Why a Light-Hearted Text Message Led to a Terrorism Conviction in Cameroon

Cameroon soldiers stand guard at a lookout post as they take part in operations against Boko Haram near Fotokol, Cameroon, Feb. 25, 2015 (AP photo by Edwin Kindzeka Moki).
Cameroon soldiers stand guard at a lookout post as they take part in operations against Boko Haram near Fotokol, Cameroon, Feb. 25, 2015 (AP photo by Edwin Kindzeka Moki).

The text message read as follows: “Boko Haram recruits young people from 14 years old and above. Conditions for recruitment: 4 subjects at GCE, including religion.” Sent among university students in the central African nation of Cameroon, it was intended as a satirical commentary on the difficult job market they faced: Competition is so fierce, even a notoriously brutal Islamist militant group will demand to see your test scores—“4 subjects at GCE”—before hiring you. The government, however, was not amused. In December 2014, when a teacher saw the joke on a student’s phone and reported it to police, that student […]

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