Ethnic Attacks: “How individuals use social media to drive the ideology of divide between North Westerners and South Westerners as well as Anglophones and Francophones in the context of the Anglophone crisis.”
By Maikem Emmanuela Manzie
Merriam Webster defines social media as forms of communication, such as websites for social networking and microblogging. Users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages and other content such as videos.
Wikipedia.org defines the Anglophone crisis as the conflict in the southern Cameroons region of Cameron, part of the long-standing Anglophone problem
Cameroon is divided into English and French cultures with over 200
languages. The English regions make up 20% of the country while Francophones make up 80%. As far back as Cameroon has existed, identity attacks have been rampant in the country with names carved out to identify a particular group of persons. With the over four years of armed conflict in the two Speaking Anglophone Regions, following claims of oppression from the francophone government identity attacks have multiplied with a push from social media. In the core of the fight of secession by the Separatist Movement from Cameroon to create the self-proclaimed Ambazonia, identity attacks have been made not only on Francophones by separatist fighters as well on North Westerners by South Westerners and vice versa.
The North West and South West divide amplified by the Anglophone crisis dates back to former West Cameroon days. Northwesterners travelled to the coast to work in the Cameroon Development cooperation, CDC, PAMOL and other estates in the South West Region. At the rebirth of multiparty politics in 1990, “kam no go” was born. Politicians and some administrative authorities used the term to describe Northwesterners who had settled in the south-west region. It was also an alarm bell ringing on the number of Northwesterners resident in the south-west. The name “come no go” made rounds on public debates as well as the media. At the wake of the Anglophone crisis in 2016, politicians of the south-west gathered in a meeting in Buea to dissociate themselves from the grievances raised by the striking Anglophone teachers and lawyers. The elite class claimed that the grievances were north-west oriented. This saw the form whyation of several WhatsApp groups to distance the south-west from the Anglophone struggle. Individuals used their Facebook pages against the North West region, calling them graffi- a man from Cameroon’s grass field. Some North Westerners accepted the name and posted “proudly graffi“on their social media handles and WhatsApp status . North westerners who also wanted to hurt South Westerners’ ego claimed that North-westerners practically developed the South-West Region.
As the armed conflict intensified in 2018, some separatist leaders and activists used social media to ask Ambazonia fighters to drive Francophones out of the English regions. This sparked broad debates on various social media platforms. The recent incident was of Moja Moja, a military officer and chief, who threatened North Westerners’ lives in the South West Region. http://https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=3458605007585859&id=652585094854545
Following calls by Chris Anu for Francophones to leave “Ambazonia”, Njume Franklin posted a video September 14 2020, of separatist fighters in Bamenda, killing a man after accusing him of being a spy from Yaoundé. Njume Franklin used it to attack North Westerners on Facebook calling them “graffi” and “cam no go”. http://https://www.facebook.com/frankline.njume.3/videos/958502971026508/
On June 13 2019, a volunteer of Hope for Vulnerable and Orphans based in Bamenda was killed following online ethnic attacks. The NGO indicated that separatist fighters killed the volunteer on their Facebook page because she is from Yaoundé. http://https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=2328758000672885&id=1552307104984649
On the timeline of Tobinyuy Wirngo, he noted in a lengthy post consisting of seven points to pass across the differences between the two regions. He notes that in the separatist terminology, the words, Northern and Southern zones is a clear indication that Sawa and graffi are different. These only drives hate between the two regions.http://https://m.facebook.com/groups/254801815402037/permalink/694133964802151/
On September 2020, Kamwa Wambo raised a debate if a Bamenda woman can accept him as a husband knowing he is a francophone. Some women stated they couldn’t because Francophones are responsible for the ongoing conflict in the NW/SW regions in the comment sector.http://https://m.facebook.com/groups/bnbamenda/permalink/1029145607511883/
In a release on Facebook from Chief Moja Moja, he promised to deal with any Northwesterner living in his village. Video footages emerged days after with him public beating a Northwesterner. This sparked wide criticism on social media with Cameroonians calling on the government to end this threat. http://https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=3372266019553092&id=652585094854545
Ekuka Gilbert Mosongo in a Facebook post on November 24, 2020, posted “Killing of teachers in the SW is very rare. Since it’s their work to kill teachers (their brothers) in Bamenda, they sent their NW terrorist to kill our students in Kumba. Any SW man still supporting Amba terrorism is a shamelessly very stupid dull fool”. He goes ahead to state points on his timeline which further drives the divide “No SW fighter in NW”, 95% of amba terrorist in the SW are from the NW”. According to him, Ambazonia is only owned by NW. http://https://m.facebook.com/groups/367913397058581/permalink/1037656080084306/
The conflict in the two English Speaking Regions has taken a different twist as Anglophones today do not look at the implementation of the legitimate worries raised by the professional groups but at a supposed divide. Lives of North Westerners in the south-west are not safe, same as Francophones in the North West region, as some persons have come under attack.
The North West, South West divide is gaining roots gradually with the propagation of hate languages online and offline. However, many Anglophones have kicked against identity attacks on Francophones in the two regions. To effectively resolve the Anglophone problem, the government must engage on how to resolve this supposed divide for the sake of national unity.
Graffi: Term used to describe someone from the grass field of Cameroon
Cam no go: term used to stigmatize North Westerners who have settled in the SWR
Ambazonia: Self-proclaimed country by the separatist Movement in Cameroon.