I've been fascinated by the escalating protests in Burkina Faso which seem to have brought down President Blaise Compaore after 27 years. I don't know much about the country, but after years immersed in studying the Arab uprisings this seems ripe for comparative inquiry. What sparked this level of popular mobilization now? Why did the military behave as it did? Is there a social media or political information dimension? How will its neighbors and supporters of the old regime respond?
This tweet is what really grabbed my attention, though:
If the people of #BurkinaFaso can fight against corrupt leaders, Ghana can also do same! SayNoToCorruptLeaders.October 30, 2014
Could the Burkina Faso uprising spread to Ghana or other African countries the way that Tunisia's uprising spread to Egypt and then out to most of the Arab world? Should other African Presidents be worried, as Ken Opalo asks in his recent Monkey Cage piece?
In The Arab Uprising, I emphasize the causal importance of transnational Arab media, including both satellite television such as al-Jazeera and social media. I argue that this integrated Arab public sphere allowed for the articulation of a shared narrative which bound together a wide variety of very different protest movements in the first few months of 2011. It facilitated the adoption in very different contexts of highly similar, modular forms of protest, whether the seizing of a central public space or mimicking slogans like "the people want the overthrow of the regime." Arabs as far away as Yemen watched the overthrow of President Ben Ali and suddenly contemplated the possibility of change through popular protest, while the fall of Hosni Mubarak made many believe that such change was inevitable. That level of interconnectedness didn't last, of course, but it was extremely important during those feverish months of a genuinely regionwide mobilization.
I'm very curious, therefore, whether or not Africa experts are seeing the same kinds of dynamics which mattered so much in the Arab context a few years ago. Is there a common public sphere in which a collective narrative of popular uprising could be articulated? Are there meaningful efforts to translate Mac-Jordan's sentiments into reality in Ghana or elsewhere, or networks of activists sharing information, ideas and strategies? Are citizens in other countries revising their beliefs about the possibility of successful protest in light of Burkina Faso's uprising?
Consider this an open call for comparative insights - thanks!