By Yerima Kini Nsom
Public officials in Cameroon have been called upon to demonstrate exemplary behaviour by avoiding the use of hate speech in all circumstances or face sanctions as well as the long sword of the law. This caution is one of the main recommendations made by participants at the end of a two-day colloquium on hate speech and xenophobia in Yaounde on May 6.
The National Commission for the Promotion of Bilingualism and Multiculturalism, NCPBM, organised the colloquium as part of its ongoing campaign against hate speech in Cameroon. After noting that some public officials are among the main perpetrators of hate speech, participants recommended that all public officials should show exemplary behaviour by avoiding the use of hate speech. It was proposed that any public official found guilty of emitting hate should be sanctioned as well as prosecuted in court. Attendees of colloquium also proposed that judiciary authorities should educate the public on the provisions of the penal code as far as sanctions against anybody propagating hate speech is concerned.
Creating a national coalition for the fight against hate speech and xenophobia was one of the short term recommendations of the participants. Such a coalition, according to the proposal, should be made up of students’ association, the National Youth Council, the National Communication Council, the Ministry of Youth Affairs and training schools. Actors of the colloquium equally proposed that stakeholders should discourage the words and expressions that reek of hate speech in social interactions among Cameroonians. Besides, they called for the enactment of a new law in Parliament against hate speech. The participants were unanimous that the texts criminalising hate speech in the country, should be fully disseminated in the media as well as fully engage the civil society in the onslaught against hate speech.
During the meeting, The NCPBM was called upon to organise workshops to sensitise magistrates and judicial police officers on the law on hate speech and xenophobia. The stakeholders called on the authorities to ensure that provisions of the Penal Code that border on hate speech and xenophobia are fully applied. They also cautioned them to examine hate speech from its endogenous and exogenous manifestations. They proposed that administrative officials should organise meetings, every three months to sensitize the public on hate speech. They equally proposed that the powers that be should sensitize the population on the consequences of hate speech as well as remain alert on hate media content. They were cautioned to non-repressive measures by sensitising the public against hate speech in the media.
As a way of stemming the tides of the scourge, Cameroonians were urged to be tolerant, forgive one another, promote reconciliation and accept compromise as well as denounce all-partisan associations and organizations predicated on religious and ethnic exclusion. Stakeholders were advised to make efforts to win the spirits and hearts of citizens against hate speech. They were asked to examine the exogenous and endogenous causes of hate speech to arrest it. As one of the middle term proposals, the authorities are expected to sensitise the Cameroonian diaspora against hate speech and xenophobia. Besides, the authorities were advised to promote non-violent communication and peace journalism. It was recommended that the introduction of civic and ethical education in primary and secondary school programmes. In addition, stakeholders were urged to monitor and denounce hate speech in the public service.
The population is expected to be fully sensitised and swayed away from the perception that widens the gulf between Cameroon’s two linguistic communities as well as discourage hate media content. It was proposed that a survey be carried out on hate speech in the media as well as create a more dynamic citizen social media network to counter the negative campaign in the social media. The authorities were equally called upon to mainstream moral rearmament in segments of the society, plus, the revision of the electoral code to ensure free, fair and transparent elections. The NCPBM Secretary-General, Dr. Chi Asafor who served as the general rapporteur of the colloquium, presented the recommendations whose execution borders on the short term, middle term and long term deadlines.
Speaking during the closing ceremony of the event, NCPBM Chair, Peter Mafany Musonge, called on participants to mainstream the recommendations of the colloquium in the various actions and various spheres of national life in order to fight against hate speech in the country. He called on them to be ambassadors of peace and national concord as well defenders of the values that the founding father of Cameroon established to promote unity. He said it was incumbent on every Cameroonian to fight against hate speech and xenophobia because they constitute a huge danger to national unity and social peace. While lauding attendees for formulating very pertinent recommendations that chart the way forward against hate speech, he said the proposals are not within the competence of his commission but will be channelled to the competent authorities.
Those who moved and shook the colloquium were renowned professors from the different disciplines of academia. As members of the scientific committee, they examined the causes, the effects and the solutions to hate speech and xenophobia from very different angles. Political scientist, Prof. Elvis Ngolle Ngolle, presented a paper titled: “Hate Speech and xenophobia as obstacles to nation-building and social cohesion”. Renowned anthropologists, Profs Mboubji Edjenguele and Abouna Paul harped on: “Acronyms and pejorative presentation to group hatred and xenophobia in Cameroon: Anthropological foundations of the construction of the rejection of the other”. Journalism and Communication scholar, Prof. Laurent-Charles Boyomo Assala, thrilled his audience on: “Hate speech and discriminatory vocabulary in the Cameroon media: Causes and manifestations,” while Historian cum political scientist, Prof. Willibroad Dze-Ngwa, presented a paper on: “Consequences of hate speech on different linguistic communities and the search for sustainable peaceful co-existence in Cameroon”.
Prof. Yenshu Vubo from the University of Buea made a presentation on “Ethno-regional cleavages and socio-politically motivated animosities in Cameroon: elements for understanding incipient xenophobic tendencies.” The Rector of the Yaounde University II, Prof. Minkoa She, presented a paper on: “The penal codification of the banning of hatred and xenophobia”. The recommendations that featured in the final report of the colloquium, emanated from various presentations. Participants were drawn from all spheres of the society including, political parties, the media and civil society.