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From The Economist print edition

Mobile phones are changing politics faster than academics can follow

UNTIL recently, killers in Burundi found it easy to cover their traces; they just tossed the bodies into a river where crocodiles would eat them up. But in August residents of Muyinga province acted fast when they saw fresh corpses drifting downstream; they used their mobile phones to contact NGOs, who in turn tipped off the United Nations, whose soldiers got to the scene fast enough to recover some forensic evidence.

The use of mobiles as a tool of ?empowerment?, even in the poorest and worst-governed parts of the world, is not always so grisly. The cruder kinds of electoral fraud, relying on poor communications between the capital and the boondocks, are now much harder. Even with minimal resources, monitors can count the voters and conduct exit polls?and then phone their findings to a radio station before the authorities stuff the ballot boxes. Such methods have helped make elections a bit cleaner in places like Ghana and Kenya. Meanwhile, in Europe’s darkest corner, Belarus, text messages call youngsters to surreal acts of resistance, such as (to take a recent example) gathering to eat ice cream.