‘Igu sawir “gone too far”? Social media and state reconstruction in Somalia’

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Abstract

If social media is affecting the ways in which ‘strong’ states communicate with citizens, what are the implications of such popular connectivity for states at the other end of the institutional capacity spectrum? This chapter explores this question in relation to Somalia and an internationally-backed Federal Government that continues to struggle to exert its authority beyond the capital city of Mogadishu. Although some commentators point to tangible recent reconstructions of state institutions, the Federal Government lacks empirical sovereignty over the country, and is engaged in an ongoing conflict against a resilient militant Islamist state-project and insurgency (Al Shabaab). This chapter analyses the ways in which nascent state authorities have communicated with citizens through increasingly ubiquitous social media platforms. I examine particular state communication trends, as well as controversies and critiques related to these approaches expressed in Somali popular culture and through social media itself. I argue that the social media environment can be engaged with by state actors to harness popular optimism around state reconstruction, and by citizens to challenge external portrayals of developments in Somalia. However, the characteristics of this discursive space (combined with prior prolonged conditions of statelessness) facilitate the challenging of state legitimacy, and, at times, can undermine the communicative coherence of re-emerging structures of governance.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSocial Media and Politics in Africa: Democracy, Censorship and Security
EditorsThomas Molony, Maggie Dwyer
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherZed Books Ltd
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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