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Africa News of Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Source: www.ghanaweb.com

Six hashtags from African countries that fueled major changes and revolutions

Some young women in Namibia leading the #ShutItAllDown protests in 2020 Some young women in Namibia leading the #ShutItAllDown protests in 2020

#BringBackOurGirls was perhaps, the first time in recent years any hashtag emanating from Africa received such global attention, opening up the virtual floodgates for people to use the influence to push for change in policies and to drive revolutions.

The #BringBackOurGirls hashtag from Nigeria in 2014 was necessitated by the abduction of over 276 girls in Chibok by terrorist group, Boko Haram.

Following the online campaign, the entire world united and rallied behind the hashtag with notable names like the Pope, Michel Obama and Oprah Winfrey also joining in.

Although not all the girls who were abducted have since returned to their families and with heightened reports of kidnappings and abductions still plaguing the West African country, something significant has happened to social media campaigning.

Online campaigns of such nature have since taken root, with many electing themselves as social media activists, pushing relevant hashtags that are keeping many governments on their toes across the continent.

In Ghana today, the #FixTheCountry campaign and its allied hashtags #FixTheCountryNow, #FixMotherGhana among others, calling on the government to fix the rots in the country.

Below are a few of such hashtags and the motivations behind them, as well as some of the results that were chalked from them in some countries in Africa.

We begin with the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag from Nigeria.

#BringBackOurGirls

On the evening of April 14, 2014, a band of gunmen stormed into a girls boarding school in the northeast Nigerian town of Chibok and carried away more than 200 students who had been preparing for their graduation exams. The young women were taken to the remote forest hideout of a little-known Islamist sect named Boko Haram.

The Wall Street journal reports that for weeks, almost no one seemed to notice the students were missing. Then the news went viral on Twitter, prompting some of the world’s most recognizable people — Pope Francis, Kim Kardashian, The Rock, Michelle Obama — to fire off a hashtag that lighted up billions of phones: #BringBackOurGirls.

Those four words quickly demonstrated the power of social media to advance a distant cause. The girls became a global priority. To free them, a number of the world’s most powerful countries sent their armed forces, drones, satellites and sophisticated surveillance equipment. And then, just as quickly, Twitter’s hive mind swarmed onto its next viral cause, the Ice Bucket Challenge, and never returned.

#CongoIsBleeding

In 2020, face2faceafrica.com reported that the exploitation in the mines of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is now receiving global attention thanks to a new trending social media hashtag, #CongoIsBleeding, that seeks to highlight the child slavery, deadly conflicts and corruption spawned by the quest to feed megacompanies with minerals.

Celebrities from Africa and outside including NBA star Serge Ibaka, took to Twitter to draw awareness and seek help.

The country has the world’s most prolific cobalt mines, producing about half of the world’s utilized cobalt. The metal is a mineral used in making lithium-ion batteries as well as magnetic steels in phones, laptops among others, so chances are that you are reading this on a device that was partly formed by the mines of the Congo.

The east of the DRC, where the mines are located, is therefore home to nearly 40,000 child labourers digging for the minerals that would eventually be utilized by Apple, Google, and other giant corporations.

These are the poorest of Congolese with little to no safety net and are at the mercy of taskmasters who are usually corrupt government employees or even rebel forces. This brings us to problems associated with another mineral, coltan, which has led to insecurity in the same eastern region of the DRC.

#EndSARS

The #EndSARS protests began after a video went viral on social media showing an officer with the SARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad) allegedly killing a man in the southern Delta state.

For years, the unit has been accused of abuse of power and of committing crimes that it is meant to be stopping, like robberies, killings and kidnappings, reports dw.com. Promises to reform the police have been made by authorities since 2016, but protesters say nothing has changed.

Fed up with the system, an energized youth movement took to the streets and vowed not to back down before substantial change were made. The protests since spread to many states across Nigeria but centered in the largest city, Lagos.

#FixTheCountry

In Ghana in 2021, social media users have been pushing the hashtag #FixTheCountry to bring the attention of the government led by Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, to the several cases of things that many Ghanaians describe as rots and which should be fixed.

What started as a campaign online with the hashtag was supposed to be translated into a street protest but this was stopped by the courts after the police secured an injunction against it on the grounds that it would infringe on coronavirus restrictions for gatherings.

Among the issues people are asking the government to fix are new taxes, galamsey (illegal small-scale mining that is destroying vegetation and water bodies), erratic power and water supply, rising youth unemployment, dilapidated health system, skyrocketing home-renting structure, and poor road networks, among others.

The government has also been responding with a matching hashtag #HeIsFixingIt although that has been met with an almost equal or more backlash by the larger populace.

#ZimbabweanLivesMatter

In 2020, and in response to a particularly brutal, public, widespread, and on-going clampdown by security forces, the hashtag #ZimbabweanLivesMatter went viral, globally.

Celebrities like rappers Ice Cube, AKA, and Lecrae, and actresses Thandie Newton and Pearl Thusi expressing support for, or at least interest in, what appeared to be an exploding grassroots campaign against the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the man who took over from former leader Robert Mugabe.

#ShutItAllDown

This campaign was a wave of ongoing Gender Based Violence protests across Namibia aimed at stopping the spread of rape and killing of women. Since early October 2020, hundreds of furious demonstrators – mainly younger women – took to the streets of Namibia’s capital, Windhoek, in protest against gender-based violence and femicide.

Their action was triggered by a series of gruesome assaults on women and girls. Violent police responses only fueled the outrage and led to continued public protests across several regions and towns.

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