A civil society groups and other activists in the Gambia have decided to take to social media to demand action from the President Adama Barrow’s new government. As some of these civil society groups like the hash-tag Occupy Westfield took to the street in Sere-Kunda to vent out their dissatisfaction towards the conditions of the nation’s water and electricity supplier, NAWEC in the country last year.
Of a recent is the strike by a group called Dafadoy-Enough is Enough, Social Security Housing and Finance Co-operation for the sacking of their Managing Director, Mr. Muhammad Manjang, the teachers union and the Doctors and Nurses associations of the Gambia to emphasize their rights to peaceful assembly as enshrined in the Gambia constitution with a march to the national assembly in the Banjul. Within three weeks, the “Occupy Westfield” campaign put the NAWEC’s inability to provide electricity and water to Gambians as demanded by the group and centre on the world stage: the FACEBOOK and Twitter hash-tag had been used over one thousand times by civil rights activist in the Gambia.
Beginning with the Arab Spring in 2011, young Africans have been using technology to mobilise around issues affecting them. Images of young Africans assembled in protest, mobilising around hash-tags, are now commonplace on Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms. Of recent is the hash-tag we stand in solidarity with people of Gunjur and the Faraba Bantang incident, Taneneh Manjaroo Cementry incident and the bread sellers association in the Gambia strikes for the price of their breads to be increase on the market.
The immediacy and importance of social media as a key factor in mobilising large numbers of people and catalysing change in this twenty-first century though. Without the internet and social media, it would be very difficult to organise a huge rally within 48 hours. Social media enables organizers to have a major impact on society, and you can assemble large numbers of society very quickly and differently from what you would do when you had to go to the streets or knock on doors or put up flyers.
As young people in the Gambia are becoming actively participating into politics with the activism that probably safeguarded the integrity of the 2016 election. They began using the hashtag with the slogan as “#GambiaHasDecided” when former president Yahya Jammeh refused to vacate his office and hand over power after suffering electoral defeat.
In addition to spreading the word over Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, the anti-Jammeh campaign also encouraged citizens to wear T-shirts bearing the slogan. Social media has forever changed the dynamics of politics in Africa. In October 2014, young people organised over social media against Blaise Compaoré, then president of Burkina Faso, who was planning to change the constitution to allow him to run for another two terms, thereby extending his 27-year tenure.
The social media can be a useful tool for conveying the importance of voting, young people will not take up ballots over mobile devices unless they believe that their votes will bring about real change in their lives.
In the 2016 presidential election in the Gambia, for instance, young people largely supported Adama Barrow, who challenged Mr. Jammeh, because they thought Mr. Barrow would bring about a change in governance. Most of these young people in the Gambia, believed that president Barrow will be different. He’s listening to their concern unlike Yahya Jammeh does, that is plausible reason why many young people went out to vote in 2016 election.
Seedy S. Fofanah is a former lecturer at the University of The Gambia