What happens on facebook remains on facebook: The “Beka” revolution evangelists on facebook revisited

Since the removal of Ben Ali and H.Mubarak some momentous developments have occurred on the Ethiopians online media landscape. In the last five months the creation and flowering of some facebook groups whose major tasks were to inspire Egyptian style revolution in Ethiopia have captured the attention of both diaspora and homeland readers and political analysts. Major Ethiopian media whose focus was the “Beka” Revolution tried to cover and analyze the possibilities of such revolution from nearly every angle

In many of this facebook groups especially in prominent ones like Yedil Qen የድል ቀን with 13364 members we see members who tried to show the menacing features of the ruling regime. Other members act like hooded militants presenting themselves to a condition of a dream collecting their focus at purportedly planned “Day of Rage” which was May 28 2011. They all insist that they would change “Meskel Square” to a kind of Egyptian “Tahrir Square” Most of the group members’ share links videos and audios, post rich colorful graphics which tried to illustrate the atrocities of the current regime.

The Facebook page of Yedil Qen የድል ቀን in the heat of discussion before May 28 2011

Group members were also engaged themselves in publishing breaking news stories. They put and create links to the Web addresses of major Ethiopian diasporic media that have an online presence, some consistent participant of group members of Yedil Qen የድል ቀን periodically posts high-impact and controversial news stories of corruption and maladministration of EPRDF. They collect this news both from the domestic newspapers and from diasporic online media. They also invite discussion to other group members. This feature has made Yedil Qen የድል ቀን one of the most popular facebook pages of the facebook community both at home and in the Diaspora. The debates in the facebook group are not only robust, which collates reports from citizen reporters from all over Ethiopia especially when the day of rage was fast approaching , and it is often the interim medium for many of the revolutionary people. For instance, one of the most shared stories on this group was the alleged participation of Meles Zenawi in a phone in session of VOA’s Straight Talk Africa as Abebe to a ask questions to Ambassador of Eretria about the disputed border town of Bademe . You can listen to the alleged full three minutes participation of Meles Zenawi as Abebe here, as the session is VOA’s Straight Talk Africa and hosted by well-known Ugandan journalist Shaka Ssali.

Some stories and reports regarding maladministration and lack of good governance in Ethiopia were first published on anonymous individuals’ facebook page for months before the formation and flowering of independent facebook groups were formed for a revolutionary cause. Other prominent facebook pages such as Eyouthm Abiyot also first published their stories on the Yedil Qen የድል ቀን facebook group before getting their own facebook page latter their own independent site. Many of the ardent opponents of the current regime still share their news stories on the Yedil Qen የድል ቀን facebook page and try to inspire the online community for the revolution.

Though starting such digital activism is on facebook is excellent to bring about changes in Ethiopia, these expansion and involvement of arguments on the possibility of “Beka” Revolution seem contradictory, even counter-intuitive. The flowering of facebook groups and Ethiopian digital activism on the Internet should have functioned to satisfy the yearning for “Beka” Revolution by mainly diaspora Ethiopians and therefore sparkle the so much debated revolution. Nevertheless, revolutionary facebook groups not only fail to instigate Egyptian style revolution in Ethiopia but vigorously chip away the credibility of similar facebook groups and digital activists. Therefore online debates and arguments should be transformed to offline rational debates so that Ethiopians can use technology to bring about real changes.

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