Two weeks ago I won KLM's Club Flying Blue photo competition, where I in return had to give an interview here.
The Facebook page Jadili Africa (Discuss Africa) picked up a quote from my interview (and later invited me to become one of the administrators) of a Facebook page with over 7000 members aiming at discussing issues related to Africa. Here is how people commented:
My point is, KLM's Club Flying Blue communicates to one target group, Jadili Africa to another. Both communicate to people who relate to Africa, but in very different ways.
Obviously, it is an honour to win KLM's competition for the principle of winning and for the 5000 air miles, and to be given the change of expressing my viewpoints for a large target group. It is also encouraging when my friends voted for my photo, and click like on the article. (In fact, I've been amazed by the stable response here.)
However, that was the easy part, so to speak.
The interesting part, and the real challenge to me, the mzungu, is to be invited into the forum of Jadili Africa, and to face comments which fit my own personal kali view so much better on whatever I could be up to in Africa
This is also one of the reasons why I have digged deep into the African pool of social media, because it offers me alternative views which are much more challenging than passing on a stereotype phrase targeting a European reader group where many seem to think that making change in Africa is something you just do.
You don't - and alternative views are hereby brought on.
I went through these photos and thought of what a Tanzanian friend recently told me:
'I haven't yet reached my full potential'.
His statement still stays with me. Powerful it is, and confident.
Important, especially these days where youth in Northern Africa and in the Middle East is taking to the streets - well - basically because they've got potential which has to be used.
It is not a thing I hear very often in Denmark. That you consider your potential, and that you cannot waste opportunities not to use it.
First, we are brought up to believe that we're all equal, that we must blend in and not brag. Secondly, I feel that the Danes take too many things for granted. As if we're expecting that opportunities will always be there, and that opportunities are only there for us.
Not that we have to do something extraordinarily ourselves to reach it.
I think we have to, though.
Life is simply more interesting that way.
The theme of the meeting is the present situation in the Middle East and North Africa. My task is to give an insight into how East Africa is debating the issue via social media. How I am gonna do this, I still have to work out, but I think I'll open with the grafitti above from Bagamoyo.
I think it says it all. Elegantly it combines the existential dilemmas of all our lives.
Something we can all deeply relate to on various levels in life.
Something we can control, and something we cannot.
Ask yourself which one you prefer or which one you think you'd prefer to do without the most!
Ask yourself what or how much it takes before you'll stand up and fight for it!
Back to the debate in Copenhagen - the question from the people arranging the debate goes: 'What is the probability that it'll spread to Africa? 'The assumption evidently is that if it can happen in the Middle East and North Africa, why not in Sub-Saharan Africa, too?
So, I've been trawling through newspaper articles, blog posts, tweets and Facebook comments, all dealing with East Africans in East Africa and the diaspora commenting on the situation, many relating it to present - down to earth - situations in East Africa.
Like this one, which popped up in my Twitter feed while I was writing the above:
I love the use of Tanzanian irony. There is, as in this case, always a wicked truth hidden somewhere, though covered as a joke.
But what to make of the rest of it?
That nobody can define the probability of revolutions spreading to Sub-Saharan Africa?
Noting, that a friend said last week 'that just because people follow revolutions on-line, they don't necessarily start one.'
That this doesn't keep people from airing their fascination with revolutions, though, like for instance this Twitter exchange, where the sender includes to members of the Tanzanian Parliament:
'Rubenndege #egypt pres. MUBARAK cabinet has reportedly resigned en mass?! Hint hint #tzbarazalamawaziri cc @JMakamba @zittokabwe could it happen here?
@tzshafiq Nkosi Sikelel Afrika @Rubenndege The Egypt and Tunisia thing won't happen in tz soon.. Bado mishipa ya hasira haijakatika'
Reasons for taking to the streets in the Middle East and North Africa might resemble potential reasons in East African countries, but then again there are vital differences:
Africa is not just Africa. Each country, each situation is different.
And at present it is not even possible to figure out what is happening right now in Egypt.
'Why would anyone need or want to replicate what happened in Egypt or Tunisia?' a friend in Tanzania asked me back last week, argueing that the Tanzanian regime isn't acting like the Egyptian.
The Mikocheni Report similarly noted 'Our system isn't geared quite that way. What do y'all think? I have to mention though, that as a method of regime change this new wave of protests is a wonderful step up from the more traditional assassinations/military coups/"liberation" movements/fillial successions of yore.'
In Uganda, on the other hand, the journalist Andrew Mwenda writes: 'For now, militancy is largely restricted to the unemployed youth. But Uganda is developing a large working class and student community both of which are growing their own group consciousness. Soon, they will develop organisational means to press forth their demands. The Museveni administration is in bed with big businesses.' Do read the full, excellent analysis.
Also reasons for Tanzanians to move out of their comfort zone, too, as Kathleen Bomz notes here: 'Today Tanzania and Tunisia, two largely ignored countries in the western media, are all intertwined in the umbra of police brutality. The least we could do is expose these charades passing for responsible governments. Africans have the talent and resilience to reject this vortex of complacency and move forward towards a more promising governance. But that can only be done by putting in the work and risking out of comfort zones. At least the Tunisian students are protesting, what are the Tanzanian students and other sections of civil society doing ?'
And, mind you, last week the students at the university in Dar es Salaam did in fact protest, claiming disatisfaction with conditions and increase in cost of living. And police did hit back when they marched to confront MPs gathered at Ubongo Plaza.
In regards of Kenya, Global Voices summed up here: 'Following role the social media site Twitter played in the Tunisian and Egyptian protests, Kenyans are discussing on Twitter whether to emulate these protests or not. Trending on Twitter are the hashtags #KenyaFeb28 and #ChoosePeace. Apparently, the former being a marshaling call for protests on 28 February 2011.' Do click on, and follow the debate inserted, and maybe we'll find out what's with #KenyaFeb28?
Finally, I'd like to mention Africa Unchained's blog post Africa and Revolutions, and emphasize this statement, where topics of ethnicity and tribalism are focused upon, which the Kenyan sum-up above also includes:
This photo, of Esther from Kanaani Village in Njombe in Southern Tanzania, now made it to the best 11 photos in the competition '5000 Flying Blue Miles'.
The top 11 best rated pictures are now featured on Facebook here, and I REALLY wanna win the 5000 Flying Blue Miles, so PLEASE help me, and go vote by clicking on the ‘Like’-button of my picture. Note that it only works, if you 'like' the '5000 Flying Blue Miles' first.
(KLM will be giving away an additional 5000 Flying Blue Miles amongst the likes!)
The story of the photo comes here.
(And that the Serbian resistance movement's clenched, white fist on black, is back.)