Yaounde (National Times)-For three weeks now, Cameroon’s President, Paul Biya has not been seen on twitter with messages of “peace” and “national unity.”
The last message the President tweeted on such a topic was on the eve of National Day celebrations. On May 19th he encouraged Cameroonians to be united, show patriotism to fatherland and uphold respect for one another.
“Let us derive, from our diversity what will mutually enrich and unite us more…Patriotism, respect of authority, attachment to justice and hard work are values you must preserve,” Paul Biya said.
Since then none of such messages have featured on the twitter handle of the 86 year old President. He has now concentrated on posting messages of goodwill to other Presidents and Heads of states and whenever he receives similar messages he uploads them. Also, Paul Biya has been posting messages of recent appointments and official texts and decrees he signed.
However, he has not been frequenting the social media as was the past especially in the months of April and May were his social media accounts were updated daily with messages of “peace” and “national unity.” Rather than a favourable outcome, these messages received a backlash with many criticizing the octogenarian for what they called “preaching virtues and practicing vices” especially as the President is accused in some quarters as not considering a peaceful settlement of the war in Anglophone Cameroon even though he is preaching “peace and unity.”
Moreover, the messages were being posted while militants of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement (CRM) party and other opposition party members, journalists were being arrested arbitrarily and thrown into jails.
Given his age, many also argued that the President is certainly not the one behind the computers typing the messages as some of them were ad variance with the realities on the ground especially in the war in Anglophone Cameroon.
Paul Biya joined tweeter in 2011 but has never been present like in the months of April and May 2019. Sometimes the President would go for days without a tweet. For example between April 11 and 15, he was silent but as from April 22, the President went on the offensive with regular messages bothering on “peace” and “unity.”
In the first of such messages posted on April 11, he said; “We have only one Fatherland, it is our duty to defend it and lead it; all of us together, on the paths of greatness and prosperity for everybody.” However Paul Biya did not become a “Tweetologist” overnight but pushed by the signs of the time.
It was a novelty for Cameroonians to see their President tweeting like Donald Trump whom politicians have described as the “Tweeting President.” Because of Biya’s huge appetite for tweeter, one local newspaper described him as “Le Tweetologue,” meaning “The Tweetologist.”
However, Biya’s outing was precipitated by certain unusual circumstances especially diplomatically. In the month of April the African Union (AU) which had maintained a suspicious silence in relation to the war in Cameroon and the arrests of opposition figures including Maurice Kamto suddenly break its silence and condemned the use of what it called “excessive force by law enforcement officers” on peaceful CRM supporters including Kamto himself.
The AU statement was followed by a report of the African Centre for Democracy which argued that the Biya regime is using intimidating, repressive tone against the AU for its critical remarks about the socio-political climate in Cameroon.
Moreover, on April 10th, international rights group, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published one of its most damaging reports on Cameroon with detailed facts about military brutality on civilian population including attacks in Meluf village in the North West were over 70 homes were touched and many civilians killed. HRW also stated that government forces have attacked hospitals as well as health workers killing many and wounding others.
Then in an interview on April 13, just after the fall of Sudanese Leader, Omer al-Bashir, US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Tibor Nagy insinuated the possibility of Biya being the next in line to leave power.
Just as the diplomatic mutations were growing, the Liberian born Nobel Peace Laureate, Leymah Gbowee was also visiting Cameroon to mount pressure on the government to seek a nonviolent solution to its challenges.
On April 24th, Britain also came out of its silence and sent its Ambassador, Rowan James Laxton to the Unity Palace. Laxton told Paul Biya that since the government of Cameroon is unable to solve the conflict in Anglophone Cameroon, Britain is willing to help.
However, the toughest of such diplomatic outings came from the EU parliament in March which addressed three things; condemned Minister Jean de Dieu Momo’s hate speech against the Bamileke and anti-Semitism remarks against the Jews, condemned the detention of Kamto and others as well as urged the Biya regime to show good faith in the Anglophone war by calling for dialogue without preconditions.
After a month of effective social media crusading, Biya is viewed by observers as having realized that even though the social media is the main dynamo in the Anglophone war as well as the post-electoral conflict in Cameroon, the solution cannot, however come through the social media except direct talks with those who matter.