By Amboh Vennessa Nche
The English speaking regions of Cameroon have experienced various ordeals since October 2016, when protests and strikes related to sectorial demands escalated into a crisis over the economic and political marginalization of the Cameroon Anglophone minority who mostly reside in the North West and South West Regions. Since the start of the crisis, a lot of young people from the crisis hit regions have used the media, both positively and negatively. While others immediately took to their social media platforms to spread fake news, others started building up professional careers which has made them successful.
A group of young people from the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon took it upon themselves to rise from grass to grace via the use of the social media, especially during this crisis period. While others took it upon themselves to rise through positive means, it is worth noting that other youth from these crises hit regions used social media to propagate hate speech, misinformation and disinformation.
By using their handles properly, these youth have preached peace, shunned hate speech and impacted their community positively in one way or the other. This report seeks to explain how social media use has fostered opportunities for some of these young people during this crisis
Since the introduction of the internet and subsequent use of social media in Cameroon in early 2000, there has been a steady increase in the number of users per year. By December 2000, Cameroon had 20,000 internet users and by June 2019, internet users in Cameroon had drastically increased to 6,128,422 users.
According to statistics obtained from Digital 2022: Cameroon, there were 10.05 million internet users in Cameroon as at January 2022 and the internet penetration rate stood at 36.5% of the total population. Zooming into the various Social Media platforms statistics;
- Facebook Users – 4.10 million
- Instagram Users – 613,6 00
- LinkedIn Users – 820,000
- Twitter – 145,300
According to GlobalStats, between November 2018 and November 2019, Facebook is the most used social media platform in Cameroon with 86.76% subscription, while Pinterest: (7.55%), Instagram (2.17%) Twitter (2.13%). YouTube at 1.33% and LinkedIn at 0.01% have slower expansion rates.
With these numbers and level of engagements, many youth from the North West and South West Regions of the country have seized the opportunity to use their social media platforms to stand out professionally on social media despite the Anglophone crisis. Taleabong B Alemnge aka Pen Boy, a 21 year old poet who hails from the South West Region of Cameroon quips:
“Being an artist, social media has been one of the easiest medium to pitch and sell my arts thus helping me in mobilizing resources for myself and my organization. Social media has helped revamp my creativity. Being in a crisis affected zone, I have had the task to come with more ideas that will engage people. Social media has therefore facilitated that task. Through social media, I have hosted digital fellowship events. Social media, apart from being just a place for fun, has become a weapon for advocacy. It has helped me express things, desires and wishes I normally wouldn’t express because of fear”
Pen boy has positively made use of the social media with his works of art to raise awareness on various societal ills. It is worth noting that the current Anglophone crisis made him popular due to his advocacy. https://www.facebook.com/100016200914518/posts/pfbid0d7ggZB19JYmuJ3PpUBgzi3cje9fdvvLueWGTgZgYUfmbRuwfq8NSG7JxExcHpeStl/?app=fbl
Talking about countering hate speech online Pen boy has equally added his voice too via this piece of art; https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=NBYmrPv5Chk&feature=youtu.be
Also in the heat of the Anglophone crisis, as we talk and preach peace, one peace advocate Njoke Raisa, from the South West Region of Cameroon has embarked on running a peace academy which trains and equips other youth from across the Cameroon on peace resolution. (https://www.facebook.com/YAPCECPeaceAcademy)
It is worth noting that people from across Africa have enrolled in this Academy
Between 2016 and now, Njoke Raisa has been able to engage her peers into various environmental sensitization activities and peace building initiatives. https://www.facebook.com/347303955420690/posts/pfbid02s3BcyiFg5Ga8x5fpBfAK8MksBT8gTS72wLYTpvjdHEPZJYJb1FGDQukqrXtxhWqpl/?app=fbl.
She has also been able to stand out amongst other Africans to talk about climate change matters. https://www.facebook.com/347303955420690/posts/pfbid0ht6WS8Ej1JmdTo6xBgodM3s7byuiVjqnz6m6XDzc3CHZ1F62X8s9SA41utR4TxDPl/?app=fbl
Tibi Chelsea is one of those Cameroonian youth who have made proper use of their passion by constantly uploading positive and uplifting content on her social media pages.
As it stands she runs Tibi Motivates, a site which focuses on delivering creative artistic content via quotes, poems, short stories and videos. This site was created on June 21st 2019, at the heart of the crisis.
Tibi’s art work has told several stories about the crisis as highlighted below;
Tibi Chelsea has on many occasions spread her message of hope, peace and reconciliation to her community via various training sessions she has participated in. https://www.facebook.com/100013903305321/posts/pfbid0yYBTwByZ7j8jyKagLb1xW88P6sW1uL1FWURLjVXYgCs1kofZBHvcvvhkx7L8NMNGl/?app=fbl
Being amongst one of the Cameroonian youths from the crisis region that is positively standing out professionally on social media, she has been the recipient of many awards;
The above mentioned youth amongst many others have in one way or the other used social media between 2016 -2022 to impact, advocate and make a living thus standing out professionally as role models and champions for peace and cohesion.
With the growing membership of Facebook and WhatsApp in Cameroon, Social Media in Cameroon is increasingly being used for various reasons including work, entertainment, communication, business, education etc.
Although the Anglophone crisis has derailed a lot of young people due to instability, a few Cameroonian youth have stood on professionally via the apt usage of the social media to preach peace and cohesion as well as carving out careers from their advocacy. These peace advocates have stood as a buffer to hate speech and fake news that preach disunity while spreading misinformation and dis-information.
Although there are some limitations and much work still remains to be done, there is still much hope. In fact the future of Cameroon is secured in their hands with their advocating for unity and being positive influence not just for Cameroon but for Africa at large.
As the crisis lengthens, the future of some youths in English speaking regions of Cameroon is uncertain. The following can be done to secure their future and engage them positively.
- 1. The Government
- Government should work hand in gloves with civil society organizations to ensure that the youths who have dropped out of school as a result of the crisis resume their education or get economic empowerment to self-support.
- As it is often said ‘an idle mind is the devil’s workshop”. The government should organize events for the youth to channel their energy such as sports, competitions and youth retreats. When these youth are busy and engaged positively, their mindsets will change and they may be empowered to #Thinkb4clicking, #stopbadmop, and #stophatespeech both online and offline.
- The government should equally support the ideologies of these young people and listen to their needs and wants and engage them at the grassroots level, by including them in nation building by offering training, giving grants and employment opportunities.
2. The Civil Society Organizations, Associations
Civil Societies should actively engage the youth in peace building and other positive programmes. One such organization, Defyhate Now trains journalists on countering hate speech, fake news, misinformation and disinformation, but it shouldn’t be limited only to journalists but target a broader group of societal influencers.
This heightened level of engagement will spread the message of peace and cohesion even further given that sections of the population mistrust traditional media and see them as biased.
3. The Youth
- The Youth should be held accountable for their Social Media posts and one way to counter this is to have people register under their names and not pseudonyms which grant anonymity and therefore they feel they can post the speech with no repercussions.
- They should be sensitized on the effects of hate speech, disinformation, misinformation and mal-information. This can be done by engaging them via workshops and trainings or entertainment events where positive role models can engage and sensitize them.
- Above all use of Social Media judiciously should be encouraged. They can be trained on how to make a living online or through digital economy to keep them busy as well as enable them to make a stable living.