1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
When the Arab Spring erupted in 2010, one of the first things people noticed was the very visible role social media seemed to play. Many began to call the series of political uprisings “Twitter Revolutions” and a lively debate broke out about the importance of the new technology.
The Egypt revolution started in December 2010; unprecedented mass demonstrations against poverty, corruption, and political repression broke out in several Arab countries, challenging the authority of some of the most entrenched regimes in the Middle East and North Africa. Such was the case in Egypt, where in 2011 a popular uprising forced one of the region‟s longest-serving and most influential leaders, President Hosni Mubarak from power.
The first demonstrations occurred in Tunisia in December 2010, triggered by the self-immolation of a young man frustrated by Tunisia‟s high unemployment rate and rampant police corruption. Rallies calling for President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali to step down spread throughout the country, with policeoften resorting to violence to control the crowds. As clashes between police and protesters escalated, Ben Ali announced a series of economic and political reforms in an unsuccessful attempt to end the unrest. Demonstrations continued, forcing Ben Ali to flee the country. The apparent success of the popular uprising in Tunisia, by then dubbed the Jasmine Revolution, inspired similar movements in other countries, including Egypt, Yemen, and Libya.
In Egypt, demonstrations organized by youth groups, largely independent of Egypt‟s established opposition parties, took hold in the capital and in cities around the country. Protesters called for Mubārak to step down immediately, clearing the way for free elections and democracy. As the demonstrations gathered strength, the Mubārak regime resortead to increasingly violent tactics against protesters, resulting in hundreds of injuries and deaths. Mubārak‟s attempts to placate the protesters with concessions, including a pledge to step down at the end of his term in 2011 and naming Omar Suleiman as vice president, the first person to serve as such in Mubārak‟s nearly three-decade presidency did little to quell the unrest. After almost three weeks of mass protests in Egypt, Mubārak stepped down as president, leaving the Egyptian military in control of the country.
Although protesters in Egypt focused most of their anger on domestic issues such as poverty and government oppression, many observers noted that political change in Egypt could impact the country‟s foreign affairs, affecting long-standing policies. Central elements of Egypt‟s foreign policy under Mubārak and his predecessor as president, Anwar el-Sādāt, such as Egypt‟s political-military alignment with the United States and the 1979 Egypt-Israel peace treaty, embraced by Egypt‟s leaders but unpopular with the Egyptian public, could be weakened or rejected under a new regime.
International reactions to the 2011 Egyptian revolution refer to external responses to the events that took place in Egypt between 25 January and 10 February 2011, as well as some of the events after the collapse of the government of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, such as Mubarak’s trial. The reactions have generally been either measured or supportive of the Egyptian people, with most governments and organizations calling for non-violent responses on both sides and peaceful moves towards reform. Whilst the protesters called for Mubarak to step down immediately, most foreign governments stopped short of this demand, at least during the early phases of the protests, due to real politik concerns about the consequences of a power vacuum on the stability of Egypt specifically and to the wider Middle East as a whole. Some Middle Eastern leaders expressed support for Mubarak. Meanwhile many governments issued travel advisories and evacuated their citizens from the country.
The protests captured worldwide attention in part due to the increasing use of Twitter, Face book, YouTube, and other social-media platforms, which empowered activists and onlookers to communicate, coordinate, and document the events as they occur. Many countries experienced their own solidarity protests in support of the Egyptians. As the levels of meta-publicity increased, the Egyptian government stepped up efforts to limit Internet access, especially to social media. In response there has been hacktivism, with global groups attempting to provide alternative communication methods for the Egyptians.
1.2 STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
There is no doubt that that social media has impacted in the social and political mobilization in around the world, in the Middle East, in Africa, and other regions.
Since the Arab revolution came about in the first half of 2011, social media has been referred to as a key factor in political and social mobilization. Social media has served as a powerful to revolutionary movements in different parts of the world, mainly in Africa and in third world countries. There have been several debates on the impacts of social media on political and social mobilization, in view of these debates, this study seeks to determine whether social media has impacted on political and social mobilization.
The main thrust of this study is to take an objective view assessing the impact of social media on the political and social mobilization in Africa using the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 as a case study.
1.3 OBJECTIVE OF RESEARCH
The broad objective of this study is to assess the impact of social media on the political and social mobilization in Africa.
The specific objectives are to:
1. Identify the history and role of social media in the political and social mobilization of the African people;
2. Determine the extent to which social media has impacted on political and social mobilization of Egyptians and other sympathizers towards the revolution;
3. Analyze the social and political implications of social media in the Egyptian revolution of 2011; and
4. Identify whether social media as a factor was a major contributor to the political and social mobilization in the Egyptian revolution.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
The following research questions are drawn mainly from the objectives and would guide the conduct of this work.
What role did social media play in Africa before the Egyptian Revolution of 2011?
To what extent was social media used to advance individual and collective interests in the Egyptian Revolution of 2011?
Did social media impact positively or otherwise on the Egyptian Revolution of 2011?
How important was the social media to the political and social mobilization in the Egyptian revolution of 2011?