Amnesty International’s fallacy

Conflict reporting that draws criticism from opposing parties is often assumed to be objective and balanced. The recent Amnesty International, AI, report on the Southern Cameroons crisis is a perfect example of how misleading such an assumption can be.It is by no means a dependable report just because it got the Yaounde regime’s ‘vuvuzela’ blaring so loud in protest as usual, while at the same time drawing salvos of censure from Southern Cameroonians.
If anything, this report seriously dents Amnesty’s image in the eyes of those who are looking up to it as a faithful watchdog on whose probity and integrity the world can count when it comes to conflict reporting and resolution.
This editorial would be far longer than that report itself if we were to itemise and comment on all its half-truths and omissions. Suffice it to say that if Amnesty International were a media outfit, a great part of this report would qualify for yellow – even armchair – journalism.
Whether all those truncated facts and all those errors of commission or omission were just the result of sloppiness or a deliberate act of misinformation, the report raises a crying need to set the record straight.
Let’s begin with the identities of the actors. In total superficiality the report echoes and amplifies Yaounde’s image of the conflict as being between the State of Cameroon and some band of secessionists. One would have expected AI’s reporter to dig up background information on this struggle. Such information, available at the UN if nowhere else, would have told AI that the parties to this conflict are two states, each of which had had an executive, a legislature and a judiciary, and one of which had made a sovereign decision to join a sister nation.
AI would thus have been able to qualify the present conflict appropriately as a reversal of that first decision – by seeking to relinquish and sunder a marriage that has proven faithless, loveless and hopeless after half a century of groaning. Amnesty would have helped the world to remember that Senegal and Gambia tried a union in the same circumstances and when it proved inconvenient, they were sensible enough to sunder it and remain good neighbours.
Coming to the nature of the conflict, it is most unhelpful on the part of AI to stop at saying there are acts of violence on both sides. Undeniable as this is, it is a half-truth. If AI had carried out a credible investigation it would have found out that there is no chicken-and-egg question as to who is responding to whose violence. Violence started, not the first day when somebody was killed, but the day the regime started trampling on the dignity of Southern Cameroonians in all those socio-political acts of marginalization that have been enumerated times without number since this crisis began. It increased when, over a period of more than 50 years the complaining partner was ignored or bullied into silence. The regime’s “what-can-you-do” attitude was sheer provocation and a call to another form of violence. With restraint, Southern Cameroonians responded with peaceful protests which gave the regime the pretext to crank up multiple forms of violence – arrests, rape, extra-judicial killings etc. Violence begets violence. When young people who have seen these bestialities visited on their kith and kin take up muskets and machetes and start fighting back – yes you can say there is violence on both sides, but one side is fending off an aggressor.
Even as an embedded reporter, AI would have seen that while the armed ‘restorationists’ direct their fire and fury at the instruments and agents of Government, the security forces are indiscriminate in their murderous repression. Soldiers or ‘restorationist’ fighters who are killed in combat will have died serving a country or a cause they believe in. But killings are reported every day of people who by their age and condition are manifestly non-combatant. Some are too young or too old to know anything about this conflict. One would expect all non-combatants suspected to aid or abet the insurgency to be arrested and tried, with due process respected, not summarily executed. Actions in the field show a level of impunity which the modern world cannot, must not, tolerate.
The report also indicated that both parties attack the civilian population. At this point one would challenge AI to actually go to the surviving towns and villages in Southern Cameroons and ask the frightened population who of the two forces they consider as the aggressor and who as their protector.
Amnesty is a well-known and respected human rights pressure group whose reports are expected to inform the international community’s conflict prevention and resolution action. The shortfalls of this report trigger three levels of alarm. The first is the beclouding impact it could have on the understanding of the Southern Cameroons conundrum by those who, over the years have come to rely on Amnesty’s probity. The second is the fear that this report bespeaks a break from that probity and a slump into unusual sloppiness. The third and highest level of alarm is the fear that Amnesty may have willingly allowed its reputation to be compromised by some interest one can’t put a finger on. This gets the more disturbing, knowing the Yaounde regime’s own reputation for undermining the credibility of whoever it does business with. Could AI also have been infected by the equivocation virus that has reduced the UN, the AU and the Commonwealth to shadows of themselves, or even quislings? If organisations like AI also start speaking with forked tongues, on whose account of anything can the world now rely?
Conflict reporting that draws criticism from opposing parties is often assumed to be objective and balanced. The recent Amnesty International, AI, report on the Southern Cameroons crisis is a perfect example of how misleading such an assumption can be.It is by no means a dependable report just because it got the Yaounde regime’s ‘vuvuzela’ blaring so loud in protest as usual, while at the same time drawing salvos of censure from Southern Cameroonians.
If anything, this report seriously dents Amnesty’s image in the eyes of those who are looking up to it as a faithful watchdog on whose probity and integrity the world can count when it comes to conflict reporting and resolution.
This editorial would be far longer than that report itself if we were to itemise and comment on all its half-truths and omissions. Suffice it to say that if Amnesty International were a media outfit, a great part of this report would qualify for yellow – even armchair – journalism.
Whether all those truncated facts and all those errors of commission or omission were just the result of sloppiness or a deliberate act of misinformation, the report raises a crying need to set the record straight.
Let’s begin with the identities of the actors. In total superficiality the report echoes and amplifies Yaounde’s image of the conflict as being between the State of Cameroon and some band of secessionists. One would have expected AI’s reporter to dig up background information on this struggle. Such information, available at the UN if nowhere else, would have told AI that the parties to this conflict are two states, each of which had had an executive, a legislature and a judiciary, and one of which had made a sovereign decision to join a sister nation.
AI would thus have been able to qualify the present conflict appropriately as a reversal of that first decision – by seeking to relinquish and sunder a marriage that has proven faithless, loveless and hopeless after half a century of groaning. Amnesty would have helped the world to remember that Senegal and Gambia tried a union in the same circumstances and when it proved inconvenient, they were sensible enough to sunder it and remain good neighbours.
Coming to the nature of the conflict, it is most unhelpful on the part of AI to stop at saying there are acts of violence on both sides. Undeniable as this is, it is a half-truth. If AI had carried out a credible investigation it would have found out that there is no chicken-and-egg question as to who is responding to whose violence. Violence started, not the first day when somebody was killed, but the day the regime started trampling on the dignity of Southern Cameroonians in all those socio-political acts of marginalization that have been enumerated times without number since this crisis began. It increased when, over a period of more than 50 years the complaining partner was ignored or bullied into silence. The regime’s “what-can-you-do” attitude was sheer provocation and a call to another form of violence. With restraint, Southern Cameroonians responded with peaceful protests which gave the regime the pretext to crank up multiple forms of violence – arrests, rape, extra-judicial killings etc. Violence begets violence. When young people who have seen these bestialities visited on their kith and kin take up muskets and machetes and start fighting back – yes you can say there is violence on both sides, but one side is fending off an aggressor.
Even as an embedded reporter, AI would have seen that while the armed ‘restorationists’ direct their fire and fury at the instruments and agents of Government, the security forces are indiscriminate in their murderous repression. Soldiers or ‘restorationist’ fighters who are killed in combat will have died serving a country or a cause they believe in. But killings are reported every day of people who by their age and condition are manifestly non-combatant. Some are too young or too old to know anything about this conflict. One would expect all non-combatants suspected to aid or abet the insurgency to be arrested and tried, with due process respected, not summarily executed. Actions in the field show a level of impunity which the modern world cannot, must not, tolerate.
The report also indicated that both parties attack the civilian population. At this point one would challenge AI to actually go to the surviving towns and villages in Southern Cameroons and ask the frightened population who of the two forces they consider as the aggressor and who as their protector.
Amnesty is a well-known and respected human rights pressure group whose reports are expected to inform the international community’s conflict prevention and resolution action. The shortfalls of this report trigger three levels of alarm. The first is the beclouding impact it could have on the understanding of the Southern Cameroons conundrum by those who, over the years have come to rely on Amnesty’s probity. The second is the fear that this report bespeaks a break from that probity and a slump into unusual sloppiness. The third and highest level of alarm is the fear that Amnesty may have willingly allowed its reputation to be compromised by some interest one can’t put a finger on. This gets the more disturbing, knowing the Yaounde regime’s own reputation for undermining the credibility of whoever it does business with. Could AI also have been infected by the equivocation virus that has reduced the UN, the AU and the Commonwealth to shadows of themselves, or even quislings? If organisations like AI also start speaking with forked tongues, on whose account of anything can the world now rely?

