On Sunday large protests broke out across Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi, in opposition to President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term. At least six people have been killed in clashes with the police, reports to the Burundi Red Cross, and on Tuesday the authorities began blocking social media platforms.
The opposition, made up largely of university students, claims a third term is prohibited in the constitution. Mr. Nkurunziza and his supporters say the constitution only prevents two popular elections to the presidency. His first term was part of the Arusha Peace Agreement and therefore exempt, he says.
I was in Burundi in December last year, running a Training of Trainers for StoryMaker and creating a series of multimedia curriculum content for a new lesson pack in StoryMaker. Though it was only three weeks I got to see a bit of the country and several of the participants left a strong impression on me.
Two of my trainees have been reporting and tweeting the events in Bujumbura. One, a blogger, seems primarily to be reporting from her home and retweeting and passing on information from friends and neighbors. The other, a young media professor, has been on the streets, taking video, photo, and audio reports of events, using the StoryMaker application.
To get around the the social media blocks my friend, and others, began quickly sharing information about VPNs and other methods to circumvent the blocked communications. They first moved to Twitter and Facebook when WhatsApp was blocked. Now it seems a VPN is a necessity for communicating over the mobile network, and there are rumors that communications will be cut entirely.
It’s anyone’s guess what the weekend will bring, but keep an eye on @JahsonNduwimana and @MDacia as well as the #Burundi and #Burundi2015 hashtags. We’ll update you as well if we hear news from our colleagues.