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.

Further Reading

Independence Day

The labor and political organizing of Somali immigrants in the US Midwest should inspire more Americans to join the broader movement for worker rights and racial equality.

The two Sudans

During the Cold War, Khartoum was very successful in frustrating international solidarity, especially by other Africans, for South Sudan’s independence struggle.