As the people of Mali were preparing for elections, they were caught unawares by a military coup on March 21, 2012, and the threat of partition of north Mali. At the time of the coup the principal candidates were readying their Twitter and Google+ accounts along with their Facebook pages, while citizens were updating their blogs and honing their tweets.
While news from the north, cut off and deprived of electricity, comes through sparingly, in the South, the internet allows mobilisation.
The ‘Collectif des Ressortissants du Nord’ (The Northern Citizens’ Collective) or COREN has 303 members of its Facebook group at the time of writing. For the last few weeks, COREN have mobilised the people of Mali throughout the entire territory, with the page notably being used to announce upcoming events as well as to demonstrate solidarity as shown in the following status update from group member Oumar Maigar:
Mettez le drapeau du Mali sur votre profil pour soutenir son unicité
While the internet is inundated with blogs, tweets and videos from other countries, Malian internet users remain silent. The capital, Bamako, is still affected by serious power cuts as the fuel required for power stations runs out. Under these circumstances, the priority is not sending messages, but finding information about the new leaders of the north.
The website of the Tuareg run National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, known as the MNLA, has been offline for a week. (Note: As of 10/04/2012 the site is once more accessible). Nevertheless the movement continues to post videos on its youtube account, Azawad17janv2012 [fr]. The MNLA chose to make its declaration of independence on French TV channel France 24. The declaration shocked Malians who spread anger and mocking remarks on the internet, like the following on Twitter:
“@Skante2: Propagande du MNLA, les médias devraient alors inviter tous les séparatistes du monde sur leur plateau. On verra l'embouteillage.”
But what stole the show were images from the Islamist movement Ansar Dine which has taken the city of Timbuktu. The images taken by AFP-Télé have so far reached 7,200 views and have been widely discussed in the streets of Bamako. [fr]
While chaos reigns over the situation in North Mali, some people have nevertheless managed to find a way to profit from it, as shown by this tweet from user @flagsonline:
@flagsonline Discounted Azawad Flag, less 20%, voucher code: az125115 Buy now! #azawad #flag #vexillology