Protests across Africa: Different attention for different countries?

Published on Pambazuka News, by Sokari Ekine, March 3, 2011.

Focusing on Libya, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Gabon and Zimbabwe, Sokari Ekine provides a round-up of international and social media coverage of the multiple sites of sustained protests across Africa and considers the differences in media attention between each of them.


What began as a people’s uprising in Libya has since moved closer towards a civil war as soldiers of the Libyan army defect and some protestors take up arms against Colonel Gaddafi’s forces, as shown in this graphic video (tweeted widely), with the Libyan army protecting protestors against pro-Gaddafi forces. @EnoughGaddafi tweets ‘Massive arrests being made in Tripoli, eyewitness from Jdeida prison says a lot of activists and injured are being held there’. One tweeter reminds us of the chaos and possible endangering of peoples lives by international media reports: … //


On 23 February 45 social justice activists were arrested and charged with treason in Zimbabwe. The 45, which included International Socialist Organisation (ISO) coordinator Munyaradzi Gwisai, were accused of watching and discussing video footage of the Tunisian and Egyptian protests. Some of the activists have been ‘brutalised and tortured’ whilst in custody. On 28 February, 7 members of WOZA (Women of Zimbabwe Arise) and MOZA (Men of Zimbabwe Arise) were also arrested.

Earlier in this post, I mentioned that there were questions around whether the uprisings in North Africa would spread to southern parts of the continent. In the case of Gabon there is no evidence to show the uprisings were influenced by those in Tunisia or Egypt. And although the 45 activists were meeting to discuss these, Zimbabweans have been in a state of revolt against the Mugabe regime even before the 2008 elections – see ‘Mapping Terror’ on the Sokwanele blog. Members of WOZA have demonstrated over and over again; their members have been beaten, arrested and tortured but still they continue to take to the streets. In 2010 83 of their members
were detained for celebrating the International Peace Day.

The mistake the media and activists in the West make is to believe that the voice of revolution has to be highly vocal and visible to their world. On the contrary, there are thousands of activists and social justice movements from across Africa and the diaspora who are totally committed to achieving political and social change in their respective countries. It just takes a little effort and time to know what is happening.

Revolutions are a complex process of competing interests and multiple tensions. The period following the removal of Ben Ali and Mubarak in Tunisia and Egypt testify to this. The streets protests and their removal were not the beginning. Activists have in both countries have been working towards this moment for a long time. The revolutionary process will continue and may well move in contradictory directions. The reporting of revolutions – deciding which ones receive the most attention and how they are reported – add to the complexities at play. What I have tried to do in this article is to bring an additional perspective to the revolutionary forces in Africa. As informed citizens and if we are to see ourselves as part of the revolutionary process, then we need to try and grasp an understanding of the layers of narrative and actions which are taking place, not just across Africa but on a global level. (full long text).

Link: No more imposed policies: Challenges for Africa, by Demba Moussa Dembele, Feb 24, 2001.

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