Of Nyamnding and professorial morons

That the regime in Etoudi corrupts almost everything it touches may now sound like a hackneyed song. But every passing day unfolds the proof thereof. Be it formally through its failed policies or informally through the daily deeds and utterances of its apologists, the regime never fails to demonstrate that if there is anything like the direct opposite of the Midas touch, they have it. The bestiality with which they have been prosecuting this hateful war against Southern Cameroons shows beyond a shred of doubt that they have no dram of respect for life, let alone the human values that form the bedrock of any civilised society.
The one plausible diagnosis of all the symptoms we see is systemic brain damage which has now reached epidemic proportions.
What else would prompt a parliamentarian to declare in session, and on camera, that he asked his son who is a colonel in the army to “kill at least 30 Anglophones”? How else would a member of Government go on record as saying that Anglophones had been dissolved like two cubes of sugar in a basin of water? Or that a population of some eight million is an insignificant minority in a country of about 25 million. The list of such senseless utterances is long, and the unfolding of things on the ground has so proven their emptiness that all they deserve is a dismissive smile.
The latest in the series is a certain Professor Nyamnding‘s hogwash about Anglophones being ungrateful and dull. According to him Southern Cameroonians have always been undeservedly admitted to the regime’s so-called “Grandes Ecoles” thanks to a special derogation ordered by Biya.
Normally, Nyamnding and his claptrap don’t deserve to be dignified with a single comment. But we learn that he teaches International Relations, meaning he is in a position to propagate this falsehood even beyond the frontiers of Cameroon.
For starters though, he has demonstrated that he is indeed a professor – he has professed his emptiness – his ignorance of facts and lack of tact – which is an indictment of a system that produced him and his likes. Elsewhere he is reminded of the many Southern Cameroons students in these schools who, taking their notes in French, very often end up topping their classes. We have nothing to prove in this respect.
Don’t ask him why Yaounde is sacrificing so many soldiers in the fight to keep them, if they are nothing but a bunch of ne’er-do-wells? What has Yaounde got to lose in the departure of a tribe of morons when it is left with so many more intelligent tribes (Beti, Douala, Bassa and Bami)? They should be celebrating the happy riddance. Or are they needed as cheap hewers of wood and drawers of water?
But those who can read between the lines would know that it is more the abusive groom’s fear of losing the dowry the unwilling bride brought with her into the marriage.
Nyamnding’s definition of intelligence can only reflect what obtains in the intellectual bubble in which he was raised. Yaoundé’s system of education was designed to produce, not genuine intellectuals with demonstrable probity, but local robots programmed to think, say and do what the designer wants.
It is a garbage-in-garbage-out system that has reduced a university degree to a piece of paper, a robe and a mortarboard, all obtained as a reward for reproducing some trainer’s plagiarisms. We speak here of the general rule, recognising that there are a few genuine intellectuals lost, like gold rings, in these trusses of hay.
That is why in Cameroon we have so many uneducated professors, incapable of thinking, let alone teaching anyone to think, out of the box.That, in consequence, is the reason most Southern Cameroonians who go through these system schools always get into trouble when they insist on understanding and analysing concepts – as part of Anglo-Saxon scholarship practice – instead of just reproducing notes to pass exams.
Admission into and graduation from the schools he cites are controlled by a gatekeeping system that favours the programmable and, of course, those who can buy their way through. The corrupt mind-set cultivated in these schools is one of Cameroon’s biggest curses.
One wonder’s if, for people like Nyamnding, the real fear is not that if these so-called Anglos are allowed to slip away, they could produce a real system of education that would expose the vacuity of the present one.
In that case he and his likes must be having nightmares watching the number of French speaking parents already scrambling to send their children to English speaking schools, and feeling so proud when they succeed in getting admission. You can’t compare one thing, you know.
But to better grasp where people like Nyamnding are coming from, here are two accounts from two Southern Cameroonians in the University of Yaounde.
“In the Grande Ecole where I was teaching it was decided that each student’s script be marked by two or more lecturers, ostensibly to avoid lecturers awarding undeserved marks to students. A francophone colleague marking some francophone scripts after me, suddenly became uncontrollably furious with the students on realising that I had corrected their French as well. “Your French is so bad that even an Anglophone can correct you. I can’t believe it,” he said, really upset.
In the second case an Anglophone student doing a bilingual degree had written a paper in French, and a French female lecturer decided to fail him because it was too good to have been written by an Anglo.
For her, either he had copied it, or he was a Francophone pretending to be Anglo. She must have had on her Nyamnding tinted glasses.

