A bill has been ranked before Cameroon’s Parliament in the ongoing November session that is set to tackle hate speech. Much like a similar bill recently passed by the Nigerian Parliament, the bill seeks to prosecute and punish perpetrators of hate speech and tribalism. It seeks to modify law No. 2016/007 of July 12, 2016 of the Cameroon penal code.
Unlike that of Nigeria that sets the death penalty however, the Cameroon bill is not as hard. Article 241 (1) which deals with the punishment of promoters of hate speech and contempt of tribe gives a sentence ranging from 6 days to 6 months in prison or a fine amounting to 500.000FCFA.
While many agree that it comes at a time when Cameron has to do more to consolidate its national unity, others believe it is hypocritical, regarding utterances made by state officials in recent months, especially within the period of the Anglophone Crisis and the 2018 presidential elections.
While South West Governor Bernard Okalia Bilai is well known for referring to his subjects as ‘dogs’, the President of the Bilingualism and Multiculturalism Commission, former PM Mafany Musonge, Minister Nalova Lyonga, University of Buea Registrar Ernest Molua, Ewusi Kale, Kingsley Ngange, Chief Norbert Mbile of CONAC, Atem Ebako, Nfor Tabetando among several other top ranking officials have also at other times been caught in a similar net, using very uncanny words against the people of the North West Region.
When Frankline Njume openly insulted Tombel Mayor Rose Ngassa in a viral audio, he is known to have received praise from his sponsors.
Another facet of hate speech could be seen perpetrated on the MRC leader, Maurice Kamto and his supporters before, during and after the presidential elections, with some labelling them with despicable appellations.
The bill however does not leave out holders of public offices. In Article 241 (3), the bill focuses on public office holders, members of the media and political parties, NGOs and even religious institutions.
While the proposed bill sets to punish holders of public office and persons of ‘non ordinary status’, many feel they may still go unpunished, as they are seen as the custodians of the law.