“We are ambitious” : An interview with Kendi Gikunda, #defyhatenow Education Resources Lead

It has been two years since #defyhatenow started activities in Cameroon. Stephen Kovats, co-initiator of #defyhatenow and Kendi Gikunda, our Educational Resources Lead, just wrapped up a trip to Cameroon. On the agenda were a workshop and meetings with the local teams, partners, and institutions to discuss how to best #defyhatenow and promote peace together. 

Tell us about the current situation.

Kendi: In the past couple of years, the English-speaking regions of Cameroon have been plagued with unrelenting conflict. People are being killed; this includes children. The humanitarian crisis continues to worsen and there doesn’t seem to be a solution in sight.

#defyhatenow works to mitigate all forms of hate speech and incitement to violence. How do you do that in Cameroon?

We empower people to deal with conflict situations in a non-violent way and to convince others to do the same. We do this through training, campaigns, and workshops, among other things. 

We have had the #AFF Cameroon (African Fact Checking Fellowship) since the beginning of the initiative. We now already have our 5th cohort. About 75 bloggers and media professionals have been trained so far. Aside from this we have various workshops with our partners such as the #Media4Peace program, where we work with well-known journalists to empower them on how to report in a conflict environment while remaining neutral and without further inflaming the conflict. We also collaborate with community radio stations. 

When you look back, what has changed over the last two years?

There is more awareness about false information. People question where information comes from. That is important, especially because social media plays a crucial role in conflicts in Cameroon. Nowadays more and more people are aware that whatever you do on any social media platform, including WhatsApp, really has an effect on other people’s lives. And #defyhatenow Cameroon itself is now known by organizations and institutions as an authority on fact-checking. 

Let’s have a look at the future: What do you aspire to?

Our goal is a hate-free Cameroon. It is difficult to achieve a society completely free of hate, but we can achieve a normal public discourse. We are ambitious.