Kongossa – Rumor has it.

rumorWho originates these silly text messages? Is it the marketing staff of some telecom operators in the bid to make more profits knowing that Cameroon is so fertile for propaganda?

Last night, this text was forwarded to me by over 15 people in different towns in Cameroon.My friends and neighbours received the texts too

“Cosmos rays are entering earth tonight from mars. Please switch off your mobile at night; don’t keep your phone with you. The rays are dangerous. NASA BBC NEWS”

I did not switch off my phone at night and the dangerous rays from Mars did not fry it. 🙂

In December there was the one about sanitary pads that makes women bleed excessively when they put it on. Till date am yet to know the name of this brand of sanitary pad or see a victim. Every female phone owner I know (in Cameroon) received the message. It became talking point on some radio stations and prayer points in some churches.

How sad people pass on info easily without trying to verify the authenticity of it. Even when some verify and find out that the information is false, they will say “There is no smoke without fire”

“There is no smoke without fire” is the only justification some people still give to the rumor that made headlines some months ago about a python swallowing a girl in a hotel in Buea.

It is the same justification they give to the “gumming story”. This one was the funniest of them all. Rumor had it that a man’s penis was stuck in the woman he was having sex with .The text that went out said the couple had been rushed to a government health center (PMI) in Bamenda for an operation. Before long, hundreds of people gathered at the said hospital demanding to see the couple. The hospital staff said there was no such couple at the hospital but the crowd insisted on getting in and seeing the couple. The news went viral,hundreds of people received the sms, it was trending on Facebook, and even on local radio stations.

“A lie can run round the world before the truth has got its boots on.”
Terry Pratchett, The Truth

I went to the hospital and interviewed the staff. They said no such couple was brought there. The staff told me, they were shocked when the crowd gathered at the hospital and were even in greater shock when they heard some local radio stations amplifying the rumor. Who generated the first text that had been forwarded to hundreds of people? In which hotel did this take place? Which driver took them to the hospital? Was it even humanly possible for a couple to get stuck like that?

When curious minds started asking questions to verify the story, another version started making rounds in Bamenda. It was said that the woman was cheating on her husband so he cast a spell on her. Days later some marabouts were proudly advertising”gumming medicine” for people whose partners cheat on them.

If I believed the over 20 Ebola alert text messages I have received in the past 2 days I would be bathing with salt and warm water, drinking salted water and eating “bitter cola” 3 times a day. Disease control is not a lottery where everyone can bet on solutions. My response to some of the texts have been “Please consult qualified medical personnel.”  According to WHO, Bathing with salt and warm water, drinking water with salt does NOT cure ebola. For more  on frequently asked questions on Ebola virus disease visit http://www.who.int/csr/disease/ebola/faq-ebola/en/

Maybe my question should not be who generates such texts but who believes them without verifying? Who spreads them without considering the consequences?

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