Central African Republic Attempts To Quiet Unrest By Suspending Text Messaging

from the well-that-won't-work dept

When it comes to protests and unrest, the community of nations just seems to love to shoot themselves in the foot. All manner of strategies to combat disquiet have been rolled out, from the water cannons, to banning protests themselves, to screwing with the text messaging networks of citizens. Those last two examples are both from Ukraine, back when a pro-Russia leader was attempting to keep control in a nation in turmoil. We all know how that worked out: the leader was expelled, replaced with someone else, and then Russia decided to annex parts of the country. Not the best outcome those of us that love secular democracy could have hoped for, but the lasting point is that simply trying to bury or ban protesters doesn’t tend to work all that well.

The next nation that is likely to learn this lesson is the Central African Republic, a small republic that is seriously smack-dab in the middle of Africa. This nation that has a human rights abuse list longer than the wait to see American Veteran’s doctor has been experiencing protests and unrest lately and has decided their best course of action is to flip the off switch on text messaging.

The prime minister of the Central African Republic is defending his decision to temporarily ban text messaging in a bid to combat spiraling unrest. Prime Minister Andre Nzapayeke said the C.A.R. is “at war.”

“We must choose: freedom or keep people from the hands of criminals. For us, we choose protection of the people,” said Nzapayeke.

Frankly, it’s a bit refreshing to see a nation’s leader flat out dismiss freedom for security. You usually don’t see that since the people having their freedom taken from them in the name of security tend not to like it all that much. That’s probably all the more true when those people are already suffering under conditions that include human trafficking, female genital mutilation, corruption, extrajudicial executions, rape and torture.

Even with that being said, these kind of moves so rarely work out well for the government that I wonder why anyone bothers trying them any longer. Throughout the Arab Spring, government after government attempted to cripple technology and communication amongst their own people in an attempt to remain in power, and in most cases it failed to do anything besides piss off the people even more. Ditto in Ukraine. If history is a teacher worth it’s salt, the banning of text messaging in C.A.R. backfiring completely seems like a pretty safe prediction to make. Maybe the government there should actually attempt to address their people’s grievances instead. Naaaah.

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Comments on “Central African Republic Attempts To Quiet Unrest By Suspending Text Messaging”

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zip says:

relative importance

In such a dirt-poor country like CAR, where most people can expect to die before reaching the age of 50, and where an iPhone costs more than the typical person’s annual income, somehow I tend to doubt that, for the vast majority of people, the issue of government censorship would rank anywhere near the importance of life essentials like clean water and food — or not being killed in the inter-tribal warfare, genocide, and civil wars endemic to this part of the world.

That being said, I’m at least glad to see that the CAR government is open and honest about banning text messaging there. Here in the USA, both government and corporations rarely admit to anything, and in response to any kind of enforcement action, would prefer to pretend that it’s some kind of technical problem that they’re working hard to fix.

Lorpius Prime (profile) says:

While such a ban is stupid, CAR has far, far bigger problems right now. The “government” doesn’t really wield authority outside the capital, and its existence is only sustained by French and African Union soldiers. It’s pretty much the most impoverished country in the world, and it’s lately been going through a really horrific civil war and religious pogroms that have further compounded its already dismal situation.

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