The Republic of Cameroon is one of the few countries in Africa that has enjoyed relative stability for decades. It is true that many Cameroonians have never experienced a civil war or other forms of mass atrocities that have plagued neighboring countries, but it is also true that peace is not the absence of war. For decades, despite the absence of war, Cameroonians have been living in fear and repression under a 28-year-old regime.
After 28-years under the leadership of one man, Cameroonians around the world - like the brave people of Algeria, Yemen, Libya, Jordan and Bahrain - have been inspired by recent peaceful protests and demands for democracy and human rights that culminated in the ousting of longstanding dictatorial repressive regimes in Egypt and Tunisia. Many now believe they too can write their own story of liberation and freedom by organizing online. But there's a problem.
After all these years of repression, a good number are yet to break the chains of fear.
There's a general atmosphere of fear and lack of freedom to freely express opinions and organize in Cameroonian discussion platforms - even online. In one Facebook forum, a participant clearly expressed his fear and concern for the safety of fellow Cameroonians calling for change. Here is what he wrote on 18 February 2011, in his own words:
"... if you really love urself, ur family, wants to secure ur generations, please keep urself out of Cameroon politics. This also goes to all English speaking Cameroonians. Take this time, knowledge, inpsiration and strength to build a better future for urself and ur family without involving Cameroon politics. A word to a wise is sufficient. God Bless..."
Although in broken English, the message is clear. It's a message of caution and concern for oneself and family when expressing political dissent in Cameroon. This should not be the case in a free society.
The 28-year-old government of Cameroon is party to key international human rights standards that make provisions for basic rights and freedoms. The greatest human rights document of all - the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) - has even been incorporated into the Constitution of the Republic.
The government therefore has an obligation under international law to ensure that basic rights of its citizens are respected. But for two decades, basic freedoms have been systematically denied and many, including the "Facebook Generation" live in fear.
On a side note: The President of Cameroon has been in power since 1982 - when he succeeded his predecessor - and has been ranked in the same category with ousted Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and Ben Ali of Tunisia. The Constitution of the west-central African Republic was recently amended - eliminating presidential term limits. An ensuing protest was brutally cracked down by the regime. Dissidents were intimidated and jailed, including a famous musician.
A presidential election is scheduled to take place in October 2011. The free world is waiting to see whether 78-year-old President Paul Biya will run for re-election after 29 years in power.
For more information about Cameroon, please read Cameroon country profile.
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