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Bamako (Mali): Civic Watch Shares Attend Forum on Digital Security & Social Cohesion 

Recognised for its leading role in promoting #SafeDigitalSpaces through the #defyhatenow initiative in Cameroon, the Regional meeting aimed to share our experience with other countries.

Civic Watch is currently taking part in a two-day Forum on Digital Security and Social Cohesion in Bamako, Mali. This invitation of Meta is coming after a 3-day training that took place in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, in August 2022 with key digital actors of french speaking African states using ICT to mitigate violence and hate for peace  The training was organized by Meta and Search for Common Ground, with the aim of building digital peace in Africa. In continuation of the project, organizations met in Mali, for the Bamako Forum on Digital Security and Social Cohesion.

The Bamako Forum brought together researchers, civil society actors, policymakers, and digital and social cohesion experts, including Civic Watch, represented by Tchiengue Donald, #defyhatenow Digital Project Coordinator. The Forum aims to examine ways of amplifying the analyses and experiences of African scholars and civil society actors to support policy decision-making in the face of increased fueling of conflicts and polarization, ills that come with the misuse of social media platforms. The forum is a stitch in time as it will lead to creating a platform for exchange, dialogue, and planning to build a sustainable partnership in research and advocacy on digitalization, conflicts, and social cohesion in the Sahel area. That way, there will be a better followup by the members for the development of Africa. 

The forum is intended to be a starting point for regional initiatives to tackle online challenges to peace and social cohesion in the Sahel area. To this end, with the support of Meta, an online campaign named #TamTam2Paix will be launched in the coming days with several digital actors from Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Côte d’Ivoire, Chad and Cameroon to amplify the messages of peace and togetherness in the light of current socio-political and geopolitical stakes. 

Africa is experiencing rapid growth in internet access, which allows the population access to social media, which has become risky to its consumers due to the kind of information shared. There is a need to create awareness of the dangers surrounding the irresponsible use of these digital tools, which are often used in fueling conflicts and polarization, spreading fake news, incitement to violence, extremist exploitation of digital tools, and fueling hate speech on social media, thus affecting social cohesion and stability across the region.

It is important to note that despite these disadvantages faced, the internet has positive sides that can be explored for sustainable peace and social cohesion. Hence, the forum is for policymakers to better understand the links between digital tool access and conflicts. The Bamako Forum was established with the aim of fostering a lasting partnership between African scholars and practitioners to support National, Regional, and International policies regarding emerging digital issues. Emerging from consultations in the Sahel and West Africa involving various regional actors. The initiative encourages cross-sector collaboration between researchers, practitioners, and policymakers who will combine their efforts to ensure the mitigation of these vices that are disturbing the peace and social cohesion in the African continent. During the forum, the participants recognized the profoundly transformative power of ICT and its significant impact on lives and are therefore committed to following the principles and objectives stated in the Bamako Declaration of Digital and Social Cohesion of September 20, 2023.

As part of Civic Watch’s mandate which is to reduce conflict online and offline, it is a milestone in joining other stakeholders in Africa to make Africans aware of the instabilities brought about by the misuse of digital tools. It will be more to reiterate to social media users the need to #ThinkBUClick while browsing so as to stop fake news, hate speech and violent extremism via the use of digital tools. 

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