And suddenly, a change in the day to day

Friday had been off to a weird start. We had gotten up at 5:30 (which I believe is illegal in some parts of the world) to get to down Abidjan before traffic got [more] bad. Once there and throughout the day, there were countless armed police escorts taking official cars with tinted windows and fluttering Ivorian flags across the city at a breakneck pace. But, overall, things were normal, traffic was full, and kids were selling everything under the sun through car windows. I would have loved to twit about what I was seeing that day, but Twitter has decided for some asinine reason to lock out international numbers completely and irrevocably, which I don’t get as it cost them nothing; the international text cost is on us. Bring this back Twitter!
For most official channels, the day had been off to a normal start. I heard that morning briefings were light for friends at the sleepy ONUCI mission. No one had any idea as to how the day would end, least of all us, as we strived to coordinate meeting up with friends for dinner. But, when having a chat with the BBC correspondent in Abidjan at his office (more on that later) strange messages started popping up, which he then began tweeting.
In a country where official elections have been stalled for the last five years, rumors are quick to spread and at first, it seemed that this was going to be yet another about the president dissolving the government or a coup d’etat happening that evening. Turns out, it was all correct. Well the coup d’etat part only technically correct.
At 20:00, a special announcement from the president was broadcast in which has said that he was indeed dissolving the current government as well as the electoral commission (which has been accused of perpetrating a great deal of registration fraud lately.) The actual details in all of this were sparse and were left that way, only to see the news then pick up with their “regularly scheduled program” after the announcement.
Unfortunately, where there should have been 1,000+ bloggers writing about and commenting on this, there weren’t. While there are a number of dedicated bloggers in Côte d’Ivoire (such as Theophile, Nadine, Edith, and others) blogging has not yet come about in a large enough degree in Côte d’Ivoire to create a citizen journalism counterpoint to what the larger media broadcasts. Traditional media felt no obligation to take the charge and have any kind of commentary on the announcement, which I might add was pre-recorded four hours prior to the actual broadcast, giving them plenty of time to prepare nothing.
Then on another point, SMS and mobile failed. Endlessly, I hear about how mobile phones are the driving force of information and data delivery in Africa. Do any of the people espousing this actually use SMS or the mobile internet in Africa on a regular basis? Every network I’ve used has always been overloaded and spotty at best. Sure, it’s better than nothing, but as to it being something you can rely on in an emergency? You’d better have a backup plan to this backup plan, because the minute Gbagbo hit the airwaves all the mobile networks were too clogged to be of any use. The data connections were actually the savior in this as they remained able to handle traffic and had there been any violence breaking out, the news of which would have been carried via IP, not SMS.
Oddly enough, the town where I’m staying in Abengourou saw one of the only reported outbreaks of anything on Monday. A protest was staged that was officially against high fuel prices (and yes, they’re high here) but was in theory much more against Gbagbo’s announcement. According to the rather dry account in Reuters, you’d probably imagine it to be much bigger than what it was. I say this because we accidentally ended up driving through it in the morning, arriving back from Abidjan. There were a few people about and some trash fires lit in the middle of the road, but that was it. It was a small protest and it ended very quickly.
All of this news isn’t as bad as it may seem given that the unity government is still functioning and in theory working towards elections that obviously aren’t going to happen this year. People are a bit tired of the stalling, as they should be and we’ll see if there is more of a citizen reaction to all of this on Wednesday. Stay tuned for larger news from Côte d’Ivoire and I encourage folks to add to this article and help to increase information dissemination of these events.
And suddenly, a change in the day to day

2 Replies to “And suddenly, a change in the day to day”

  1. Hi Miquel!!
    Brilliant piece of citizen journalism on the recent events in Cote d’Ivoire and extremely interesting reflection on the possibilities and pitfalls of mobile reporting from African!!
    Hope all is good in Abengourou

  2. Glad you liked it. I added in a couple new bits, such as a link to John James’s Twitter. Fixed up the Spanish version to match, but you might want to take a look just in case I goofed.

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