The New Times (Kigali)

23 March 2014

East Africa: Twitter Is Off in Turkey but Alive in East Africa

Just before I sat to write this piece the highest trending topic on Twitter was that the service was off in Turkey just after the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to "wipe out" the social network for highlighting corruption allegations linked to him and his inner circle. It is said that authorities "technically blocked access to Twitter" because the service had ignored various Turkish court orders to remove some links deemed illegal.

The situation in Turkey quickly reminded of sometime back when the regulatory body in Uganda issued a statement threatening to block 'Tweeter' something many just laughed off since they were not on Tweeter but Twitter.

Well the service is alive in East Africa and its usage continues to grow more and more. It is also encouraging that East Africans are using it to keep abreast with news and spread news as well as learning about each other and not organising riots. So we are not likely to find ourselves in a Turkish moment for now.

East Africans on Twitter like others will tweet about global news points like the missing Malaysian plane or the Ukraine situation not forgetting the mass communication on major European football and Hollywood events like the Oscars. Lupita should not think people followed the Oscars because of her.

I have been trying to follow East Africans on Twitter for quite some time now. Obviously the Kenyans are out of the blocks and have even earned trending rights from the Twitter engineers. Uganda and Rwanda seem to be following closely if you are ready to admit that your ignorance of Swahili and French blinds you of the Tanzanians and the Burundians respectively.

Kenyans took on the #KOT tag which stands for Kenyans on Twitter. In my view they are fully 'developed' Twitter users. They have more convicing soacil media awards and reports than say Uganda and Rwanda. They can all join a topic and make it trend in a short while.

They are also keen followers and critics of their politicians and tend to have some of the funniest people on Twitter. If you have a thin skin you may stay away from them ask the Nigerians and others who have found themselves in 'tweefs' with them.

Ugandans (#UOT) in my view seem to be copying a lot from the Kenyans but can also stand their ground in many aspects. Once in a while they can come up with an interesting trending topic although their numbers may not allow them to make it such a big issue unless they are talking about #Kony2012 or the Anti-Gay law.

Moving to the Rwandans with their #RwOT tag, one can see a level of uniformity with those living in the country often showering it praises unless EWSA is being mean with power or water, while those outside are known to piss on anything good about the country.

That said, the #RwOT family has continued to grow and establish itself as a force to reckon. Recently social media awards were given out and so some can rightly claim to be the bigwigs in the land of a thousand hills. It is also important to admit that government officials and agencies all have a presence on twitter thanks to the example set by the president himself.

In my bid to understand more about my Burundian brothers and sisters, the tag #Abatwip comes to mind. This is the collective tag used for Burundians on Twitter. Although many tweet in French a language I can only use to excuse, myself from using, many others use English and Swahili.

The Burundians on Twitter are not that many but they have done an incredible job in speaking out about the misconceptions of their country that is seen to be handicapped by language as far as the EAC is concerned.

From the land of Kilimanjaro, I am still not sure whether they agreed to use #TOT or #TzOT. What is a fact though is that there have a good presence and like right now when the debate on changing the constitution is going on, many are quite vocal. All I know is that I need more Swahili lessons to keep up.

I have a feeling that eventually the five different voices of the region will start to sound as one. Thanks to the companies that have gone regional as well as entertainment options. After all we can now all complain about Nakumatt or Kenya Airways on twitter.

Blog: www.ssenyonga.wordpress.com

Twitter: @ssojo81

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