The bad news is that compared with West Africa, where 13 out of 15 countries can reasonably be described as democracies, central Africa has seen little progress in human rights, free speech or democracy, notes Cameroonian journalist Elie Smith, a Reagan-Fascell fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy. Central Africa is home to most of the continent’s longest-serving presidents, including not just Nguesso but also Angola’s Jose Eduardo Dos Santos, who has spent 37 years in power; Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, also 37 years; Cameroon’s Paul Biya, 33 years; and Chad’s Idriss Derby, 25 years.
But here’s the good news, he writes for The Washington Post’s Monkey Cage:
Using social media — especially Whatsapp, Facebook and Twitter — citizens are reviving moribund civil society organizations, energizing opposition movements, exposing human rights violations and electoral fraud, and rebuilding interest in elections among people who’ve become apathetic after decades of electoral fraud. That’s been true in Rwanda and in Burundi, where activists are using social media to expose state brutality, to support activists, and to exchange information. For instance, in Burundi, according to reporting by OkayAfrica, activists and independent journalists have been highly creative in spreading information via Twitter and online.
Elie Smith, Cameroonian journalist, reporter and translator, served most recently as director of the MNTV television station in Congo-Brazzaville.