Leonie Meester – “It’s a War of Communication”: Views on political activism in a Cameroonian diaspora
Worldwide, expansions of communicative possibility have empowered individuals to produce new social and political spaces based on ‘connective power.’ On a continuous basis, Internet-mediated networks and campaigns are constructed for the purpose of social engagement with specific political goals. In concoction with the emerging networking power of the individual, we are witnessing a marked global increase in the number and variety of popular protest. Political agency, herewith, is manifested also free from direct political connotation.
Several instances of popular political activism conjoined under the label of the ‘Arab Spring’ have demonstrated how such locally manifested communicative power can potentially have far-reaching consequences for power-relations within local authoritative political structures. Networks and communities created on social media by individuals here have served as powerful mobilisation forces as well as outlets for global sharing and publication of local political manifestation.
Particularly since these events in 2011, political agency in relation to new ICTs has been pursued and developed in a Cameroonian political context as well. Groups, pages and personal networks centred around an opposition to certain political practices, or directly against the regime in place, have been created and maintained on social media -specifically Facebook-, by individuals located around the globe. These online networks and campaigns, nevertheless, have thus far connected most strongly to the offline sphere through political candidatures and their ‘mainstream’ political campaigns. In spite of mounting political pressures from different directions inside as well as outside of Cameroon, politically motivated popular protests in Cameroon have been rare- most likely much influenced by a widespread fear for violent repercussions by the state security apparatus.
Alternatively, popular street protests in opposition to the Cameroonian regime and its political practices have been taking place outside of the country, instigated by a politically active Cameroonian Diaspora. Over previous years such protests have taken place in Paris, Bonn, Cape town, New York and Washington D.C. to name a few, evidence of which can -increasingly- be found on social media outlets such as Youtube and Facebook. What motivates individuals to organise or participate in such local street protests in the Diaspora? How do these local manifestations connect to online social media networks and campaigns? And, importantly, (how) does this new political agency connect to a local Cameroonian political sphere?
In August 2014, I visited Corantin Talla, a longtime pro-democracy activist, in his home in Cincinnati Ohio. From there, I joined him in two protest manifestations in opposition to the U.S.- African Leaders summit in Washington D.C. During our trip, Talla offered me his views on his motivations for political manifestation, the utility of protest in the Diaspora, and his future ambitions for political action. See below an impression of our surroundings, conversations and activities.
Leonie Meester is a master student at Leiden University.
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