Cameroon: 10 things to know about Nathalie Yamb, anti-Macron cyber-activist

By Vincent Duhem

Posted on Wednesday, 8 February 2023 11:25
Nathalie Yamb (photo: facebook)

This Swiss-Cameroonian radical activist, who has made the denunciation of the former colonial power her hobbyhorse, is accused of being a pawn of Russia in its offensive on the continent.

When you have a following of hundreds of thousands of people, sometimes you have to go where you are not expected. At the end of 2022, Nathalie Yamb was living in Guinea-Bissau with a relative of President Umaro Sissoco Embaló, who, upon hearing of her, offered an invitation to the Swiss-Cameroonian activist. Accepting the invitation, Yamb praised the president’s willingness to listen to her despite their disagreements, praising the interest of the Bissau-Guinean head of state in development.

At 53, Yamb is one of the most followed personalities on social networks in French-speaking Africa. With nearly 490,000 subscribers on Facebook, 230,000 on Twitter, 240,000 on YouTube, and 56,000 on Instagram, Yamb benefits from a very wide platform (by comparison, Kemi Seba has 1.1 million followers on Facebook, 136,000 on Twitter, and 256,000 on Instagram). In full control of her own image, Yam’s sole business is politics, more specifically France’s presence in Africa.

1. Beyond France

Serving as the very core of her online work, Yamb focuses on France’s ongoing presence in Africa. Using the hashtag #FranceDégage (#GoAwayFrance), Yamb’s reach is unquestioned. The trending topic experienced a boost in response to Ibrahim Traoré’s request for French troops to depart from Burkina Faso, and it would even turn out that Yamb’s positions would result in her being banned from staying in France.

A long-time opponent of the CFA franc, the activist has been heavily critical of all of Paris’ interests on the continent, as well as African heads of states aligned with the European power, dismissing them as lackeys. Alassane Ouattara, Macky Sall, Mohamed Bazoum, Nana Akufo-Addo, and Sissoco Embaló, the latter of whom was apparently withdrawn from the line of fire since Yamb’s meeting with him in Guinea-Bissau.

2. A spirit of militance

Her first barrage of criticism dates back to the 2000s after her time in Cameroon, where she settled in 1998 after studying political science, journalism, and communication in Germany. From there, she took a brief foray into the German and Swiss press, then working for Panafcom, the communication group of Frenchman Daniel Brechat.

The young Yamb found herself impacted by the beginning of Guillaume Soro’s rebellion in Côte d’Ivoire and by the ensuing armed conflict in 2002. In several texts published in the Cameroonian press, she accused France of having refused to support President Laurent Gbagbo and to encourage the rebellion.

3. Now Pro-Gbagbo (Then Anti)

These accusatory articles would soon find themselves on the desk of the Ivorian head of state, who, intrigued by these presumably radical writings, requested that his embassy in Cameroon take steps to bring Yamb to Abidjan. In addition to her professional work in Yaoundé, Yamb made several trips to Côte d’Ivoire before settling there in 2007 and becoming human resources director of an MTN subsidiary. However, the idyllic relationship with Gbagbo would not last.

4. Koulibaly, the accomplice

Moving on to publish a blog under the pseudonym of Mahalia Nteby, an anagram of her name, her time in the Ivorian world would experience somewhat of a change upon the publishing of a blog post titled Côte d’Ivoire: naufrage d’une nation, in reference to Gbagbo’s close associates as a clique of predators. At about this time, Yamb would meet Mamadou Koulibaly, one of the regime’s key ideologues, who would also criticise Gbagbo’s policy relating to France. A match made in heaven.

5. Jerry Rawlings, the hero

Leaving MTN in 2014 to become Koulibaly’s executive advisor, Yamb would become one of the spokespersons for former Ghanaian president Jerry Rawlings, whom she had gotten well-acquainted with in the late-2000s.

Rawlings would pass away in November 2020, and one year after, Yamb would pay tribute on her Instagram account, expressing her closeness to him throughout her career. “You left on November 12. One year ago. I miss you, your voice, our travels, discussions, laughter, having you by my side, being by yours to fight for African sovereignty, freedom, and justice. You are my hero, Jerry, and you always will be. Love is stronger than death,” she said on the post.

6. The Lady from Sochi

In October 2019, Yamb took part in a roundtable discussion during the first Russia-Africa summit, held at a seaside resort located on the shores of the Black Sea. Her speech, which touched many in attendance, made the activist a celebrity of sorts within anti-imperialist and anti-French circles, as well as the movements commonly associated with them. Two months later, her expulsion from the Ivorian state, a decision by the ministry of interior, only served to amplify her credibility. While her popularity grew, Gilles Huberson, then the French ambassador to the Ivorian state, rejoiced in private.

7. A Russian agent?

For the French government, there is no doubt: Yamb is a Russian operative as she defends the invasion of Ukraine by accusing Westerners and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy of being responsible for the increased hostilities.

In the face of these pro-Russia accusations, some necessary questions need answering: wasn’t the Sochi conference organised by the Association for Free Research and International Cooperation, which Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner Group, established to promote Wagnerian interests? Wasn’t Alexander Makevitch the conference’s moderator? Now Deputy Chairman of the Russian Information Commission, the latter previously worked at the Internet Research Agency (IRA), later having his Twitter account suspended at the end of 2019.

8. Kemi Seba, the brother

While they do not share the exact same methods, they are two sides of the same coin. Narcissism and self-glorification aside, they lead the fight side-by-side. In Yamb’s words, the Franco-Beninese Seba is a boss and a brother. On 9 December 2022, the radical Pan-Africanist activist received a pleasant birthday message.

“I did not know Marcus Garvey, [neither did I] rub shoulders with Malcolm X or Thomas Sankara, but I have the honour of knowing and working with Kemi Sebia,” Seba told her. Yamb then became one of the columnists for the latter’s web show, Afrique Résurrection.

9. Good company

Seba and Yamb share the same passion for the usurpers. Like the Beninese, the Swiss resident openly supports the leaders of ruling juntas in Mali and Burkina Faso, Goïta and Traoré, respectively. She had also been very critical of the latter’s predecessor, Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, accusing him of being too soft with Paris. On the other hand, she has expressed a particular level of tolerance for Paul Biya, President of Cameroon, whom she is careful not to slight in her media productions.

In recent weeks, Yamb has travelled to Senegal, where another of her darlings regularly makes the news: opponent Ousmane Sonko, whose meetings she covers from a distance. In Dakar, she met anti-imperialist activist Guy Marius Sagna and journalist Pape Alé Niang, released after two months behind bars.

10. Business acumen

As it turns out, being a militant has worked to her advantage, as Yamb is able to receive income from her hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube and other networks. This fervent Bitcoin supporter has also created her own advice, strategy, and communication framework, known as Nathalie Yamb Consulting, based in a tax haven: the canton of Zug, Switzerland. Her name was also mentioned in the Pandora Papers as the owner of the shell company Hutchinson Hastings & Partners LLC, registered in the tax haven of Delaware, USA.

Enter the Liyeplimal platform and Global Investment Trading SA, the latter a Cameroon-based cryptocurrency investment company owned by Cameroonian businessman Émile Parfait Simb, also an adviser to Faustin-Archange Touadéra, President of the Central African Republic. Yamb recently appeared on a list of 142 people targeted by complaints filed, in the US and France, by subscribers believing to have been cheated by this organisation.

Yamb, for all she has advocated for throughout her career, is particularly accused of having encouraged her followers to invest in this high-yield programme, suspected of operating like a Ponzi pyramid scheme.

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