We are all refugees

There were muted protests in a local church recently, when a guest worshipper was introduced as a refugee. A resident of one of the over 60 communities which Government troops have razed to the ground, she had fled through the bushes and is sheltering with relatives in Limbe. For many in the congregation, designating her as a refugee was hard to accept.
Now, there is a paradox to this kind of reaction. On the one hand, a people for whom human solidarity is more than a religion can only find it repugnant that anybody be called a refugee, meaning homeless, as long as others have homes, or be said to starve while there is food in any house. That is why many can’t believe the insensitivity of their churches which have reduced solidarity with victims of this crisis to mere symbolism.
In some, distant dates have been set to raise a solidarity basket, whereas the need for food, clothing and medicines is dire, immediate and continuous. In the meantime the churches raise their usual collections for church building and support to the far less needy. Now, who will worship in those big churches if people are left to die in the bushes? Is the church about people or buildings?
This growing insensitivity, even in the most unexpected places, is a testament to how far the mores with which English speaking Cameroonians were raised have been polluted by contact with a culture of egocentrism and a very fuzzy sense of community – a culture where the notion of res publica is dead and buried, and individuals can loot billions from the public purse without a single compunction.
It is, perhaps, this pollution that explains the other side of the paradox; that in a city like Limbe with huge business and cultural influence from across the Mungo, many have not yet lost a wink of sleep since this crisis erupted – except when phone calls from their home villages announce new shootings and burnings.
For most inhabitants of some of these sleepy towns the whole thing feels like a distant dream. When Assad went mad and started butchering Syrians it sounded like a distant horror movie. After watching the harrowing images on TV, we could zap channels, flip the page and get on with our own lies. Today it is happening in real life and close to home. It is our own children who are being summarily executed, our old grandparents who are being burnt alive in their homes while their families take shelter in the bushes. Let’s face it – these people are refugees, be they in Nigeria, in the forests near their villages or in neighbouring towns. And wherever you live, as long as the lunatics remain on the rampage, you are a potential refugee.
Now there is a third category of actual refugees living not only in English speaking Cameroon but even in the seemingly safe and peaceful cities and countries. To be fair, this category includes Francophone Cameroonians who are revolted by what the regime is doing to their English speaking counterparts, purportedly in their name. To this category belong all those decent human beings who no longer feel at home in a world where sensible countries and the world’s most powerful institutions can afford to look the other way while lunatics are butchering people.
These are people who wonder daily where to take their children to, so that they don’t grow up with this sense of hopelessness that pervades our world. Our children are all potential refugees in a world where human life is constantly devalued by monsters in the name of leaders. No wonder they would rather perish on the high seas trying to flee a hopeless existence in what we have been trying to teach them to call home.
And do you still wonder what Boko Haram or other terrorist groups offer young people to turn them into suicide bombers? They don’t need to offer them anything. The dejection generated by the madness we call governance is more than enough to radicalise them ten times over. In the case of English speaking Cameroonians, they have been wrestling on a daily basis with demonstrations of hate from the very pit of hell.
For one thing, if you cohabit with a man-eating monster, you very soon cross the threshold of fear, because you expect to be eaten anytime. Many English speaking Cameroonians are crossing that threshold daily. Many have accepted their potential refugee status and will not be surprised anymore when it comes. Many are carrying their own coffins in their minds. They have constituted themselves as refugees in the land of the living dead.
Finally it may not be far-fetched to describe even Biya’s as a refugee regime taking refuge in power and other crude acts of terror, in the hope they could escape the spectre of retribution for the atrocities they have already visited on the people. They know that once they are stripped of the trappings of power, Karma will come knocking, and there may be no place to hide.
That may explain the jitters over the few statements the US ambassador made recently. The frenzied, unguarded, undignified and unstately ejaculations of the Minister of External Relations could be seen as a normal reaction to the sighting of a spook – the spook in this case being the prospect of their refugee cover being blown.
You can’t think of the refugee syndrome in Cameroon without recalling the massacre of the innocent in the Bible; First Pharaoh’s decision to stop the increase in the population of the Israelites by ordering the killing of all their male children. We recall that that is why baby Moses became a refugee in a basket among the bulrushes where he was found and adopted by the Pharaoh’s own daughter. Then we recall that soon after birth baby Jesus became a refugee in Egypt because Herod had ordered the killing of all boys of two years and less in Bethlehem.
They may think they have what it takes to decimate a whole generation of Cameroonians, but they must think of where they in turn will find refuge when the seeds of hate they are now sowing will sprout and bear fruit.

