Cameroon’s fearless opposition leader, Kah Walla, says the rapid response of women’s organizations was crucial in securing her release from detention after protesting the regime of President Paul Biya
Cameroon’s opposition leader and internationally renowned human rights activist, Kah Walla, has vowed to continue peacefully protesting government repression, following her release from police detention on Friday — an outcome she attributes to grassroots support and a vocal, globally resonant social media campaign that demanded her liberation.
The President of the Cameroon People’s Party, a member of the Vital Voices global women leaders’ network, and a speaker at the Women in the World Summit in 2012, was arrested last Friday morning along with 11 other activists, in the Cameroonian capital Yaounde.
The group was taken in ostensibly for wearing black, and asking supporters to do the same and post pictures online as a demonstration against the regime of President Paul Biya. The 83-year-old has been head of state for 34 years and, despite widespread opposition, is maneuvering for another run for president of the Central African nation.
One of the longest-serving “Big Men” of African politics, and one of the world’s oldest heads of state, Biya is only outstripped by notorious autocrats like Robert Mugabe for years in office. Accused of paying himself an exorbitant salary(359m CFA francs) in a nation where almost 40 percent live in poverty, presiding over structural corruption and persecuting his political opponents like Titus Edzoa, Biya stubbornly refuses to release his grip on power. Named one of the world’s top 20 worst dictators by the NGO Allgov.com, the president is seen as ill-equipped to deal with the rising threat of terrorism from Boko Haram, who killed 25 in the northern Cameroon town of Bodo in a January suicide bombing.
In an interview with Women in the World, Walla said the government had accused the opposition of “rebellion, inciting insurrection and inciting revolt” because they wanted to distribute pamphlets asking Cameroonians to “#WearBlackThis Friday and to Pray for the future of Cameroon!”