Social Media role in Tanzania’s 2015 election

Posted on January 10, 2015 12:36 am

2015 will arguably be the most politically intense year for Tanzania’s still-maturing democracy, with legislative elections followed by the most competitive and closely contested presidential election in the nation’s history in October this year. The entire country seems engrossed in the political process, electrified by the emergence of multiple candidates seeking ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi presidential ticket and those challenging late founding President of Tanzania Julius Nyerere-era hopefuls coming from outside the establishment and not afraid to shake things up. With millions of people expected to be glued to their phones, tablets and computers during the coming months of campaigning, balloting and post-vote tallies with all the drama that is expected, the intensity of the events will fueled in no small part by social media.Online platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Path will become a lifeline for Tanzanians to get involved in the political process and document every step of the historical events of which they will be part. Previous elections never managed to garner the interest of the nation that the 2015 showdowns expects. But with incumbent President Jakaya Kikwete exiting, the whole country will be tuned in, including the nation’s youths, who duly tweet sound bites and post running commentary on Facebook and other platforms. Each of political meetings and debates will definitely be live-tweeted, and each time the hashtag #Tanzania2015 is expected to top the list of trending topics on Twitter according to independent research conducted late last year. Campaigning in both the legislative and presidential elections in 2015 will be nothing like the 2010 affair, with social media truly coming into its own this year.The wider penetration of the Internet and the increasing number of social media users breed a new level of creativity, with many youngsters already creating fun political campaigns on platforms such as YouTube.

Some have already created and uploaded videos in support of their preferred candidate, while others are taking a neutral stance and focused instead on raising political awareness and encouraging others to go out and vote.Before the October election,Tanzanians haven proved the long held perception that they have always been early adopters of the latest thing in social media, and the social networking platforms enjoys a strong following here of more than 1 million monthly users.Studies have also shown that there are plenty of cases illustrated to some degree that phenomenon of cyber bullying among Tanzania’s increasingly Internet-savvy population.But leave it to Tanzanians, or Bongolanders (as residents of Dar Es Salaam are fondly referred to), more precisely, to take the practice to a whole new level and cyber bully a city in this case.Think of the satellite city of Kigamboni recent explosive social media controversy, located in the south of Dar Es Salaam, a woman residing there posted on Facebook in her native Swahili language (huyu danguro anazingua utadhani mimi nilimpa mimba) describing a pregnant woman who sought a seat in(Kivukoni) ferry service area as (an annoying prostitute you’d think i made her pregnant) yet there’s no evidence to prove the heavily pregnant woman was indeed a whore. It’s still unclear how the whole campaign began, but suddenly Twitter, Facebook in Tanzania were flooded with jokes ridiculing the pregnant woman whose photo was also shared online, in particular how far away it was on the quite southern outskirts of Dar Es Salaam, but up to five minutes ferry journey away from the city center, thanks to almost complete Kigamboni bridge. In the video posted on YouTube few days later related to the said incident, some of the taunts were in the form of posts featuring a Kigamboni map and the caption, “she gave her goodies willingly to get pregnant, why the bitterness” as well as advisories that anyone planning to visit Kigamboni needed to bring their good manners not import their tantrums and stupidity. As the United Republic of Tanzania prepares to hold the general election,social media users will no doubt play a key role in shaping the minds of general voters in urban and rural areas.

Contador Harrison