Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Democratic cyberspace

Found a pleasant surprise when I was doing my morning website trolling: a prominent opposition politician of the older generation had joined JamiiForums (that heaving nest of political intrigue). As I read the enthusiastic-and mildly threatening- welcome messages, it emerged that there may be more than one professional politician on there. I know for sure that Kabwe regularly leaves documents on there, though he wisely refrains from discussion.

I wonder if this Honorable knows what he has gotten himself into. In real life one can expect even one's bitter enemies to treat you with a bit of dignity but once online we Bongolanders take the gloves off and put on brass knuckles. The political pages of JamiiForums are not for the fainthearted. Intelligent discussions are constantly breaking down into mud-slinging matches. The reverse happens too, but only occasionally. If you get on a soapbox there you can expect to be called out, heckled, supported, derided, name it. Parliament is to JamiiForums as a Sunday afternoon drive is to mid-week evening rush hour during the rainy season.

I must admit I am impressed. While it is only natural that the media and some of the savvier young politicians have taken to the web like ducks to water, our leaders are mostly of the generation where ponderous declarations issued by Maelezo are the preferred method of communication. I am certain that the Powers That Be are keeping a keen eye on developments but none would be so foolish as to admit their identities in public. For an old dude to throw himself into this brave new tech world where the members might just eat his cyberliver for breakfast every single day is very gutsy.

Mzee, at the very least, no one can ever accuse you of not putting your money where your mouth is. You said you believe in democratic dialogue, you are about to get more of it that you could possibly have dreamed. Karibu. Invite some of your fellow elders. Let the games begin.

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