Nigeria’s Twitter ban has a lesson for big tech
From Algeria to Zimbabwe via the intermediate countries, a weekly overview of essential information and analysis from Africa. Delivered Wednesday.
June 9, 2021, 1:00 a.m.
welcome to Foreign police‘s Africa Brief.
Highlights of the week: Nigerian President promulgates a Twitter ban after the company deleted its tweet, the acquitted former president Laurent Gbagbo prepares his return to the Ivory Coast, and the death of a so-called prophet shows the power of Evangelical churches in Africa.
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Nigeria’s Twitter ban removes 40 million users
Last week, Twitter found itself on the wrong side of the Nigerian government when it deleted a tweet from President Muhammadu Buhari sounding about the country’s precarious security situation.
“Many of those who behave badly today are too young to be aware of the destruction and loss of life that occurred during the Biafran War. Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who have been through the war, will treat them in the language they understand ”, Buhari wrote in the now deleted tweet.
During the war between the federal government and the secessionist state of Biafra (1967-1970), a government blockade resulted in massive famine. Buhari’s veiled threat to today’s separatists in the south went against Twitter’s rules against abusive behavior.
In response to Twitter’s action, Buhari’s government banned the platform indefinitely, cutting an estimate 40 million Nigerian users. Ironically, the Ministry of Information and Culture announced the decision in a Twitter thread. He also said that all other social media operations and services, such as streaming and chatting, must be licensed by the National Broadcasting Commission. Those who violate the ban on Twitter could face pursuit.
Twitter has long angered Buhari and his government, even though the president has an active account with 4.1 million followers. Last year, #EndSARS activists used Twitter to organize mass protests and raise awareness for their cause. After Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted in support of the move, Buhari called for stricter regulation of the company.
Focusing on Twitter also provides a practical distraction from the deteriorating security situation in Nigeria. Kidnappings from schools have increased, with bandits moving into the field of jihadist groups to obtain ransoms. Pastoral violence continues in the north, as does resource violence in the south.
Time travel. Nigerians are already using VPNs to bypass the ban and bypass compliant telecommunications networks. For some citizens, the repression on freedom of expression recalls Buhari’s tenure as a military dictator in the mid-1980s, when his regime attacked the press and arrested critics. His comments on the Biafran war, in which up to 2 million people died but have yet to be fully considered in contemporary Nigeria.
Digital authoritarianism. Nigeria’s extended ban serves as a lesson to social media companies around the world. Although Twitter cited freedom of speech as the reason for choosing Accra, Ghana, over Lagos for its headquarters in Africa, the proximity to Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, was intentional.
As Torinmo Salau wrote in Foreign police last week most of Twitter’s jobs in Accra focused on business development in Nigeria. (June 5, Twitter expressed concern on the ban and pledged to “work to restore access” to Nigerian users.)
And as Kọ́lá Túbọ̀sún wrote in Foreign Policy this week, the ban on Twitter portends future difficulties under Buhari. The president could use this decision to further erode the rule of law and citizens’ rights, especially for young people. Twitter is in talks with the federal government to restore service, raising questions about whether the company is relaxing its strict violation policies for Buhari.
The decision then falls to Twitter: will he maintain his stance against violations of policy – even by the president – or subject him to the anachronistic tactics of an increasingly repressive government?
June 9: The Committee on Foreign Relations of the United States Senate considers ambassadorial appointments for Algeria, Cameroon, Lesotho, Sao Tome and Principe, Somalia and the Republic of Congo.
June 12: Algeria holds legislative elections.
June 15: United Nations Security Council meets to discuss Mali, Somalia and Sudan.
Gbagbo returns to Ivory Coast. Former President Laurent Gbagbo, who ruled from 2000 to the 2010 civil war, plans to return to Côte d’Ivoire next week, after his acquittal for crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Court. by Gbagbo expected arrival June 17 was announced to crowds gathered in the capital Abidjan to celebrate its 76th birthday last week.
In 2011, Gbagbo became the first former head of state to stand trial in The Hague, on charges related to his alleged role in stoking violence after the 2010 elections. Despite his ten-year absence from his trial and of his appeal, Gbagbo remains a popular figure in Côte d’Ivoire.
