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« Cameroon Bans Twitter Via SMS to Insulate Itself Against Digital Activists | Main | Twitter SMS Service Restored in Cameroon According to MTN and Twitter »

March 14, 2011

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Nii

Spot on Dibussi!

Gan Charles

You cannot organize the kind of turnout as seen in Tunisia through Social Media in Cameroon. For starters, despite the prevalence of cell phones, many people with cell phones cannot read SMSs. Access to computers are limited to mainly University students and graduates who frequent cyber cafes. Most other visit just to retrieve emails from loved ones or check 419 progress. In short the size of the population that such digital disposition will reach is very small as would be required to mount a meaningful protest.
Forgetting digital methods, Cameroonians have other well traditional means of disseminating information - village town crier, churches, meeting groups etc.
The problem with protest not picking up is not a question of communication channels but of complacency. Many groups in Cameroon do not believe there is anything to fight for. Granted, the economy is bad and people are hurting but they can still eat and drink. They still do not believe that they hurt enough to put their lives on the line. Until the majority of groups internalize the cruel disenfranchisement, nothing will happen in the like of mass protest and nothing will be done about it.
Diaspora may think that they are doing those back home by protesting and sending a message to the international community. In Cameroon most of those protests have no credibility. There is no effective co-ordination between the protest abroad and the movement at home. Nothing on ground to gauge , mange and promote activities.
You find all these organizations abroad claiming to be fighting for and representing change in Cameroon but they have no community involvement in the country. They community views them with suspicion because they have no programs in place to educate the community as to the agenda and provide services that are better than what the government is providing. You need to gain the hearts and minds of the people. In so doing you gain their trust and just maybe you begin to understand why all the movement for change has been a failure so far. It takes time. I bet that if all the groups seeking change had spent the past 28 years establishing community outreach programs they would have seen more success in rallying people to their cause. You can't just come in as a "stranger" expect your ideas to be embraced and expect people to die for it - even if everyone agrees that change makes sense.

cadmun

Well said Charles.
Let us wait for part II of the report to see how the reporter solves the puzzle. Enough of this lecture on Egypt and Tunisia, please propose practical solutions that reflect the aspirations of the Cameroonian people.
What are their grievances?

Bwana

Birmingham

Louis  Egbe Mbua

Nope Gan. Your analysis is inaccurate. This is just an excuse! The Egyptians and Tunisians have food to eat! To believe that a protest must follow food is mistaken in the modern world. I live in England and they protest every day. Are the English starving? And for your information, the British drink more than Cameroonians. This false concept about Cameroonians eating and drinking is to underestimate a people; and at worse an insult. I was in Cameroon twice two years ago and never saw the alcoholism you are trying to paint. People were merely going about their business. To believe that the Diaspora is not in touch with Cameroon is naive. Without the Diaspora, the Cameroon economy might as well collapse. So, please, this bad-mouthing of Cameroonians in the Diaspora is a government ploy to divide the Cameroon people.

The Revolution of PAUL BIYA MUST GO has just started. The 23rd Feb demonstration has left a deep and fatal scar on the totalitarian regime; and has entered the psyche of Cameroonians. You may not require an entire nation to change or alter the cause of History.

Paul Biya must go even if it takes but 500 people to-do the job.

Cameroonians know their relatives abroad. Do not be fooled by the Tchimora lies. It is like saying living abroad means one must not be in touch with friends, relatives etc. This is inaccurate as the Diaspora continues to pay hospital bills in a system with no health care, send money for tuition fees and liaise with human rights and pressure groups.

Mbua

Paul Murphy

Superb article. Thanks for your insightful views on the matter. It's enlightened me much about the protest movement in Africa.

Kwame CheFanon

Good initial analysis. The question is what next? How were the ghost towns organized and held up, years before there was any such thing as social media. Back then conference calls and fax machines were the best we could do in terms of technology.

It is offensive to think that Cameroonians are incapable of revolution. The SDF led ghost towns disprove that. The UPC revolt of the 50s-60s disprove that. The events of 2008 disprove that. The people have taken severe body blows from one of the most repressive police states in Africa and survived. They will rise again with the right plan

Cameroonians are every bit as capable as the Egyptians, but the organizers need to go back to the basics. One book that comes up frequently in the Egyptian revolutionary circles is the Two volume "Politics of Non-violent Action" by Gene Sharp. The importance of books such as this is that they help people not to reinvent the wheel and to innovate where innovation is needed. The 1973 book is a leapfrogging device.

Elung

Hi Kwame,

Without reading the second part of this article, I think the answer to your "what next" is already in this text along with your querry about the success of the ghost town without social media. - Social media - just like the fax machines that allowed opposition forces to be in constant touch or allow Fru Ndi to keep the world abreast while under house arrest were seen simply as tools, quite different from the overall strategy or goals. Today, those not familiar with online activism easily confuse the tool with the strategy and believe the tool is a strategy in itself. Wrong! So "going back to basics" simply means doing what was done back in the 50s and 60s and in the 1990s - i.e., connecting with the grassroots with social media simply serving as a echo chamber, a means to optimize and mobilize and connecting activists within and outside cameroon in a way that was never possible in the 1990s, and in the process bypass state censorship in a manner too that was not also possible before.

m.tennu

Interesting stats that I just stumbled on that make the case for Dibussi's argument that revolutions don't happen overnight:

"between April 2009 and May 2010, there were 169 sit-ins, 112 strikes, 87 demonstrations, and 63 protest marches in Egypt."
http://jilliancyork.com/2011/04/14/republica-11-noha-atef-on-egyptian-social-media-stories/

Cameroonians, on the other hand, gave up the anti-Biya protest campaigns after just 1 failed rally...:-):-)

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