August of this year shall make five years of my blogging here on Musings. It was in August of 2012 during a trip to Nigeria for Chimamanda’s Farafina workshop that a friend of a friend, Martin Takha first introduced me to the world of blogging. Helping me with everything from the Gmail account to deciding the first template I used for a couple of years. As Cameroon’s ‘blogosphere’ has become crowded with a plethora of people aspiring to be Cameroon’s Linda Ikeji, I am proud to say I’ve stayed true to myself and the purpose of this blog. A dual purpose actually; to ensure I write regularly and to create platform through which I could share my views, defend my opinions and if possible tell a side of our story which may be otherwise missed as popular mediums echo a single often incomplete story.
I have promoted blogging through my youth advocacy as a means for young people to get their voices heard. Through BetterBreed Cameroon I have preached to young people on the necessity in telling their own story, sharing their thoughts on issues they are affected by or care passionately for through Medium, LinkedIn, as Commonwealth Youth Correspondents, via World Pulse and of course through their own blogs. I suppose I should have considered the possibility of an internet ban imposed to hush us. In fact I did consider it, for about 5 mins during two different conversations. First being about six months ago when a friend told me of her experience in Ethiopia under the internet ban and then when we laughed about Turkey’s president need to abate anxiety over the attempted Coup d’état via Face-time? after recently banning social media. My friends and I discussed these incidents shook our heads, shrugged, laughed and let it go. Then it was my turn.
Today makes a week since two regions in Cameroon have been denied internet access as the government attempts to quench protests against Anglophone marginalization in these regions via brute force. The protest leaders were arrested that night and smuggled out of the regions, simultaneously internet access was shut down so as to hamper the spread of news. During the last week I’ve had lot of time to think (the absence of social media distractions will do that for you lol), and two quotes came to mind:
These two quotes spoke to me as I lamented on how the internet ban affects budding tech-entrepreneurs in Buea’s “Silicon Mountain”, how banks (which pay Cameroon’s exorbitant taxes) are closed for lack of internet access, how those who work predominantly online either for webzines, as researchers or just communicating with clients/business partners are now grounded along with scholars (like myself) who have online classes to follow and participate in. I wondered how backwards our leaders must be to punish over 4 million people in two regions because they didn’t like criticisms of them being spread via social media and couldn’t find another way to solve a problem they let grow out of proportion. But above all I thought of HOW this could be happening. It’s 2017 for God’s sake! Then the above two quotes reminded me that this happened in 2016 and I said nothing. It happened in two countries I know of (three counting Gambia during elections) and I barely tweeted my disapproval. Evil prevails because good men failed to act. A lot of people didn’t stand up in those circumstances, so it happened then, and now it is happening to me.
Yet not enough people are reacting. Within my own country, a great deal of Cameroonians in the French speaking regions are either unaware or could care less about the ban. Three days into the ban I ‘crossed the border’ into the Francophone section of the country and when I checked online only a handful of people were talking about it. Some acquaintances online even attempted to justify the government’s actions saying “social media was spurring terrorism and the government had a right to take it away”. When I told one of them he was stupid for that I was told “you shouldn’t bring in insults when we are having a peaceful debate”. How can one be peaceful when they are justifying (and therefore an accomplice in) your suppression? How?
Today I’m a bit calmer, I crossed the border this morning to find that voices- online at least- have grown against the internet ban using the hashtag #BringBackOurInternet. Yet there are not enough in my honest opinion, and there is a noticeable lack in Francophone voices. Yesterday it was Ethiopia, Turkey and Gambia, today it is my Northwest and Southwest regions, tomorrow it will likely be the whole of Cameroon as we face the 2018 elections… Please join us to speak up now. Speak now that tomorrow you still have your voice. Tweet to the Cameroonian government, our telecommunication agencies and all those you can using #BringBackOurInternet.
Remember: If you are silent, they will kill you and say you enjoyed it- Zora Neale Hurston.