#civnext: the beginning of the campaign not the end of the cause
Scanning my Twitter feeds, a new hashtag brings a smile to my face. After months of a political stalemate which led to a rapidly deteriorating humanitarian crisis, Ivory Coast is pulling back from the brink of war with a seven-letter hashtag: #civnext.
With the capture of Laurent Gbagbo, there is a palpable and understandable desperation to move on. The #civnext hashtag, is both the collective virtual exhale of a country that’s narrowly escaped civil war and a call to action: to reconcile Ivorians and rebuild Ivory Coast.
While it can be argued that limited access to social media means that the poor remain voiceless, the #CIV hashtags including #civsocial which allowed individuals the world over to fund an emergency call centre in Accra run by volunteers, have turned Twitter into perhaps the most democratic platform to engage in change, and Ivorians are making full use of it.
Whether or not President Ouattara will seize the opportunity to build open dialogue, as Paul Kagame has done in Rwanda, remains to be seen. Alain Lobognon, Prime Minister Soro’s communications advisor, is on Twitter (@AlainLobog) and it will be interesting to see whether he engages in dialogue only with those who share his political views or if the social media platform will be instrumental in making all sides feel part of the reconciliation and reconstruction process.
It is early days yet. The speed of traditional and now social media makes it hard to grasp or, perhaps more accurately, easy to forget that the progress of events on Twitter creates a false sense of how quickly progress has been achieved. We may have transitioned from #civ2010 to #civsocial and now #civnext but the reality on the ground, for many, is still very much misery and hardship. The social fabric has been badly damaged and a few tweets imploring people to move on will hardly repair it.
It is still encouraging to read the #civnext tweets: the ban on cocoa exports has been lifted; the UN predicts swift economic recovery; businesses will be reopening; there are calls for freedom of press and many, many suggestions of ways to make sure that Ivorians never again arm themselves to harm each other. But as we retweet, it is worthwhile remembering that $160m is needed for Ivory Coast’s displaced. Ivorians may need an attentive, empathetic audience for a while yet. But that’s what social networks do so well: they show us the global community that stands alongside. And that makes the road to recovery a little less lonely.
[Our nations are young and fragile; it is up to each individual to think of what he can do within his means to help national unity]
[I dream of an Ivorian government that is accountable to its people monthly: how has my money been spent? Do you? Share your ideas.]