After having been covered by international media such as Jeune Afrique, Libération and Le Monde Afrique, the community of Burundian bloggers of Yaga has now caught the attention of El País.
Under the headline “Burundian Bloggers anti-silence and pro-democracy”, the influential Spanish newspaper highlights the political impact of this new group of young bloggers in central Africa.
It also mentions “the support of RNW Media (Radio Netherlands Worldwide) and its web portal for Africa, WazaOnline”, which “has contributed to the training of these young citizen journalists”.
"Offering young voters in Burundi an opportunity to actively join the political debate."
The power of stories
The Yaga group of bloggers – ‘yaga’ means telling stories in Kirundi – was formed earlier this year as part of a special RNW Media project ahead of key elections looming in Burundi in May and June. Its key aim was to offer young voters an opportunity to actively join the political debate, with local bloggers forming the backbone of the project.
It didn’t take long for Armel-Gilbert Bukeyeneza, a former RNW correspondent and a sharp observer of developments in his country, to expand the Yaga group, first to 17 and ultimately to 40 bloggers. With their calls for more democracy, education and respect for basic rights, the Yaga stories struck a chord and WazaVote Burundi quickly succeeded in engaging many young voters.
In short, Yaga became a force to be reckoned with. This spelled danger in a politically volatile country like Burundi, where elections are synonymous with violence.
Following the abortive coup of 13 May, the authorities immediately cracked down on dissenting voices. Several journalists were arrested. Amid the turmoil, the Yaga bloggers were forced to keep a low profile. With the help of RNW Media, some of them fled to neighbouring Uganda, where they set up a “Kampala office of Yaguistes” and resumed their blogging activities.
The Yaga blog posts continued to attract more and more attention, both at home and abroad. They group’s stature has grown accordingly. The young bloggers have not only established themselves as important Burundian stakeholders for the press, but also for the Burundian political world.
Last week, presidential candidate Audifax Ndabitoreye visited RNW Media’s head office in Hilversum and had a discussion with Yaga bloggers through Skype for more than an hour. This week, it was the turn of Pancrace Cimpaye, spokesman of one of the country’s largest opposition parties.
“We look forward to repeating these experiences with other major figures within Burundian civil society,” says Delphine Wilputte, one of the editors of WazaOnline.
She adds that “recently, Waza Afrique launched its first survey on the elections in Burundi, in partnership with Iwacu press agency. 481 respondents filled in the questionnaire through our website, our social media and the website of our partner. Given the poor internet connectivity in Burundi and the fear of potential consequences among Burundians for answering such a questionnaire, we are proud of the results.”
“The answers give us interesting information about political trends in Burundi. We will use the results to ignite discussion amongst Waza Afrique users. As a follow-up, a new survey about the security situation in Burundi is about to be launched.