Understandably the last few weeks have seen a surge in debate around the influence of the internet and social media on the popular protests in Tunisia and Egypt. Here in Uganda – when wondering if a similar situation could arise after the Presidential elections on February 18 – people often mention the growing proportion of the population that is online every day.
However, political leaders in Africa are also using the internet to communicate directly with their people and interested observers. One such leader is President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, who is one of very few Heads of State to operate their own Twitter account. Seeing him online last week I decided to contact him. And amid persistent speculation that he would seek to amend the Rwandan constitution to stand for a third term in office in 2017, I asked what plans he had for a successor?
To my surprise he responded immediately over three tweets:
@josephpowell. It s alwz going to be a complicated questn…while I can stand for what I say n do- it s hard to do that for smbody else..
@josephpowell but I want n i kno others want to see things continue in good direction..in Rw. So it s in my interest n duty to work with..
@josephpowell ..with others to manage well that succession process…and we will!
So a clear commitment from one of Africa’s most prominent leaders that he will step down in 2017 and hand over to a successor – a move that would surely cement his legacy in re-building Rwanda from the point of destruction to arguably one of the continent’s better functioning states. And all of this over Twitter. A sign, perhaps, that the increasingly diverse range of communications tools will not just be used for coordinating protest in Africa.