Outgoing President Alassane Ouattara, an official rival of Gbagbo, has said he is free to return, but it is not known whether he will face a sentence after being convicted in absentia in 2019 for embezzlement.
The leader of the coup in Mali was sworn in. Despite regional sanctions and international condemnation, the colonel who initiated a coup in Mali last month was sworn in as interim president on Monday. Colonel Assimi Goita took office on Monday, pledging to lead the government to new elections. On May 24, military officers arrested the president and prime minister of the previous transitional government, intended to bring Mali back to democracy after last year’s coup.
Last week the African Union and the West African bloc Ecowa suspended Mali on the recent coup. France too stopped military cooperation with Mali, which is part of the G-5 Sahel regional counterterrorism force, while the World Bank on break $ 1.5 billion in funding to Mali from the International Development Association.
Kagame critic arrested in Mozambique. Rwandan journalist Cassien Ntamuhanga was arrested on May 23 in Mozambique, where he had lived in exile since 2017. Ntamuhanga was kidnapped by eight people claiming to be from the police, according to local reports. Last week, the authorities confirmed that Ntamuhanga was handed over to the Rwandan Embassy in Maputo, Mozambique.
The journalist’s detention comes after Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi traveled to Kigali, Rwanda, to discuss growing insecurity in northern Mozambique. A well-known critic of Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Ntamuhanga was the director of a fundamentalist Christian broadcaster. He was convicted of conspiracy against the state, terrorism and murder in 2015 and was sentenced to 25 years in prison, before fleeing to Mozambique, which does not have an extradition treaty with Rwanda. .
Angolan generals with an ax. In a constant effort to rid Angola of corruption, President João Lourenço fired the country’s security chief on May 31. General Pedro Sebastião was the presidential minister of State Security and Intelligence during a financial scandal that rocked the Lourenço office last month, when authorities reportedly grasped millions of dollars, euros and Angolan kwanzas from military officers accused of embezzlement.
Lourenço too fired General Apolinário José Pereira, head of military intelligence; João Pereira Massano, Head of the Veterans Department; and Lieutenant-General António Mateus Júnior de Carvalho, Secretary of Defense and the Armed Forces. The announcement of the layoffs did not resolve the allegations out of hand.
The unemployment rate in South Africa in the first quarter of 2021 reached a staggering 32.6%. Among those under 35, 46.3 percent were unemployed; among recent graduates, the rate was almost 75 percent. The broad definition of unemployment in South Africa includes those who are no longer looking for work. The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated already high rates of unemployment and economic decline.
Death of a prophet. One of Africa’s most prolific televangelists, self-proclaimed prophet TB Joshua, died suddenly on June 5, leaving his thousands of followers to shake. The Nigerian preacher was the founder and head of the Evangelical Church Synagogue Church of All Nations, headquartered in Lagos with branches in Ghana, South Africa and elsewhere. Joshua’s prosperity gospel brand attracted a massive following that included politicians and celebrities. It also helped launch his successful TV channel, Emmanuel TV.
As Joshua’s disciples mourn his charity, he will also be remembered for his prophecies. It is reported to have predicted economic woes for Nigeria in 2016, just before the devaluation of the country’s currency, and the death Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika in 2012. Joshua also missed a few shots, including mistakenly predicting Hillary Clinton’s victory in the 2016 US presidential election. Earlier this year, YouTube banned his channel claims he could cure homosexuality.
Nonetheless, Joshua’s congregation has grown steadily across the continent, helping them amass an estimated fortune of $ 15 million and exemplifying the growing power of evangelical churches in Africa.
The problem and the solution. The Nigerian military plays a disproportionate role in the country, assuming responsibilities that should fall to the country’s police force, a legacy left behind by years of military rule. In Foreign police, Nigerian historian and author Max Siollun argues that the Nigerian military elite is also uniquely placed to change this pattern.
“Why say no? “ Famous Cameroonian postcolonial scholar Achille Mbembe drew criticism when he agreed to help French President Emmanuel Macron set up the France-Africa summit later this year. Mbembé told Agence France-Presse that the summit would have a new structure that would respond more adequately to the concerns of Africans, defending its decision as taking the risk of modifying Franco-African relations.