Tue06Mar2012African Studies Centre
Will There be an Ethiopian Spring? Reflections on New Media and Political Change in Ethiopia
Speaker: Dr Iginio Gagliardone
After witnessing the critical role new Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) played in supporting political change in Northern Africa at the beginning of 2011, expectations have grown that in Sub-Saharan Africa authoritarian or ‘semi-authoritarian’ regimes may also be challenged by emerging uses of ICTs. However, there have been little signs that long-standing leaders in countries like Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, or Uganda may be ousted from power by a popular uprising supported by and coordinated through the use of new technologies. What are the reasons for this apparent absence of impact? How much of the lack of technologically mediated mobilizations for greater rights and political freedoms depends simply on the limited diffusion of ICTs such as the Internet? How much depends instead on local specific political patterns and dynamics? And, in the absence of revolutionary outcomes, are ICTs affecting and possibly transforming the nature of political mobilization and participation in more subtle ways? By analysing the case of Ethiopia and comparing the mobilization that followed the controversial and contested elections of 2005 with the events that led to regime changes in Tunisia and Ethiopia in 2011, this paper seeks answers to these questions and proposes an approach that captures the broader relationship between media and politics.