The Valentine’s Hangover

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.

3 Replies to “The Valentine’s Hangover”

  1. I have to say I can’t recall any mentions of this as a ‘Valentine’s day crisis’, apart from in two blogs from Abengourou. I must admit that I ended up using the name to name a Windows folder in which I store stories related to this latest crisis, but in the papers, I’ve not spotted anything (although I don’t have time to more than skim most articles). Am I mistaken?

    With regards to the Ivorian blogging response, the problem perhaps is that people are very wary about playing politics in such a polarized environment, perhaps being labelled a ‘rebel’, a ‘foreigner’ or perhaps a ‘refondateur’ or ‘Young Patriot’. Ivorian bloggers tend to know each other and everyone wants to get along without labels.

    I’d say I think you’re too optimistic about the importance of new technology as an information source in Ivory Coast. Is this really how people are getting their news? The fact that for the first time France 24 rather than RFI/TV5 are targeted I think shows the authorities are aware of changes in ‘influencers’.

    Finally, my guess would be that the Ivorian press remains more free at the moment than in any other decade, despite the things you highlight.

  2. I saw ‘Valentine crisis’ mostly in the local press, not international outlets, but they dropped it pretty fast probably realizing this is a crisis that will last well beyond Valentine’s.

    You’re right about the blogging response, I’ve talked to a few bloggers about why they don’t blog about politics and they told me the same thing. Too sensitive.

    About new technology, I’d say you’re not optimistic enought :) Only today I was in a high school where all the teenagers were using their cell phones under the table during class, and when I checked what was one guy next to me doing to my surprise I saw he was surfing an Ivorian news site with his wap internet. That doesn’t mean that tv and radio aren’t still the primary sources of news, but the role of new media shouldn’t be disregarded.

  3. That and for nearly the last year, there has been more of a concerted effort from the tech scene in Abidjan to coalesce and work more towards common goals as opposed to being free radicals doing their own thing. Movements like this go a long way towards unifying a technology adoption in a society as there is a local force actively promoting it.
    That said, there is tremendous room for growth in Côte d’Ivoire for new media. This is painfully obvious when perusing the list of Twitter users based here, but the fact there is stable internet and stable 3G connectivity via phones means that the capacity is there and it is indeed growing, especially when compared to other African markets like those in Central Africa or the interior of West Africa.

Comments are closed.