In honor of the first-ever Social Media Week in Africa that concluded Saturday in Lagos, Nigeria, let’s talk about three other African countries in which social media is currently making headlines:
1. Anger and accountability in Angola
Angola’s government has taken action to punish the perpetrators of two separate violent beatings that went viral on YouTube in the last month.
Note: Videos include graphic violence and may be disturbing.
In the first video, two prisoners are whipped and beaten by prison officials.
In the second video, two women accused of petty thievery are beaten and humiliated by a group of men as bystanders jeer. According to the women, they were beaten for hours.
As Guardian writer Cláudio Silva puts it: “The second video lasts 13 long, uncomfortable minutes and among its more difficult scenes is the one in which an attacker forcibly kisses one of the women while the others laugh, and another in which the shop-owner beats the women with the blade of a machete. The video shows several men participating in the beating, while others, including women, stand by and watch while egging on the attackers.”
In a move that is unusual for Angola’s government, it has taken swift action to condemn and punish the perpetrators of violence in these videos. It has suspended several prison officials as well as arrested 11 people involved in the second video.
2. Hostages in Cameroon
On Monday, a video posted on YouTube depicts a French family kidnapped from north Cameroon last week. Those taken hostage include a man and his wife, their four children, and the man’s brother.
While the original video has been taken down, you can still watch it here at The Guardian’s website:
In the video, a masked hostage taker threatens to kill the hostages unless imprisoned Islamic militants in Cameroon and Nigeria are released.
A statement read by one of the hostages in the video attributed to the kidnapping to Boko Haram, a Nigerian terrorist organization, a link that French officials confirmed Monday night. However, as the New York Times pointed out yesterday, the video is not consistent with others by the group, including the use of French and Arabic rather than Hausa.
French officials reaffirmed yesterday that they do not plan to negotiate with the hostage-takers but will explore other options to free the hostages.
3. Presidential memes in Kenya
The upcoming presidential elections in Kenya mark not only the end of the ten years that incumbent president Mwai Kibaki has been in power but also a change in how elections are conducted in Kenya. These presidential elections will be the first under Kenya’s new constitution, instituted in 2010 in the wake of the explosive violence surrounding the 2007 presidential election.
They also have featured unprecedented social media engagement surrounding the elections in Kenya. Kenyans have been speaking out about the elections on blogs, Twitter, and Facebook.
The recent presidential debates between the candidates, another first in Kenya, have been followed voraciously by Kenyans on social media. There were over 100,000 tweets on a single debate-related hashtag during the first debate alone. Kenyans were also able to submit debate questions to the candidates via Twitter or Facebook.
To learn more about what happened at Social Media Week in Lagos, check out their website here.