in Burkina;
3. A gathering of activists, particularly bloggers and e-activists, would be a prime target during this period of crisis and tension.
However, this is not a constraint in itself. Indeed, it only legitimises, further, the need for the establishment of such a platform for the respect of citizens' rights, the restoration and maintenance of democracy in our countries. The latest upheavals in Burkina Faso with the removal of the President of the Transition by elements of the Presidential Security Regiment followed by a witchhunt against activists, journalists and bloggers that relay information shows that our political ecosystems are still very insecure and need to be strengthened. It is thus high time that conscious African youth engage together as a single person, to meet the daily challenges of democratization and freedom because to commit is to be free. To commit is to dare to win one’s freedom, as Burkinabe youth demand.
The recent popular and citizen mobilisation that brought down the 27-year rule of President Blaise Compaoré is a proof of the aspiration of peoples to democracy. With a mobilised youth, Burkina Faso was on the path to a presidential election in compliance with constitutional recommendations. But this could be mortgaged by the last aforementioned events.
It is for these reasons that the choice of venue for the launch of Africtivistes was Ouagadougou, the Burkinabe capital. As such, given the different contexts but equally precarious in other countries in the West African sub-region and for the safety of participants taking part in this momentous meeting, the launch of the League will be held in Dakar. The reasons that had justified the holding of this major meeting are all the more bitter.
Thus, the impossibility of choosing the symbolic home of Thomas Sankara, a pan-Africanist who was able to teach his people the pre-eminence of national interest to personal interests face, cannot stop this aspiration of youth for a participatory and inclusive democratic governance.
This meeting originally scheduled in Ouagadougou will therefore be held, finally, in the Senegalese capital where Africtivistes will be inspired by Thomas Sankara who said a week before his death:
"People can be killed, but you cannot kill ideas."
Objectives of the meeting:
The overall objective of the meeting is to allow a multi-stakeholder dialogue on the theme: "Activism and democracy by African youth via new media."
The overall objective is broken down into specific objectives below:
• Create an African network of web activists around participatory democracy;
• Raising the awareness of actors and civil society in the relevant instruments to protect freedom of expression;
• Analyse government's vision regarding freedom of expression
• Evaluate the overall legal and regulatory framework of the right to privacy and surveillance of communications in Africa;
• Clarify the different stakes, points of contentions, and current topics in the field of communications surveillance in Africa;
• Identify the potential and obstacles for promotion and protection of freedom of expression in Africa.
At the end of this workshop:
• The Africtivistes network is created;
• The participants are made aware of the relevant instruments of protection of freedom of expression;
• Participants have a critical overview of government's vision for the protection of freedom of expression;
• Participants have an overview of the legal and regulatory framework of the right to privacy and communications surveillance in Africa;
• Participants have a clear vision of the various issues, contentious issues, and current topics in the field of monitoring communications in Africa;
• Participants identify the potentials and obstacles for promotion and protection of freedom of expression in Africa.
The meeting will give a continental standard to the leadership and the active participation of young people. For, these three days would have served to explain the context and purpose of Africtivistes, harmonize formats for africitivistes campaigns in order to communicate effectively democratic and clear messages on behalf of youth. Particular emphasis would have been placed on the role and importance of youth and all citizens in the democratic process for participatory citizenship in a continental perspective.
In addition, it is expected that participants share and discuss past experiences in elections or campaigns against amendments of Constitutions to serve personal interests (Senegal, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria ....).
At the end of the meeting, the recommendations will serve to strengthen citizen participation in the democratization of the countries.