There is nothing that media in general loves more than a catchy, snappy title to an event. Thus, their calling the dissolution of Côte d’Ivoire’s government, “The Valentine’s Crisis” looked to be the defining term for the event, at least in the local media. Naturally, this was flawed from the start given that the announcement was made on February 12th and due to that being a Friday, there was assuredly going to be no resolution until at least Monday, the 15th. Still, they ever-so-badly wanted the Valentine’s moniker to stick.
It may yet well stay, but it will depend on a great many things; namely a resolution to the current crisis at some time in the foreseeable future, which seems rather unlikely. Things are heating up and protests are growing around the country. I’ve found that the media blows these a bit out of proportion, but still, the fact is that to date, eight people have been killed in three different cities due to the police using live ammunition on the crowds when the go-to tear gas wouldn’t disperse them as it did where I am in Abengourou last week.
The Old Hippo on the Sofa
The more alarming aspect in all of this is that the government’s approach to the situation could be transposed on just about any time over the last 50 years. Violent repression of assembled crowds. Making state television avoid the issues. Suppression of outside voices. Repression of opposition newspapers. This is old stuff and it belies the fact that you’re dealing with an old regime that has yet to really wake up to how Ivorians get their information. In doing what they’re doing, they are only making people more angry and are not controlling the message. To do that, they would have to shut down the internet, television, and mobile networks. In doing that, they would make a great many enemies with those who matter most: foreign companies with deep pockets.
Les nouveaux médias
One of the prime sources of information through all of this has been Facebook. I didn’t learn about the France24 blockage through their site, but actually through an update of a Ivorian friend on the site. Twitter is useful, but only insofar as the amount of users on it and this has been greatly stunted by the fact that if you are trying to SMS the system with a +225 number, you aren’t allowed. I made a request to change this, but as you can see, I don’t have much sway on that company.
Blogs are in a different state. I really wish that Ivoire Blog would pull together some kind of coverage section in regards to these events, but it has not yet come to pass. They have more Ivorian bloggers than anywhere else, so it would seem that they would be a good, direct source of information. Otherwise, I have seen few reactions to the state of affairs. I’m not sure if this isn’t because there is a lack of political commentators in blogs (which are in much greater supply in other countries, African or not) or just because people don’t really want to comment on it just yet due to their being no absolutes in the process and it being an ongoing issue with no solution in sight.
Whatever the case, this has been a sudden change of events in what has been a very long, ongoing process. To dub it a Valentine’s anything is ridiculous. Like other crises that arise, there is no simplification of the process and it very well could end up taking the rest of the year for this to sort out.