May 20 boycott hits new high

One more May 20 mock celebration. One more opportunity missed for Paul Biya to speak to the soul of the nation he claims to lead. One more proof that his “one and indivisible” Cameroon was intended to include former Southern Cameroonians not as citizens whose lives count and whose feelings and aspirations matter, but as slaves or captives. One more demonstration of his “get-lost” attitude towards anyone who expects him to streamline his lifestyle to the state of the country.
This year’s commemoration came in the wake of a fiendishly bloody war he declared on them.
Biya sailed imperially into and out of the ceremonial grounds in his new-fangled toy – a bullet-proof Sentinel Range Rover jeep valued at upwards of half a billion CFA, a state-of-the-art limousine first seen worldwide at this year’s auto fair in Geneva.
Even the habitually obsequious “other-language” papers could not pull their punches at his revolting flamboyance in the midst of his country’s wrenching penury.
They published elaborate pictures of the car alongside taps spouting muddy water, buses stuck on impassable roads and soldiers grounded for want of transport. For Southern Cameroonians, however, this seems to have become a neighbour’s cup of tea. They appear to have flipped the page on Biya’s antics and to Francophones used to grumbling in their armpits.
To both groups, however, Biya’s core message seems to be, “Get lost!” The bloke appears to live his life in a bubble, totally impervious to the feelings of his detractors and loyalists alike.
There he was at the May 20 Boulevard, basking in the glamour of his high office, mindless of the fact that thousands of former Southern Cameroonians have been spending weeks in the forests fleeing from the soldiers that should be protecting them; mindless of the thousands now homeless after over 70 of their villages have been reduced to ashes by the same soldiers; even mindless of the gory pictures that the whole world has been seeing lately – pictures of the most unsightly ways in which his troops are killing, torturing and abusing unarmed civilians in this embattled area.
Despite all this, his vassals on the ground have been at pains to force the surviving members of these families, still mortified by the loss of their loved ones, homes and property, to come out and march to celebrate May 20. In fact the regime seems to have been so desperate to have people march that local administrators instructed Churches to close Pentecost Sunday services before 8 a.m. Behind this order, the population was quick to detect a plan by the regime to swoop on Christians during or after Church services, and force them to the parade grounds. It turned out they had accurately read the Government’s mind, for that is precisely what happened in Buea and other places – all of this in a bid to hoodwink the world that this was a happy, united nation in celebration.
Well, only a world of morons would be taken in by such window dressing, flooded as it is with videos of the carnage being visited on the same people by the same regime. And it has to be the very sickest level of sadism to require young widows and orphans to bottle up their grief and go marching for the pleasure of those who ordered the killing of their husbands and fathers. However, the story of this year’s May 20 boycott defies all window dressing. Many even see the Sunday evening accident on the Tiko-Douala road as divine visitation to hired marchers who were returning from their mission in the Southwest.
Meanwhile, driving back home in his roaring motorcade, Biya cut the picture of a man pathetically insulated from the country he claims to lead. A normal human being would have understood that enough has happened to turn May 20 into a day of national mourning. Even God, the Almighty Creator, can afford to say to erring humans, “my people, come, let’s reason together.” And in a transport of remorse after destroying the world with the flood in Noah’s time, God took an oath, materialised by the rainbow, never to repeat what He had just done. With the spirit of God so manifestly absent in Mr. Biya’s leadership, no wonder many consider all his actions inspired by none but the prince of the abyss himself.
That is a most scary threshold for any people to cross – to be convinced that the devil holds the helm of their country. From that moment you can expect evil in any form.
The most disturbing twist to all this is that very few rumours of the regime’s macabre designs against former Southern Cameroonians have turned out completely unfounded. That should explain the recent palm oil fever. Rumour had spread that a device had been exploded in Lake Awing with purpose to gas the surrounding population to death. Since the population could not put this regime beyond such wickedness, they took to massive consumption of palm oil, believing it would neutralise the toxic effect of any gas.
A visit to the lake by the Fon of Awing eventually reassured the population that nothing of the sort had happened. However, there being no smoke without fire, grapevine maintains that the alarm was triggered by leaked Intel about a gas attack planned for later. One can only hope and pray, that even if this demonic plan were actually in the works, it would be aborted now that its cover is blown.
Last weekend, the gorgon reared another head in Mile 16, Buea. An SOS from a weeping young man in hiding took us back to the Old Testament when the Egyptians sought to depopulate the Israelites by killing their male children from age 13. This story appeared to signal the implementation of another leaked plan which we dare hope regime intelligence will debunk, or expose and foil.
This is to say nothing about the blood letting on the so-called national day itself. Soldiers of the regime are paid to do the bidding of their commander-in-chief. In so doing they put their lives on the line. Young former Southern Cameroonians radicalized by the unjustifiable killing of their loved ones, have taken up arms to defend their kith and kin, driven by the desire to be in a country where their lives, opinions and aspirations are respected. Armed clashes between these two sides are an unfortunate but logical unfolding, because when you take up arms you are ready to kill or be killed. But if Mr. Biya were a normal human president one would ask him why all those unarmed civilians deserve to die, and for how long he intends this to go on. Is he aware that the more blood he sheds the more remote the prospects of reconciliation? This thing is the ultimate test of his mettle as a leader and it is only human, when you fail, to step aside.

