Social Networks at the Heart of Presidential Election 2018

Videos of abuses committed on Cameroon soil published on Facebook, strong political presence on Twitter: for the first time in Cameroon, social networks are at the heart of the presidential election, scheduled for October 7.

Emmanuel NGOTA

In 2011, date of the last presidential election, only a few candidates had used social networks. Today, almost all have a dedicated team. There is a much greater potential for dissemination (for candidates on the Internet) than when their communication passes in the print or radio. This increased presence in 2018 on the Internet can be explained by a connectivity rate that has increased significantly in Cameroon: from 0.24% in 2011 to 35% in 2017, according to the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications cited by the media

That notwithstanding, as the presidential campaigns officially kick start on Saturday, September 22, 2018 it will be largely be dominated by security challenges experienced over time following crisis in the predominantly English speaking regions of Cameroon. These two regions are not very accessible to the media and NGOs, but conflict stakeholders use social networks to denounce alleged human rights violations allegedly committed on the field.

Since the beginning of the conflict at the end of 2017, videos of abuses, of English-speaking separatists as well as of Cameroonian soldiers, circulate so almost daily on social networks.
A gendarme beheaded by separatists, arson of state buildings by separatists, kidnappings or scenes of torture: all excesses filmed are good for both sides to try to discredit the opponent.
Faced with this resurgence of the horror filmed and broadcast, the government denounced early September the “inappropriate use of the Internet.” This increase in hate speech and the spread of “fake news” are “a threat to our right to good information, especially during the election period,” said Issa Tchiroma Bakary, Minister of Communication.

In less than three weeks before the presidential election, supporters of President Paul Biya who believe it best to respond to the crises created by the English-speaking separatists and Boko Haram, testifies that these videos of abuses by the army were published in design to undermine the image of Paul Biya, as confirmed by sources of the Cameroon defence forces. In fact, a war of images has taken place on the Internet around the report of the Head of State when his critics post pictures of roads in poor condition, his supporters respond with photos of major projects in progress, as the highway between Yaounde and Douala. In early September, an umpteenth rumour circulated on social networks about internet cut during the election.”Fake news,” replied the minister of post and telecommunication.

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