Opinion makers

Over the past decade, social networks have been an important, if not indispensable, tool for freedom of expression and communication. However, as they are not fully accessible in the interior of the country, they do not reach the vast majority of the population. Despite the limited influence in the provinces, they remain closely observed by the country’s authorities due to their ability to create influent public debates on government policy, domestic politics, cultural activities and sports.

People such as Christian Aimé Dota alias Cris Can (former journalist), Henri Grothe (teacher), Fidèle Gouandjika (political advisor to the Head of State Faustin-Archange Touadéra since 2016) and Axime Césaire Oronondji, alias ACO (former rapper), are trying in their own way to influence the public or cultural opinion of their Facebook followers. On Twitter, Douaclé Ketté Orphé (teacher), who is very active, tries to draw the public’s attention to his activities.

In addition to the above-mentioned persons, the current spokesperson of the Groupe de Travail de la Société Civile (Civil Society Working Group - GTSC) Crescent Beninga and his predecessor Gervais Lakosso are considered as true opinion leaders in the country, as they are able to mobilise people in mass both on social networks and on the field. Upon instruction of the Attorney-General of the Court of Appeal, they were arrested on 18 April, 2019 for asking the citizens of Bangui to take the streets of the capital to protest against the shortage of water and the appointments of rebel leaders to posts of responsibility within the national army.

For many Central African Internet users, social networks are like a public space where it is possible to denounce the abuses of the authorities. But this cannot be done without consequences if one is identified as whistleblower. Others, already threatened on Facebook, are forced to hide behind anonymous avatars. This can lead to sharing messages of hatred or fake news in popular public discussion groups such as the "Coalition for the Re-foundation of the Central African Republic" on Facebook.