The end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011 marked the beginning a wave of unprecedented revolutionary activity across the Middle East. The dates of the revolutions go something like this: Tunisia-December 17, 2010, Algeria: January 5, 2011, Jordan: 41 January 2011, Yemen: January 22, 2011,Egypt: January 25, 2011, Sudan, January 30, 2011, Palestine: February 2, 2011, Iraq: February 3, 2011, Bahrain: February 13, 2011, Iran:february 14 2011 and Libya: February 15, 2011.
While this list of names is fairly impressive, what is really striking about every one of these revolutions is the fact that they were all sparked by a sharing of ideas and information through the internet and particularly through social networking. People in disparate parts of these countries and all over the globe have been able to plan, strategize, organize and execute what can only be termed as ingenious demonstrations which are always peaceful in intent but are usually marred by violent crackdown by the regime that the protestors are demonstrating against.
Attempts to block internet and cell phone usage in these countries in order to create chaos and a media blackout in which the tyrannical governments can come down hard on demonstrators has failed dismally. Why? Because of the solidarity and unity among the people who are in the country and outside. Information has continued to leak out of Libya where the popular arab network Al Jezeera has been accused of being a main player in inciting people to demand the removal of Gaddafi. Obviously it is impossible to confiscate each and every mobile device in the country and inteference with telecommunications towers can only be temporary. Internet cafes have been shut down but there is always someone with a laptop hidden somewhere who has figured out how to stay connecetd to the internet and continues to pump information out in the form of pictures videos and written commentary.
The power of the internet and social networking is being harnessed to bring about forceful change in countries where entrenched dictatorships were complacent that they would last forever. As the old cliché goes: Nothing lasts forever and while a lot of these regimes have in the past blamed western media and outside influences for inciting unrest withing their borders, this time they cannot decry that old, tired excuse. Many are shocked to discover that their own citizens are so disgruntled and so fed up that they are prepared to be slaughtered on the streets by government troops and policemen. However, in many of these places, such as in Egypt, where Mubarak is now ancient history, these very soldiers and policemen have looked on , rifles pointed in the air and refused to obey the order to fire into the crowd.
What is driving these movements? It is probably a number of things but what springs to mind are these: these movements are being orchestrated by young, technologically savvy citizens who were probably babies when all these dictators came into power and have been in power since. This means that these young people have never really known political freedom in their own lives but thanks to technology, understand that citizens have the right to elect their leaders and also reserve the right to remove them if they do not follow the mandate of the people. Through the internet, young people are getting a full vew of what life in a democratic society run by a democratically elected government yields, in terms of socio economic status, job and educational opportunities and access to goods and services such as healthcare.
The other driver is consistency.The citizens of Egypt were resolute and consistent. They were not going to be cowed into slinking back to their miserable unsatisfactory lives. They stood their ground and cried out long and loud, until Mubarak had no choice but to bow out.
Right now Libyans, who are facing a more violent crackdown with many people already killed and some missing are doing the same thing. They are resolute and consistent.
Zimbabwe is really no different from these countries, apart from the fact that we are not in the northern hemisphere and we are not Arabs. By harnessing the power of the internet and social networking, by putting ethnic and racial, religious and ideological differences aside for a common cause, Zimbabweans can peacefully protest against the tyranny of Zanu PF led by Robert Mugabe and his old cronnies. It has been proven to be a method for removal of autocrats which works. However it requires courage and it requires winning the hearts and minds of the armed forces and the police. It requires casting fear aside and “ looking the regime in the eye”, to quote an esteemed cadre in Zimbabwe’s own fledgeling techno fueled struggle. If all Zimbabweans cast fear and intimidation aside and look the regime unwaveringly in the eye, we can and we shall overcome. The only thing to fear, is fear itself.