March 3 2021 , Africa Meetup

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Africa Meetups

Date: Wednesday, March 3rd

Time: 3:00pm UTC+2 / CAT

Who: Facilitated by Tawanda from Digital Society of Africa

Where: Zoom link will be shared in the following rooms on the IFF Mattermost one or two hours before the start of the meeting: Sub-Saharian Africa.

Notes: Please put notes here: https://pad.riseup.net/p/africa-meetup

During this regional monthly meetup, we will explore our continent's organizations with the participation of two amazing people: Neema, from Pollicy and Abdul Fatoma from CHRDI.

Notes

Countries Represented

  • Ethopia
  • Kenya
  • Uganda
  • South Africa
  • Sudan
  • Tanzania
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe

Overview

General update around Covid19: Most countries in Africa are now receiving the Covid19 vaccines and every participant was hopeful on the distribution process.

Main Topic Discussion: Preparedness of activists before a national election period.

Relevance:

Most African countries have identified that before a national election there are alot of human rights violations that are faced physically and/or digitally and that ultimately affect the mental health of these activists and the people around there. Summarised issues raised were:

  • Increased office raids;
  • Increased arrests;
  • Increase in violent protests;
  • Confiscation of devices;
  • Social Media blockage;
  • Internet blackouts;
  • Increase of online harrassments and cyberbullying;
  • Increase of fake news, misinformation and disinformation

Countries which held/holding elections recently/soon:

  • Tanzania - October 20, 2020 - Done
  • Uganda - January 14, 2021 - Done
  • Ethopia - June 5, 2021 - Pending
  • Zambia - August 14, 2021 - Pending

Discusion Points & Strategies

A proactive approach is greatly needed by activists before an election, this is ideally should be about 6 months before the election. Things to consider from lessons learnt from Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe and other countries in African that held elections:

  • Citizen Awareness: Citizens being a very key population, awareness campaigns need to be done using traditional methods like through workshops, community radio stations, mainstream media or to some extent door to door especially in the rural communities.
  • Holistic Security Trainings: Activists need to be capacitated adequately and timely on how to protect themselves before the election period by attending several incremental trainings as individuals and/organisations. Individual/Organisational strategies need to be documented and implemented before the election which each team member fully knowing their role in the security plan created.
  • Setup Adequate Infrastructure: There is need to have essential infrastructure setup before hand and important tools already distributed. For example, it was discussed that Uganda this year had blockage of certain social media platforms before there was a total internet blackout which is a norm with other African countries during elections. Citizens, HRDs, CSO and activists to be trained on how to use VPNs and secure messaging apps prior to an election to an extent that they have confidence to train other individuals. Funds permitting organisations could venture in installing VSAT connections as these are usually not affected when countries do Internet shutdowns, its a cost that can be shared by several CSOs.
  • Establish Regional/Global Partners: It was a point of emphasis made by everyone who attended, that it is critical for CSOs and especially us as the digital security trainers/advocates/activists/HRDS to have strong partnerships with other organisations within the Internet Freedom Communities as these are always there and eager to assist in several ways especially when things are not going so well. The support system is needed and should be developed and/or maintained.
  • Prioritizing Mental Health: In order to make sure that individuals and organisations have the right state of mind, participants agreed that its good practice to do other activities that help them reboot and allow them to brace up before entering the election period. A note shared is that TeamCommunity has now has a resident Therapist who is available to the community for all psychosocial support and discussions.

Other comments

  • Representatives from Zambia & Ethopia advised that they would love to reach out to fellow members with questions or asking for assistance as they are in the process of creating their elections digital security roadmap. These two countries have elections soon with Ethopia being first in June and Zambia in August, the common thing with these countries is the repressive governments who are actively trying to silence the civic space.
  • Zambia has several laws that are being discussed and are waiting to be passed in parliament. These laws are: The Electionic Communications and Transactions Bill, The Data Protection Bill and The Cyber Security and Cyber Crimes Bill. (If you would require copies of these please do not hesitate to reach out, we will gladly share for comments)

Meetup Conclusion

  • There is need to have a series of these conversations as professionals and actual statistics shared too of the success and failures of some of the proactive election holistic security strategies within Africa as it seems that most African government leaders are now just mimicing each other oppressive election methods.
  • Each country representative member present during the meetup shared some of their country context and expressed happiness that we have resumed the meetups and are now reconnecting with their peers.