Yesterday, many of us joined a no internet campaign to ‘send a message’ to the telecom operators in Cameroon who for many years have been abusing us with high prices, substandard internet connectivity, and poor customer service. When I think of the fact that in 2017 we were running a campaign for them to bring back our internet, it is kind of ironic that today, we want to deprive ourselves of the same internet to make a statement.
That we opted for only two hours a day signifies that we understand the internet is almost as important as the air we breathe in the times we now live. Operation airplane mode is tantamount to a hunger strike which I believe is something one should only embark on in the face of imminent death.
I do not see the Airplane mode protest working and I voiced that but I still observed it in solidarity with the people. It is my way of learning to participate when the end goal is the same although I believe a different method will be more effective. Some people who attacked me for voicing my opinion about the inefficiency of the airplane mode could be seen not observing it. I do not have to tell you actions speak louder than words.
Many, after reading my opinion on the protest asked the usual “What have you proposed?”
I have long expressed my view that certain conversations are not to be had on social media because it is not optimized for those conversations. Many of you will know I put together a team to build a platform for us to have such conversations when I was actively engaged in finding solutions to the anglophone crisis. That is how much I am willing to do to take some conversations off social media.
Yesterday, I shared a letter that many did not realize was written and published on April 6, 2017. It will seem April is the month for protests against telcos in Cameroon because 6 years ago, there was a similar outcry when MTN suddenly hiked internet prices. I wrote a letter that asked everyone to print, sign, scan, and send it to me. The plan was to go deposit at the telecommunications regulatory board which I believe has the power to call the telcos to order.
Back then, I didn’t get even one person to sign that letter and send me a copy. Some of you read that letter yesterday and it sounded like something I wrote yesterday morning, although it had the date it was written in it. To tell you we have not made any progress in 6 years. We are still having the same complaints and have done nothing concrete about them. I saw many people asking for an email address. I applaud you for that but I am no longer in the position to take that action. A member of my team sent you our email because I’m sure just like you, he missed the date. I’ll like to apologize for that. I’ll explain why most of you did not see the date later.
I do not fancy internet-based protest because it is a jungle for paper lions. Some will cite #EndPhoneTax as a success of internet activism but I believe the phone tax idea was scrapped by the government because they eventually saw that they did not have the infrastructure to implement it. It was a stupid idea from the beginning. There are many ways they can institute the phone tax without even telling us.
After the 2 hour protest, I went live and talked extensively about my experience with community mobilization for activism. I am a strong believer in organized action done with a strategy that includes a plan of action in the face of a setback. A strategy that takes into consideration the strengths and weaknesses of the group and also the strengths and weaknesses of those within the group. Crafting such a strategy is usually not a swift process. It takes getting to know each other and building a certain level of trust.
When the planning and bonding phase takes too long, many people lose their enthusiasm. I remember having more than 2000 people sign up (in under five days) to be part of the Anglophone Youth Conference. One month later; when we had finally built a private communication and organization platform, I could not get up to 200 people to follow through to the next step.
In the weeks we were working on the platform, I kept communicating how the membership was growing and how many people had joined from each division. Many came at us with “We want action, not talking.” To them, building that network (website) and signing people up was not action. To them, action is going to the streets with no plan – the same people that will accuse you of taking people out to the streets with no plan when you go out there and things get sour.
Many people join protest movements out of the emotions of the moment – the reason why most of you missed the date of the article and did not even notice it had the old address of ART. I did it intentionally for demonstration purposes. In my live video, I talked about the three systems that we all function with ( human, chimp, and computer). Uncle Bo has a summary of what I said about those. For the sake of not making this post longer, you can go look that up later. Many people who saw my letter were in chimp mode. Most of us still operate in Chimp mode.
I do not write these things to call people out or insult them. Chimp mode is not a bad mode to be in. It is just not the mode to use for all situations in life. When you put your hand in a fire, you need your chimp mode to get it out without much thinking. This is all science. I write so we can learn.
I use my human (analytical) system to tell you I am not confident about the airplane mode protest; for the following reasons: –
1. There is no plan
2. How long are we to do it?
3. What are the clear demands so we can know when we have achieved our objectives?
4. What is the next plan of action if our objectives are not achieved within a given period?
5. If the intention is to hurt the telcos financially, we don’t have any means of measuring success. They can always add hidden fees to other services and get back the money they lost.
If we are not very clear on the answers to these questions, the movement will easily be watered down with one speech from a minister or fake promises. We’ll all go back home and eventually have to start from square one when those promises are not met; by which time our energy would have been drained. That will also buy time for them and allow us time to start accusing each other of one thing or the other.
Do you know why there will not be another protest on the anglophone crisis that will reach the magnitude of what we experienced in 2016 or none at all? Because we already had one and failed to register a win. Since that failure, we have turned to infighting and disunity. We have started accusing each other, NW vs SW, AMBA vs Federalists, AMBA vs DDR, etc. When Mancho pulled out his coffin, we jumped in with emotions, no plan of action, and no clear leadership. We ended up with various consortiums and more presidents than we have regions.
That is why the title of my article is “Airplane mode until 2025.” Come 2025, we will have another chance to ramp up our energies. It will be an election year, it is the year when we all expect Biya to finally go. It is the time when the entire nation will be engaged regardless of political views or opinions. We need to save our energy for that moment.
You can agree with me that all these small protests we want to start here and there are the results of poor management of the country by the man at the top. If we make that change at the top, most of our underlying problems will be addressed. We must focus on the disease rather than waste our energy fighting its symptoms.
We know the usual plan in Africa is to put the son or one of his close confidants whom we all know are birds of the same feather. In 2025, we will have to fight for that not to happen. Let’s save our energies. A protest that yields no fruits today will leave us with more people with a bad experience and fewer people willing to join the movement during the biggest game of the tournament.
My idea with the AYC was that we’ll bring together a good number of young Cameroonians, integrate a political party, take it over, and pull our forces behind candidates for parliament, the senate, and eventually the 2025 presidential elections. The plan was to become politically active with a powerful voice that must be heard. As some members chose to put it, I failed but the way I see it, WE failed.
I have written in the past about our traumatic relationship with power and how it has affected our ability to identify and select good leaders for our movements. I honestly do not know how we are going to solve that problem. For that, we may have to pray for the gift of discernment.
2025 will be another chance. We should save our energy for if they try to steal another presidential election from us. An internet boycott will work then; when we put an end to all economic activity to fight for our political rights. When there is no one going to work or to school, an internet boycott will be effective. At that point we won’t even need to be online because we shall leave the comfort of our homes and gather in the neighborhood squares; ready to take our future into our hands.
Change never comes easy. The easier the plan of action, the higher the chances of failing. Register to vote so when you say they stole your votes, you really mean it.