— By Sylvie from Cameroon
Lawyers dressed in robes marched the streets of Buea, the capital of the South West region of Cameroon, demanding an end to a gradual eradication of the common-law system by the civil law, an end to French-speaking magistrates being placed to preside over cases presented by English-speaking lawyers, and an end to marginalization of the English-speaking regions in Cameroon. This was met with violence, beatings, and imprisonment of most of these lawyers.
Like a trigger, the teachers were next calling for a sit-down strike; no schools and no classes until the government put an end to French-speaking teachers being recruited in masses to teach kids who only spoke English, an end to the closing down of Anglo-Saxon education structures, and a demand for better working conditions.
As the teachers and lawyers held their ground and needed the government to meet their demands, trade unions and political parties joined in demanding for a complete shutdown of the markets, banks, offices, and a return to a two-state federation of equal status between the English-speaking part of Cameroon and the French-speaking part, as was agreed during the unification.
This led to mass protests of teachers, lawyers, trade unions, political parties, and the entire population. As a response, the government sent in its military to intimidate protesters and maintain control with whatever means possible. Spraying of itchy water cans, mass arrests, and mass shootings characterised the months that followed in Southern Cameroon.
With the YaLa project coming up, I decided to join to learn how I could help my people make their voices heard. With knowledge gained, I made a video teaching them how to use Twitter and hashtags to tell their stories. In a matter of hours, my video had above 45,000 views and the entire Southern Cameroon youth became citizen journalists. I called them twitter warriors and with pictures and hashtags, we told our stories to the world. This was eventually picked up by Aljazeera, CNN, and then BBC.
Fast forward a couple of months, the excess use of this medium led the government to shut down internet services in the entire region and we could no longer receive live streams about how the government was killing and imprisoning its own people who, after 50 years of marginalization, finally decided to demand equality in a country that they are meant to call home.
Activists were arrested, teachers were arrested, youth were arrested, and it was left to Southern Cameroonians in the diaspora to keep on pushing the Twitter warfare for their people back home who had no access to the internet.
Here we are, 10 months into the Southern Cameroon struggle, the issues are still there, pressure from international bodies led the government to restore the internet and now all young Southern Cameroonians are citizen journalists and they know how to use Twitter and hashtags and make their voices heard to bring justice and peace to their region.
Thank you, YaLa Academy; You didn’t only inspire me to make that video but you helped the millions who now know the power of Twitter for citizen journalists.