By Tata Mbunwe
Advocacy group, the
International Crisis Group has urged the Cameroon government to make ethnic discrimination illegal and partner with online media to fight hate speech and ethnic bias in the country.
In a report published Thursday, December 3, the organisation suggested ways towards easing ethno-political tensions which it says may likely plunge the country into further conflict if not tackled fast.
“The government should undertake electoral reforms, bar discrimination and work with social media platforms to curtail hate speech,” ICG said, adding that political rivalry between President Biya and MRC’s Maurice Kamto is taking a “worrying direction” sice the 2018 Presidential Elections.
“Cameroon’s opposition leader Maurice Kamto continues to dispute the 2018 presidential election results, while his supporters and President Paul Biya’s exchange invective that often descends into ethnic slurs. Fuelled by online trolling, such hate speech is leading to violence” said the group.
“Facebook, the country’s most used social media platform, should work with the government, opposition and civil society to limit inflammatory content or misinformation lest intercommunal relations break down further” it added.
The organisation has warned against the politicisation of ethnicity, captioning against the rising tension between the Beti and Bulu thnic groups perceived where many of the Country’s Ministers, and President Biya come from, and the Bamelike ethnic group of opposition leader Maurice Kamto.
According to ICG, “the COVID-19 pandemic and regional elections that the government has called for in December have only exacerbated tensions”
Maurice Kamto had announced in August that his party, Cameroon Renaissance Movement, the largest opposition party, was boycotting the elections, with a proceeding announcement where he called for a nation-wide protest to oust President Biya from his 38-year-rule.
Managing the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this year also sparked conflict between the MRC leader and the CPDM Government after Kamto launched a Coronavirus survival initiative to help COVID-19 victims.
Government banned the initiative afterwards and had it’s advocates arrested over claims that the MRC leader did not use the right channels to acquire the funds.
“Both government and opposition politicians are likely to look to their ethnic bases when mobilising support for succession bids” said the group.
The International Crisis Group said both opposition and ruling party militants are liable to speak out hate speech and exercise tribal discrimination.
The organisation has said political leaders of both sects should make it a responsibility to restrict their members from hate speech.
“Political actors in Cameroon are driving up ethnic tension at a time of national crisis marked by the conflict in the Anglophone regions, deteriorating security elsewhere and a COVID-19 crisis that is throwing ever more of the country’s youth out of work.
“Intercommunal frictions are not a new phenomenon, but many citizens worry that the current wave has lasted over two years and that the animosity between Kamto and Biya will continue to poison ethnic relations across the country to an unprecedented degree.
“The government can avoid a slide in Cameroon’s fortunes and rising instability by reforming its electoral system as a matter of priority and by strengthening institutional bodies and laws to combat ethnic discrimination.
“Social media companies, notably Facebook, have a major role to play in tamping down tensions, by increasing their own capacity to filter out toxic content and ensuring that they do not themselves become catalysts of social upheaval and bloodshed.”