Backing repression seeds terrorism

‘In my distress a voice said to me, “Smile and be happy, for things could be worse.” And I smiled and was happy, and behold, things did get worse.’ This quote from an unknown writer sums up the drift of our fortunes this past week. You remember we wrote about the first of two distressing allegations which we hoped Yaounde would have the grace to refute, if only for image laundry purposes. That was the “Bami Cash for Anglo Blood” question. And we promised to introduce the second subject subsequently, hoping, as we ran it through our scanner, that it would turn out a non-story. But while we are still combing about for any evidence of the Typhoon fighter jet deal London is alleged to have been struck with Yaounde, here comes Donald Trump with worse news than that for real. While it is still may-or-may not with Theresa May, Washington’s deal maker hits the table with a trump card – a donation of two fighter jets to Yaounde.
Real or fake, news of Britain selling military jets to Yaounde would shock and disappoint only those who still live under the illusion of British benevolence towards former Southern Cameroon. Even as we scoff at the parasitic relationship between France and its colonies, having Britain as a political midwife is the worst thing ever to have happened to Southern Cameroons. Come to think of it, the whole trusteeship exercise now appears to have been more of a window which the allied powers opened for themselves to milk the former German colonies for a while, under the pretext of preparing them for independence. France tucked heartily into the opportunity, and like a mistletoe, used it to entrench her parasitic roots inextricably into the territories entrusted to it. The result is that few, if any, of the countries in its so-called pré-carré have ever known real independence.
Britain, for its part, was rather insular, ungenerous, standoffish and shamefully myopic in assessing the real potential of the territory entrusted to it – hence the haste to give Southern Cameroons away in a marriage of inconvenience to covetous France through its local proxy. And we are told that the bride price was a miserable 20 million pounds sterling.
Close to 60 years on, not even once has Britain been seen to stand by former British Cameroonians as they struggle with the abusive marriage she sold them into. The Queen had well and truly parted with her “little gift” to de Gaule.
So the alleged aircraft sale, were Yaounde to even find the money for it, would only be evidence that the Brits put their heart where their mouth is. But it would also be evidence that they still do not know the people they sold. In this struggle they are backing the wrong horse for the second time. And with such myopia, no wonder the sun set so soon on the Empire.
Now to tweeting Don. Again his move, like his many contradictions, is perfectly in character. One moment he is making strident calls against shithole countries where strong men cling to power and kill their own people (he even excludes some of them from a dinner he hosted in DC) – the next he is giving them jets to kill more.
Perhaps unlike the UK, America knows Cameroon inside-out. Given the strategic interest Yaounde represents in the sub-Region, the US embassy is a lot more than just a diplomatic outpost. With his ubiquitous network of geckos Trump cannot pretend to be unaware of the crimes against humanity attributed to the regime’s army – the mass murders, the razing of villages, the plundering of farms to wipe out the next harvest – and one hopes sincerely that Yaounde can reassure the world, by allowing independent verification, that this weekend’s gassing allegations in Lebialem are truly false.
So if you were dealing with a normal US President, you would ask how come he can give war planes to an army that does that to people it calls its own. But President Trump is a maverick whose mission seems to be to make a mockery of all the values that made America the greatest country on this planet.
His donation comes at a time when Yaounde is throwing everything it has into the bloody war he declared against former Southern Cameroonians. That context makes absolute nonsense of Trump’s claim that the planes are meant for the fight against Boko Haram. He cannot be unaware that he is aiding and abetting genocide, especially after Yaounde’s made it clear that the use of the planes for other operations was not excluded.
Trump’s embarrassing behaviour is certainly not seen here as a testament to America’s interest in keeping Cameroon one and indivisible. He certainly is aware that the level of ongoing carnage in the wake of the war has generated so much antipathy for the Yaounde regime that it would take a miracle of confidence building to make reconciliation an option. In the event of an unavoidable split, Trump certainly knows what America stands to gain by backing the one side or the other. It does seem, however, that his donation to Yaounde is more a gesture to France, America’s ally whose parasitic interest in Cameroon he cannot afford to hurt, at a time when he needs Macron’s support on many other fronts.
What this means is that the strong of this world can no longer be relied upon to stand up for the oppressed, if doing so is likely to offend a friend or jeopardise some interest. That makes for a world where interests are omnipotent and principles impotent; a very unsafe world for the rising number of peoples whose very existence is threatened by blood-thirsty regimes.
When the big interests with their veto power pocket the UN, shielding offenders from international justice, is it any surprise that terrorism has become a global pandemic? If America cannot persuade France to make Biya seek a sensible solution to the Southern Cameroons problem, what happens if the young men they are now radicalising end up in the embrace of terrorist groups like Boko Haram or ISIS? After all, what do you expect by insisting on lumping them together? Children tend to resemble the names you give them. What can two jets do about that, when France and America are themselves living daily in the fear of terrorist attacks at home?
May, Trump, Macron and the rest of the club must be reminded, while there is still time, that the bands of desperados they create in the pursuit of their selfish interests abroad will not fail to haunt them at home.

‘Bami’ cash for ‘anglo’ blood?

