'Cameroon is Cameroon'

CORRECTED VERSION:

Cameroon’s government, jittery about the role of social media in revolutions in North Africa, last week suspended Twitter SMS on a local cellphone network. Not everyone are convinced social media will play a decisive role in any opposition movement against President Paul Biya’s 28-year regime. Instead they cite the regime’s ability to divide and buy off opposition figures, police repression, his overseas PR (see the picture above also),  and the opposition’s tendency to handicap itself, as more important factors. Observers (I asked around, read the country’s English press, and checked out Cameroon-themed blogs and news sites for the last two weeks) point to the February 23 national day of protest as a good example. Biya’s government has failed its citizens (40% of Cameroonians live on less than 1$ per day; half of the country’s people do not have access to drinking water, 50% have no access to electricity or to a flush toilet), and they may have expected thousands to turn up in major cities like Douala and Yaounde. A massive police presence and early arrests–before the protests even got under way–put paid to well laid plans. In the port city of Douala police outnumbered protesters. Police wasted no time to attack protesters. Opposition leader Kah Walla was sprayed with a water canon from an armoured vehicle.  Others got it worse. Some protesters were viciously beaten with batons and kicked around. See video footage and images taken with a cellphone camera of Cameroon’s police at work.  The protests were handicapped from the start. The national leaders of the two largest opposition parties did not endorse the protests, distrust Kah Walla (she used to the president of the strategic committee of one of these parties, the SPF, before she announced she’d run for President of Cameroon in this year’s elections; the SDP’s octogenarian leader John Fru Ndi did not like it; she’s been called a “young lady” by an opponnent (just what Biaya prefers). Regional politics also play a role: most English speakers see no part in reform politics. There is consensus that Kah Walla, who is only 46 (Fru Ndi is 70 and Biya 78) may not be as embedded as the traditional opposition; what they do agree on is her courage and defiance in the face of incredible odds.

Comments

comments

Sean Jacobs

Also goes by Hasan Wazan. Life President.

5 Comments
  1. A considerable number of incorrect facts in your story.

    The opposition groups organizing protests within the country were not expecting "thousands" of demonstrators. Each group had mobilized a few hundred people which were demobilized by early arrests and an impressive military force in the cities of Yaounde and Douala. (In Yaounde, protestors were arrested two days before the protest. In Douala they were arrested before the protests began at 8:00 a.m.).

    Demonstrations took place in Douala, not in Yaounde.

    Kah Walla was sprayed with water from a water cannon (This is substantial violence and abuse for any citizen, let alone a presidential candidate.) There is absolutely no need for exaggeration. Other protestors who are just as important were severely beaten. Kah Walla is not the person being beaten.
    in the video. All protestors received first aid treatment. While many had serious wounds, none was hospitalized.

    The largest opposition party, SDF, was one of the key organizers of the protest. Its regional president was also sprayed with a water cannon.

    Kah Walla resigned from the SDF in October 2010. At the time she was President of the Strategic Committee. She was never secretary general. At the time of her resignation she had made clear her intention to run at the party primaries as a candidate for the presidency of Cameroon. She never "challenged" Fru Ndi, who to date has not officially declared his candidacy.

    Kah Walla is 46 years old in a country where life expectancy is 48 yrs and where 50% of the population is less than 20 yrs old. Fru Ndi is 70 years old. Biya is 78.

    When going through chat groups and blogs to gather your information, please take into account that only an estimated 10% of Cameroonians living in Cameroon have access to the internet. The majority of people in chat groups and on blogs are Cameroonians in the diaspora who are also relying on second-hand information.

    Please do not hesitate to contact us for the facts and referrals to news organs on the ground concerning the February 23rd protests.

    The Kah Walla Campaign

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