View Full Version : African Rebels Take Their Battles Online

01-14-2006, 11:31 AM
14 Jan. Washington Post - African Rebels Take Their Battles Online (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/13/AR2006011301730.html).

... Africa is the world's least developed continent, and most rural inhabitants live without electricity or running water. But in some of its poorest and most remote corners, the Internet has become a powerful weapon for rebel and opposition leaders.

In countries where newspapers and radio stations are routinely shut down and dissidents are often jailed, the Internet is also giving ordinary Africans new freedom to debate political and social issues. "The Internet is a war weapon," Aboude Coulibaly, director of the New Forces rebel group in Ivory Coast, wrote in a recent e-mail. In 2002, the group used its Web site and TV station to launch a mutiny that toppled the government. "In these matters of revolution, we have to be wired to win," he wrote.

Taking over state radio and television stations is often the first act of a coup d'etat. But having access to a Web site, e-mail and a Thuraya brand satellite phone has become increasingly important to African rebels to communicate and garner support from abroad.

Some rebel leaders now think of themselves as "cyberdissidents," said al-Nur. Improved and accessible technology has allowed them to send and receive e-mail, create Web sites, and even keep online diaries or blogs, with satellite phones or dishes providing links to anyone who can charge batteries and buy Internet time on scratch cards.

State censorship is not a problem, since African rebels operate in desolate pockets beyond governments' control. While they may have to charge their personal satellite units on a car battery, they are not at the mercy of state-run telephone systems that could shut down Internet cafes and bring about the arrest of bloggers, researchers said...