It is rare for a journalist to hope or pray that a scoop turns out a non-story. But it cannot be otherwise when the social media breaks two news items in the same week about a most unseemly piece of behaviour on the part of the state. The first was that Yaounde is wooing Bamileke businessmen to fund the war against the Restoration of former Southern Cameroons. Not that there is anything wrong with appealing for patriotic support for a nation’s war effort. But here’s why such an appeal, if it did happen, must raise eyebrows:
1. Boko Haram apart, Cameroon is not at war with any foreign enemy. What we have is the regime waging an unjustifiable war against people it claims are part of its “one and indivisible” nation.
2. After what many believe to have been an unsuccessful cap-in-hand trip to China, such an appeal for funding along tribal lines would be an avowal of the scale of the economic mayhem the President must have unleashed on the country by declaring the war in the first place. At the same time it is a consolidation of the regime’s policy of obduracy against the search for a more sensible and far less costly resolution to the conflict. That speaks to President Biya’s lamentable lack of leadership.
3. The regime has always lumped the Bamileke together with former Southern Cameroonians (Anglo-Bamis) as people that must be kept at political arm’s length. Could it now be seeking alms from one of them to fund a war against the other, while the princes of the regime who have “dry-cleaned” the public coffers are sitting in Kondengui, but with their loot safe in foreign accounts?
4. The argument allegedly being used to woo them is that if former Southern Cameroonians are allowed to break away, they will confiscate or destroy Bami investments in their territory. Smart attempt to butter the susceptibilities of a money-minded ethnic group! But this would be a miserable misreading of both communities. First it would be taking the Bamileke for absolute morons. These are a people on whom Yaounde, under Ahidjo, once visited genocide on a scale comparable only to Rwanda – because they stood for the independence of Cameroon. To give those wounds time to heal after they were betrayed by their own Government in their war against French exploitation, the Bamileke have directed their energies into empowering themselves economically. And what snag has the current regime not thrown at them to thwart that empowerment? Are they now being asked to funnel the fruit of that uphill struggle into a senseless, unnecessary war against “their anglo brothers” whose only crime (like Bamis’ in the early 60s) is that they are demanding equity and respect as a people.
5. The regime would also appear to be measuring former Southern Cameroonians by the mentality of some tribesmen in and around Yaounde, who have, at every turn of the road, threatened to plunder local “Anglo-Bami” investments in and around the national capital. If the allegations were to prove founded, Yaoundé would now be asking the Bamileke to fear and distrust the only people who harboured them when Ahidjo’s military were hounding them through the forests of French Cameroons.
6. Bamileke and Bassa fugitives who crossed into former Southern Cameroons met with untold hospitality and when they settled thereafter, the symbiosis was proverbial. Even in Tombel where the killing of three native Bakossi men sparked the regrettable two-day “broomstick war”, healing returned very quickly. A Bamileke woman even became Mayor of that town – something you can’t dream of in most other ethnic communities.Quite frankly, one has learnt not to put Yaounde beyond any inanity, but to expect any sensible Bami – as indeed any patriotic Cameroonian – to fund genocide against warm-hearted brothers who have always been there for them, the brain damage must be quite advanced.
One reason all this had better not be true, is that if Bami were gullible enough to be taken in by this alleged ploy, it could identify them as ingrates and traitors in the eyes of the restorationists, and hence promptly and effectively put them and their investments in the firing line. In that way, they would, in trying to run away from the rain, get soaked by the dew. And in any case, if the thing went tribal, while hardworking tribes like the Bami fund the war, what would be the contribution of the lazy, binging tribes?
As we said earlier, this matter of “Bamifunding” is only one of two social media allegations begging to be promptly debunked by Yaounde, lest this war against former Southern Cameroons restoration rears more unexpected gorgon heads. The other is a foreign dimension which we will explore subsequently.

Bogus elections fuel voter apathy

For the better part of this decade serious opinion leaders and Civil Society Organisations have been working flat out to stem the tide of voter apathy in Cameroon. Independent of ELECAM (the toothless official Elections Management Board), they ran an unprecedented media campaign to win back those who no longer believed in elections as a reliable instrument of political change. Systemic and systematized electoral fraud had pushed millions to the conclusion that their votes did not count and so it was pointless casting them. It became an open secret that the ruling party tailored the result of every election to suit its agenda, using every rigging technique in the book – from gerrymandering through vote buying to the stuffing of ballot boxes.
But as a testament to the success of Civil Society’s campaign to reverse this trend the last municipal, legislative and presidential elections registered a commendable upsurge in voter participation.
Now the regime, by the just-ended charade called Senatorial elections, has undone in one stroke all the work that these stakeholders took so long to do. Electoral mismanagement is winning the tug-of-war again.
Ask any member of the ruling CPDM party about that election and they answer you with a swagger, “We decided to give only one Region (the Northwest) to the opposition.” In this assertion, they seem to throw all caution to the wind, mindless that they are actually confirming allegation of electoral fraud. But even ignoring their bluster, one has to be blind to not see the systemic fraud built into the electoral code itself, with the complicity of a legislature that is a product of the same fraud.
1. The law required the senatorial elections to be preceded by municipal elections since it is the councilors who elect the senators. Now there is a so-called Anglophone elite who noisily claims paternity for the idea of making the Council and Senatorial elections swap places. The establishment embraced the proposal, fearing that the opposition might sweep the councils and hence elect a hostile senate. Nobody in the ruling party raised a finger about the illegality of this exercise, and a President who swore to defend the Constitution implemented it with no qualms. Somebody, please, tell Mr. Biya that that is called shifting the goal posts in the course of play, and that is fraud.
Councilors interviewed after the election were unapologetic about having voted for the candidates on the lists approved by party hierarchy, meaning their party chair who happens to be President Biya. And so the President has not only the last word on who can be CPDM senator among the 70 out of 100, but also the prerogative to appoint the remaining 30 all by himself. Gosh! What kind of outrageous law could put so much power in the hands of one man in this day and age?
Needless to reiterate that this sham election took place while the country was, and still is at war – a clear indication that power and position matter more to the establishment than do the lives of citizens. Now you have a CPDM senate, and willy-nilly, if the same causes produce the same effects, maneuvers in the works will produce a CPDM-dominated parliament. All the national institutions will thus be managed by the same zombies, with none of them having conscience enough to say, “for God’s sake, this has been going on for too long and I want out,” and none recognizing that Cameroon needs a new direction.
And since everybody’s survival in the ruling party is manifestly predicated on working to keep Biya in power, he does not even have to have declared his candidacy to be sure that the outcome of the elections will be custom-tailored to satisfy his mania for power, or better still, to comfort him in his fear of what could befall him, were he to lose it.
This foregone victory for Biya and his party can only be a death blow to democracy in Cameroon, because it is an open invitation for the ghost of voter apathy to come galloping back. The political process in Cameroon has been reduced to a puppet show with one man pulling the strings, and that cannot but vindicate those who hold that change has to come by some means other than through the ballot box. And that is a sleep-depriving prospect.
On the verge of losing its battle against voter apathy, Civil Society is now reduced to rallying to observe the elections. Their hope, in so doing, is not that their action could miraculously force due process in the conduct of the elections, but that their exit reports (parallel tabulation) would give the world the true picture of the goings-on. That, in turn, would be in the hope that international opinion, if properly informed, will take appropriate measures to bring the regime to the straight and narrow. As for how willing or able that international community is to do its job, that is another kettle of fish.

