Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Cameroon Bloggers Rally Behind #StopBokoHaram Campaign

Violent militant group Boko Haram, which now occupies large swathes of Nigerian territory, has launched 114 attacks on Cameroonian soil in the past year, according to the Cameroon government. The group has killed hundreds of Cameroonian civilians, scores of soldiers, and lost over 1,000 fighters in the process.

The most deadly Boko Haram attack on Cameroonian soil occurred on February 4, 2015, in Fotokol, where it killed about 90 civilians, according to government sources (some sources put the number of dead at more than 500).

In reaction to the persistent and increasingly macabre Boko Haram attacks on Cameroon and neighboring countries, the Cameroon Bloggers Association recently launched a #StopBokoHaram campaign. According to the AfrIct blog:

The goal of the campaign is threefold: highlight the threat posed by the terrorist group in Cameroon, show support for Cameroonian troops who have so far held back the Boko Haram onslaught, and express solidarity with the people of the North region who have been hardest hit by Boko Haram.
In an interview with government-owned daily Cameroon Tribune, Florian Ngimbis, president of the bloggers association, further explained the rationale behind the campaign:

The Cameroonian blogosphere would like to become, beyond the powerful personalities within its ranks, a real hub for political consciousness, not by creating a political party but by leveraging the strength of its network for national causes. It is our modest contribution to this war, which is not just a war that concerns the northern regions of the country, but the entire country and continent in the fight against obscurantism and terrorism.
The first part of the campaign has been primarily on social media with bloggers sharing their thoughts about the war against Boko Haram and explaining why they have joined the #StopBokoHaram campaign. Blogger Ulrich Tadajeu Kenfac explains that he has joined the campaign to preach the message of peace:

I began blogging a few years ago in order to “scream and force the world to come into the world,” to use the words of Sony Labou Tansi. Given the distress that our species has brought upon its own kind, given the terror that decimates lives and terrorizes families, we might wonder, along with Hölderlin, “what need is there for poets in times of distress?” In other words, “what need is there for bloggers in times of barbarism?” We need bloggers in times of barbarism to preach a message of love, a message of fraternity and humanity. That is my message today. Let the human live, and let peace and fraternity be our values. Let Boko Haram cease to exist so that humans may live.
For blogger Pulse Lounge, the campaign is an opportunity to speak up against Boko Haram:

A friend asked me what actions I would recommend, and if I was ready to take up arms against Boko Haram. I smiled. Relevant question nonetheless. My words, my pen, and the ease with which I express my feelings, choices and ideas in my writings, are my weapons. My goal is to encourage every Cameroonian, wherever they are, to speak up and campaign for a return to peace in Northern Cameroon…
Cameroon is my homeland; welcoming and humanly. I refuse to allow its liberty and integrity besmirched by individuals driven by gratuitous hatred, and who hide their pseudo-courage behind weapons and violence against a defenseless population.
At the heart of the campaign is the bloggers’ use of Facebook and Twitter to publish updates from the war front along with patriotic messages to rally Cameroonians around the war effort:

Hundreds of Cameroonians have joined in, replacing their Facebook and Twitter profiles and cover pictures with special banners created for the campaign, and sending out thousands of tweets using the #StopBokoHaram hashtag. Many Twitter users have also expressed their support for the campaign or explained what it means to them.

User @DailyRetroCMR was fully behind the campaign:

Translated: Because today a new page of our history is being written, we wholeheartedly join @BloggersCM to say #StopBokoHaram.

And for Citizens Initiative, the campaign is a rallying point for anyone who is fighting against terrorism:

For @DarealBlueMagic, the campaign is about promoting those values that Cameroonians cherish and which are enshrined in their country’s coat of arms:

Translated: Peace has no price. Cameroon: Peace-Work-Fatherland. That's what we’re all about. #StopBokoHaram #Team237

User @Camerlive seized this opportunity to reiterate Edward Burke’s warning about the pitfalls of inaction in the face of evil:

Translated: #StopBokoHaram. All it takes for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing. Let’s do something!

Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden” in Hausa. Blogger Fadimatou Bello issues an unequivocal rebuttal to that backward message: 

Translation: Boko Harmaye Ha Kamaru, Lesdi am (Western education is not a sin in my country, Cameroon).

A number of Cameroonian musicians have also joined the campaign, the most notable being the collaborative effort by a group of urban musicians who produced a song titled Je Suis Kolofata (I am Kolofata) in honor of a town in the Far North region of Cameroon which has been repeatedly attacked by Boko Haram:

The #StopBokoHaram campaign has also garnered support outside Cameroon, for example, from the community of Togolese bloggers:

Translation:  Our total support for our @BloggersCM colleagues who have rallied to #StopBokoHaram. We're all affected. #Blog228 #Team237 #Team228

The most noteworthy foreign support has been from Guillaume Soro, former prime minister of the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire and current president of the Ivorian National Assembly:

Translation: The President of the National Assembly @SOROKGUILLAUME supports @BloggersCM. All of us together against the Boko Haram terrorist threat.

Thanks to the Cameroon bloggers’ campaign, many Cameroon have come to realize that the war against Boko Haram is not just “an affair of the North” but a war against a terrorist sect whose actions threaten Cameroon’s sovereignty and stability.

Public appreciation for the Cameroon Bloggers Association is summed up in a tweet from Georgie du Kamer:

Translated: @BloggersCM Bravo, guys! We are wholeheartedly behind you. May God protect you. Our fatherland or death, we shall prevail!
Written byDibussi Tande for Global Voices