By and large French speaking blogs and bloggers of the world have reason to envy English, Spanish and Brazilian speaking counterparts in volume and in interaction with each other. Very few bloggers (Madagascar and Reunion being notable exceptions) are actually talking to each other, even when they come from the same country. However 2006 saw some interesting developments in certain parts of the French speaking world.
Until the election of interim President Joseph Kabila, the DRC-based blogs were quite active and vigorously in opposition of him. Most of the bloggers were journalists who turned to blogs to speak with diaspora or western audiences. GlobalVoices featured an interview of the most prolific DRC-based blogger, Tony Katombe of Le Blog du Congolais. We brought you blurbs from counterparts such as Prince du Fleuve du Congo Phillipe Liondjo and Etienne Ngandu. UDPS Liege, the blog of opposition party UDPS did its best to lead the blogging opposition to Kabila from Liege, Belgium. UDPS leader Etienne Tshisekedi never actually ran in the race so UDPS Liege spent much time justifying his choice.
Immediately after Kabila's election late November, activity dropped off for a while in the DRC-based blogs.
(Note that English speaking diaspora blogs such as The Salon have been doing a great job as well and generally brought a refreshing if moderate counterpoint to the staunchly anti-Kabila perspective of its French speaking DRC-based counterparts.)
Blogs in Senegal had been relatively sleepy with spotty updates until Blog Politique du Senegal came along halfway through the year. Much like the blogs of the DRC, the blog is obsessed with their incumbent President (Wade) and has spent much time unveiling perceived excesses and failures of his administration. Humor is always present in these parts and posts were short and concise.
Haiti and its Diaspora
Much of the exciting news in Haitian blogs has been in English: 3rdworldgirl, for example or even AyitiToma who unfortunately posted just once. But what a post that “Open Letter To Haiti” was! Roody Edme, however spotty, started a very promising blog Ailleurs Vu d'Ici on which he bombarded us with well written and well informed posts on New Year's Eve. It seems the blogger was saving his best goodies for last. And best yet his commentary is not just limited to Haitian affairs but spans the planet! Call this blogger anything but ill-informed.
By far the most consistent current affairs blog was Collectif Haiti de Provence, the France-based blog of a collective of Haiti and France-based organizations.Though the blog started the year by posting news stories, two individual voices, Deky Lakyel and JoJo began commenting each story, firing daily at the current president, his interim predecessor and the UN Mission (MINUSTAH). Their main preoccupation: “Insecurity” a literal translation of the French “Insecurite” which has taken the form of kidnappings first aimed at political figures and now at random civilians, increasingly children. But the bloggers also balked at poor governance and incompetence on the part of elected or appointed officials, one issue most agree is a major weakness of Haitian government.
Yon Ayisyen rarely made it online to grace us with his smart take on things once Preval got elected, probably because, as he explained to GlobalVoices in an interview, he did not have an internet connection at home. That is too bad because until the election, he made sure to dissect and demystify many a newsworthy phenomenon, including authorities’ many claims leading up to the election that they had actually done something about the many kidnappings that were plaguing the capital. Yon Ayisyen also watched the elections closely and uncovered shameful irregularities that took place under international observers’ noses.
Towards the end of the year, India-based Natif Natal started a blog on musings about Indian society from the perspective of an outsider.
Some dialogue started among certain English speaking Haitian diaspora bloggers (Reveiled, Karlito's Blog, kiskeyAcity) who attempted A Skypecast for Haiti which had to be postponed but whose later incarnation might discuss an aggregator. Those same bloggers all networked with each other on MyBlogLog, along with Haiti-based Marcel Salnave Jr. who started a blog this year, Parlons Peu, of his father's journalistic works from the 40s and 50s.
French Overseas Departments and Territories
While the blogospheres of French speaking Oceania (Tahiti, French Polynesia and New Caledonia) and of Guyane in South America are still dominated by and large by expats from France, locals actually took to blogging in Martinique, Guadeloupe and especially in La Reunion, the rare French speaking blogosphere that speaks to the local reader.
Martinique's highlights are daring and often controversial lesbian blogger Le Blog de [Moi] whose favorite topics are coming out (or not), sexuality and pop culture (her logo is a creolized Rosie The Riveter) and tech blogger InternetRapide.com who devoted himself to following the expansion into Caribbean markets of local Telecom giant Digicel, among other tech-related developments.
Guadeloupe blogs focused more on local politics and issues of nationhood. Toto M'a Tuer‘s pet issue was what he described as corrupt local governance while Convention pour une Nouvelle Guadeloupe (the blog of a political party of the same name) highlighted all dates relevant to the formation of the blog's preoccupation: a Guadeloupean nation and national identity distinct from the French. Rotarian Jean-Claude Halley from Guadeloupe Attitude spent more energy on local high art, including the chronicling of the life, music and newfound popularity in France, Guadeloupe and Cuba of historical Guadeloupean figure Chevalier de St-Georges.
La Reunion's very self-aware blogosphere (complete with an aggregator and a local audience) were the topic of Global Voices article Reunion: Actively Blogging. Indeed, prolific local blogger Pierrot Dupuy explained to GV that this French overseas department has more computers per capita than continental France.
Indian Ocean water must contain a special tech mineral. Madagascar though lacking La Reunion's aggregator and French ressources, managed to pull together a very cohesive and active blogosphere with a collective blog Malagasy Miray, over a dozen active bloggers (this does not include their growing crop of English and Malagasy speaking bloggers), a blogger's meet January 5th, “Malagasyscopy”, a “communal post” on Malagasy identity abroad to which over 20 Malagasy bloggers contributed their 2 cents. One wonders whether this incredible momentum is not owed to the government's recent efforts to refurbish the country's image but active, enthusiastic diasporans probably deserve credit too.
Some of the best Francophone bloggers are actually based in the West where they cast an overarching eye on not just their homelands but issues of whole continents. Sanaga Peregrinations, a blogger of Cameroonian origin comes to mind whose blog goes back and forth between French and English and whose topics span technology, current affairs and who took a close look at the DRC elections. Togolese origined, France-based Kangni Alem is another. The blogger loves to wax poetic on African literary issues but also weighs in on general African politics. His blog received over two dozen comments a post, a testament to its appeal and reach.
A 2007 to Look Forward To
As critics predict that 2007 will be the stage to a web 2.0 explosion, there is every reason to believe that Francophone blogs will only get more numerous and better connected. The Blog Africa 2.0 has made it a point to chronicle each step the African internet takes in that direction and will no doubt continue doing so. Plus, Global Voices is preparing to launch Project Lingua which should bring Global Voices content in French to French speaking bloggers, a step which if successful, will only enlarge their cross-pollination and exposure to other more active linguistic communities on the web.
Most links above are to Global Voices translations of the blogs. You can find direct links to individual blogs in the translations.