Straddling the wall of shame

President Biya is on record as flaunting his executive privilege in an interview with Eric Chinje, when he boasted that with a mere nod of his head he could make and unmake people, in the sense of appointing them to high positions or sacking them.
And all his appointees, actual or prospective, have taken that statement very much to heart. Hear them talk about their work or anything – it all begins and ends with paying tribute to him, giving him paternity and praise for every initiative. They are all so self-effacing they dare not be heard to take credit for any achievement. And you can say they expect thereby to be absolved of the blame for what goes wrong since the President does all the thinking, and it would be redundant for them to do any.
That makes sinecures of most public offices in Cameroon, and reduces all appointees to idle worshippers, eternally thankful for unmerited privileges.
That is why it has been deemed an act of sacrilegious contumacy for any appointee to either decline an appointment or resign from any position.
That usage, like many others, is changing with the ongoing crisis. Appointments, especially to administrative posts, which were hitherto occasions of great celebration, are now the subject of great hesitation and apprehension. And that is an understatement, given the fearful faces one sees on TV when a new DO or SDO is being commissioned to replace another in the war zone, who was either kidnapped or killed. In what looks like a landmark case, one such official is alleged to have been sacked for turning down a deployment. As to what message that sends to his replacement or to any others appointed in like circumstances, your guess is as good as ours. But when administrators are, to say the least, no longer excited to be deployed in these parts of the country; when even more senior administrators stop rattling the sabre, move their families out of the affected Regions and only drive thereto and back every day under heavy guard, you don’t need a prophet to discern the signs of the times. A clear line has emerged which demands extraordinary courage to cross, both for civilian public servants and for the military.
Without admitting it, the Yaounde regime started drawing that line furtively in the minds of Anglophones the day Biya unilaterally mutated the country from the Federal Republic to La Republique du Cameroun. That line eventually became the foundation on which all and sundry now behold a rising Berlin-like wall with the blood of Cameroonians serving as mortar.
For the increasingly hazardous job of straddling that wall, Biya’s nod has fallen on an Atanga Nji, ostensibly to reward him for his vocal denials of the very existence of the line until it became a publicly acknowledged wall, but also as an expendable robot, knowing the level of bad blood between him and the people of the two Regions. In the judgment of many, the regime couldn’t care less about what happens to him for working against his own kith and kin.
And come to think of it, why does Biya create a new and separate ministry of Decentralization just when he appoints Atanga Nji as the first-ever Anglophone Minister of Territorial Administration? The divide between the two ministries is not readily perceptible, hence the suspicion that the one will do the dirty work while the other manages the trust, and who of the two will do what job, is anybody’s guess. After all, it is not new to have even junior francophone ministers and officials wielding more power than their Anglophone superiors. By the way, isn’t this whole conundrum about people from the English-speaking territory being seen but not heard for too long?
And as if by mere happenstance, in the rapid succession of SDOs and Dos in the war zone there is a perceptible policy of making the replacements mostly people from the same zone, like Atanga Nji, now their boss. Is that to say, “Let the dogs bite their own”, or because Francophones are refusing to risk their lives in what they see as somebody else’s war? Or else could this be, as some seem to suggest, an early warning of Yaounde’s plan of full-scale genocide, and an attempt to avoid useful casualties?
This leaves the restorationists between a rock and a hard place. Their fighters certainly face the tough choice between pulling their punches when they have to deal with their own from the opposing side, and throwing away the baby with the bath water.
In the meantime, that costly wall of shame is getting thicker and higher, with Yaounde, perhaps unconsciously, toeing the separatist line by phasing out francophone command-and-control in the embattled territory.
Now the regime’s indivisibility rhetoric hits this wall and the echo that comes back is laughter – because indivisibility is about building bridges, not walls.
Even attrition, the regime’s choicest weapon, has become too costly to maintain, and loss of face is now a barely avoidable prospect. So somebody will have to bite the bullet and cut the losses.
As the greater force in the fight, and especially as the one who declared the war, the regime can still take the moral upper by initiating a cessation of hostilities and a resumption of meaningful dialogue. But any dialogue is doomed to failure if it does not realistically take into account the costs incurred and still likely to be incurred in the belligerence, and the territory gained or lost so far on both sides. Justifiable concessions will be necessary.

The lamb in the lion’s court

“You send a child out to buy salt and the next thing you know is that you are fetching his corpse from the mortuary, or collecting money from relatives and neighbours to ransom him from the troops before he is transferred to Kondengui (maximum security prison) some 33 miles away in Yaounde.” This is the simple but graphic picture of the daily reality in a community besieged and starved of electric power for not less than four days at a time.
The siege, now replicated in a growing number of Anglophone towns and villages, is the work of a fire-and-fury expedition apparently sanctioned by Yaounde to punish the communities for killing a Government soldier or official, or for any act of defiance to authority from Etoudi.
In these few, euphemistic words, this statement sketches a people’s impotence and resignation vis-à-vis a state that pulls no punches in dealing with any form of dissent. It speaks of the blind, unrestrained visitation on innocent children of the State’s raw and primitive rage for offenses whose authors it is equipped to investigate if it could be bothered to. It brings to mind the story of the lion deciding to eat a little lamb, as punishment for muddying the water which the lion wanted to drink.
“When did this happen”, asked the lamb, shivering.
“That was two years ago”, replied the lion.
“Sorry, sir, I was not even born then.”
“Then it must have been one of your brothers.”
“I am my mother’s only child, Sir.”
And no excuse was good enough to get the little lamb off the hook, because the lion had decided to have him for lunch.
Most of all, the statement spotlights the corruption and shocking cupidity that underlie the ongoing war, and explains why it must rage on despite the hair-raising cost in both military and civilian lives. Short of summarily executing them, the officers hold young men to ransom, demanding anything from FCFA 300,000 to a CFA one million, with the threat of indefinite detention hanging over their heads like the sword of Damocles. That is what public servants in Cameroon do best – pushing people to a tight corner and farming their despair.
The paradox is that these troops are purportedly deployed to defend the unity of Cameroon, and yet in their every act they strengthen the case for separation. What could Biya possibly do now to convince the millions who have seen their relatives raped, tortured, maimed, killed, detained or flushed out and their homes razed to the ground, that this Cameroon can still be their country?
Weak human institutions without character often take on the character of those who lead them. Most leaders we know would promptly cut short a foreign trip and run back home when some accident, natural disaster or terrorist attack takes the lives of a handful of their citizens.
President Biya’s recent trip to China in the midst of the calamitous happenings in the country is only the latest of his many demonstrations of insensitivity to the loss of Cameroonian lives.
But coming from him, neither that nor the fact of calling elections in the midst of all the bloodshed, no longer surprises anyone. What takes our breath away is the fact that the callousness has so rubbed off on State institutions that even councilors from the affected areas could still afford to go out and elect people into a chamber that has systematically looked the other way while their constituents were being massacred and disposed of home and property?
It all seems to feed the illusion that divide-and-rule is working, since the regime seems to be succeeding in divorcing the traditional rulers and the so-called elite from the people, by making them put their hearts where their mouths are.
In so doing, Yaounde is emasculating the traditional institutions in the Anglophone Regions ahead of the elusive decentralization it claims can solve the so-called “crise Anglophone.” No one is surprised if it does not occur to the new vassal in charge of that portfolio that such emasculation makes the traditional rulers the more easily expendable. He must have learnt nothing from the Balikumbat and Kom people in this regard. As for the members of the chambers of shame, they may well be allowed to live in their fools’ paradise with the money their chieftain may have borrowed from the Chinks, but they are far less relevant and more expendable than the rulers. So they can bay the moon while the caravan passes as they are wont to do – but a stray bullet cannot tell a senator’s kinsman from a ‘nobody’.
And what if… just what if, someday the popcorn starts popping closer to home for those who are now making brisk business of the war? Has Yaounde thought about that? It is easy to raze Kwakwa or Kembong or Ngwandi. What would you do with Elig-Edzoa or Mvog-Atangana-Mballa for instance?
It is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore Johnson Suleiman’s prophecy that Southern Cameroonians are nothing but sacrificial lambs for a blood-thirsty cultic warlord. But all said and done, no human being, however elevated in the occult, can go beyond their God-determined tether. They may laugh like the Egyptian magicians at Moses’ rod but their snakes end up being eaten up.
Biya must realize that by waking up now and calling a halt to this madness, he would be saving not just Anglophone lives but those of his own kinsmen in the long run. That is a fact that impressive displays of state military might will not change.
The problem seems to be that we who claim to have the Omnipotent God on our side have reduced our dependence on him to mere symbolism. The churches can organize a few days of half-hearted prayers and then go back to the business of sowing seeds and raising funds for this or that project. Is the bloodletting in Cameroon not serious enough to warrant a Nineveh-type showdown with God? Or has the faith of all Christians also fallen under some cultic spell?

Who is fueling secession?

They have been up to due diligence, and making no bones of it. Thus the media are unambiguously instructed to self-censor on the subject of secession. The team must have had undisclosed reason, or some irresistible prompting, to come kicking in what, by all indications, is an open door. If anything, the “publish-and-perish” injunction did unnecessary bad publicity for the Government or whoever ordered it. Bad publicity because it registered as a public proclamation that Government is backtracking in matters of press freedom. Unnecessary because it seems evident that recalcitrant media houses are already handling that subject with thick gloves and a pair of tongs.
Be that as it may, one must venture on the ability of the censors to draw the line between appeals for secession and the exposure of the bumblings and policy failings which continue to fuel the secession drive.
Take it or leave it, Cameroon is a house on fire, and the Government is at pains to project secession as that fire, whereas it is the smoke from a fire that has been smoldering for all these decades. The real fire is the Government’s chronic insensitivity to the disaffection of a segment of the population, fueled by an unbelievable level of institutionalized dishonesty. Government, you’ve got to be told that to your face.
It had been public knowledge for quite a while now, that this would be election year, and we have all accepted elections as a dependable instrument of democratic change. But a sensitive and responsive Government would know that with the unfolding of events since September 22 last year; with the clear and generalized expression of disgust by Southern Cameroonians for the way they have been treated – it simply cannot be business as usual. How are we to understand that a Government that swears by the indivisibility of Cameroon now gives priority to elections while the country is on the verge of implosion? How much longer can Government continue to treat as insignificant the feelings that Southern Cameroonians have been expressing all this while, many of them putting their very lives on the line? Cameroon is facing the greatest ever single threat to its integrity as a nation and neither Parliament nor the Senate has bothered to deliberate on it – perhaps because, muck like the cart pulling the horse, they need the Executive’s permission. And Cameroonians are watching this, not long after hearing how the President of neighbouring Nigeria had to seek permission from parliament to prolong his health leave abroad. Is not that a sign of the irrelevance of parliament and senate – and hence an argument against the importance we seem to attach to the coming elections into these echo chambers?
In case Cavaye, Niat and their bands are not aware, their silence amounts to unacceptably bad judgment and a culpable dereliction of duty. And, talking about duty, we at The Rambler are doing ours by calling on them to do theirs. They have to be told, in case they don’t know, that more than any newspaper editorial or radio or Tv broadcast, the silence of the institutions is fueling secession and contributing to escalate the resort to desperate means.
Would there be the same silence if the carnage in Kembong or Batibo were happening in the North or West?
Is there nobody in those two houses who has the good sense to see that this spate of killings, arsons and abductions will never get us out of the woods – that this war of Biya’s will never be won? Are they all so naïve as to still believe that, thanks to massive military might and bestial repression, the caravan will hurtle past while the Anglophone dog continues to bay?
Are we the only ones hearing how much this war is draining the public purse and enriching the military top brass at the expense of the rank and file who, like the population of Southern Cameroons, are dying in droves?
Stories from the front about Odeshi and pigmy fetishes, red ribbons on gun muzzles and little mystery sticks may make the unsuperstitious smirk, but the casualty counts are more than telling, give or take a little doctoring. And we’ll be busy conducting elections, making and celebrating appointments, making believe that all’s well, while the sinister see-saw between fire power and fetish power is bleeding the country white in every way. Wonder who has bewitched us thus, but it’s about time we cast off that spell.