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.

When a dog eats its own puppies

When a bitch begins to eat her own puppies you can tell one of three things is happening – famine has hit on a life-and-death scale, or she has lost control either of the litter, or she has lost her mind.
Cameroon has become that weirdo of a bitch that is voraciously devouring its own puppies, and it is anybody’s guess which of the above catastrophes has befallen it. We dare suggest that may well be a combination of all three.
When Ahidjo razed down Bamileke and Bassa villages in the early sixties it could have been argued that it was not the decision of a head of State. He was a surrogate of France, handpicked to read speeches about a nation he knew little about, and had Hobson’s choice when it came to implementing pro-French, anti-nationalist polices. He saw Cameroon through glasses tinted by French exploitative deceit, and the spirit of Cameroon as a nation did not inhabit him until the last decade of his stint in power.
Biya, like his peers of the pré-carré, is still under the thumb of the Elysee, though he cannot lay claim to the same excuses as Ahidjo for continuing to serve French rather than Cameroonian national interest.
He has had the benefit of a good education and greater pre-service exposure to statesmanship. He inherited a nation that was no longer just a geographical expression but a complete socio-political reality. So what will excuse him before history for repeating Ahidjo’s mistake? When people are arrested, they are often told they have a right to remain silent, as whatever they say may be used as evidence against them. How can President Biya ever exculpate himself for unleashing a genocidal war on the people of Southern Cameroons, especially if he sees them as an integral part of what he calls an indivisible nation?
Now let us look at the possible reasons a bitch can be eating her own puppies.
1. Loss of control over the litter. Because he devoted too much of his resources to living it up abroad, to the utter neglect of complaints that threatened the integrity of the nation, he finally lost moral authority over the complainants. To subdue them, and indeed any other form of dissent, the only trapping of power he has left is military brutality. But the heartlessness with which he is going about that suggests that the malaise may be deeper. African wisdom says rats in the same house fight with their tails rather than with their teeth. It is virtually impossible to convince anyone that the calamity being visited on the people of Kembong, Kwakwa, Ebonji, Batibo or Mofako is the work of the security forces of their own country and not that of some savage foreign invaders. President Biya has to take responsibility for these outrageous acts, whether the perpetrators are acting on his instructions or he has lost control of them too. And the scorched earth policy they seem to be implementing cannot but lead to ultimate loss of control over the victimized populations, unless it will be control over the land after having exterminated the entire Southern Cameroons population. Every new day that breaks, every new house that is burnt, every new person that is shot, makes reconciliation between them and the Biya regime that much less conceivable.
2. Acute famine. The war in Cameroon may well be a response to the threat of famine, especially from a “chop-broke-pot” regime that is used to eating without thinking of tomorrow. By famine here we refer to general economic mayhem. The prospect of losing Southern Cameroons causes the specter of famine to loom, given that that is where the breadbasket is. Even before this crisis, and perhaps more as a result thereof, Biya’s henchmen, rather than help him produce more and consume less, have shifted into higher kleptocratic gear – shamelessly stashing billions away in their ceilings and wardrobes where they cannot cart them abroad. And send a thief to catch a thief.
So SCEXIT is bound to usher the lean cows into Etoudi, and when Yaounde sneezes, Paris cannot but catch the cold. France makes no bones of the fact that without the exploitation of its African pré-carré it will become a third world country. With increasing nationalists awaking in Africa, that pre-carre is coming apart and that puts the French economy in dire straits. So the fear of famine must account for the planting the French are alleged to be doing in Kembong. Ironically, they are said to be planting either landmines or motion detectors, not cassava or plantains.
The crowning irony about this war is that instead of saving Yaounde from famine, it will exacerbate it. It is doing so already. And a hungry soldier is an angrier man, and eventually no soldier at all. This may be the link between the famine and the loss of control.
3. Brain damage. You may lose your livelihood and control over your family, but to end up eating your own children, you have to have lost something else – your mind. When this last loss comes in the form of senility due to age, it is best to withdraw from public life and manage it in the dignity and intimacy of one’s family. When it is the after-effect of …, sensible people submit to medical help for catharsis. They don’t wait until they hit the streets in the “Emperor’s new suit.”

Ganging up to rape justice

How can a system corrupt everything it touches? Words which elsewhere represent cardinal principles and sacred values are officially distorted and emptied of meaning in Cameroon. The phrase “State of Law” is one of them. Properly used, the State (with the definite article and capital S) refers to the Government of the nation – that is the setup of principles and laws adopted by the nationals to protect their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The expression “State of law” is therefore redundant, for without law there is no State. (State presupposes law).

Listen to the fervour with which apologists of the regime pontificate on Cameroon being a State of law. Then watch the levity with which the laws are made and implemented.  Observe the total disregard for natural justice which should be the marrow of all respectable laws. Watch the steamroller state crush anyone who dares object to its tinkering with the law, including the fundamental law of the land. You have a hard time finding a more appropriate qualifier for such a state than rogue.

Agents of the State outdo themselves daily in violating the same citizens’ rights they are paid to secure. In their bid to assert the authority of the State, they have normalized such outrageous behavior as public molestation, rape, arbitrary arrests and detention of citizens. Their impunity has been boundless since the President’s recent declaration of war on terrorists of his imagination. When you look at what happened in Kembong, Kwakwa and Taadu, you wonder if this is the work of a foreign vandal army on a hate expedition or just undisciplined security forces taking advantage of their deployment to settle personal scores.   The torching of whole villages is a repeat of the atrocities Bamileke and Bassa communities suffered at the hands of the French in the early sixties. They were called terrorists then, like the “Anglos” today. Later such monster “maquisards” as Ernest Ouandie and Felix Moumie were recognized as nationalists. And the State has learnt nothing about offhandedly stigmatizing citizens and even killing them for their opinions.

In applying the same epithet to Southern Cameroonian separatists today and hunting them down with the same fury, the State does not even remember that it has two legal systems, including one based on presumption of innocence. It does not seem to occur to Yaounde, notably to the Government’s Tchiroma, that the people they are branding as terrorists and condemning before trial come from Southern Cameroons where presumption of innocence applies.  Isn’t it sheer permissiveness to arrest people for yet-to-be-substantiated offenses committed in the Northwest or Southwest and systematically transfer and detain them in Yaounde where a different legal system holds sway? When will it dawn on the State that the so-called “Anglophone” crisis is actually a crisis of State lawlessness?

The saga involving the Julius Ayuk Tabe and his fellow Ambazonian leaders has cut a shamefully grotesque picture of both Nigeria and Cameroon as States of law. Their gangster-like modus operandi looks more like partnership in crime than collaboration between civilized nations. The Nigerian police had the right and the possibility to issue a warrant of arrest against these people if they were thought to have committed some offense. Nigeria being a Common Law State, they would have been tried in a court there on the basis of presumption of innocence. But the DSS bypasses due process and resorts to abduction. They must have learnt that from Boko Haram.

The question of whether to extradite the abductees or not should not even have arisen until the court in Nigeria had found them guilty. Instead, no trial! Total complicit silence! Total disregard for the writ of habeas corpus! Total shut off from family, friends and legal counsel. Total disdain for all instruments of international law to which both Nigeria and Cameroon are signatories.Total insensitivity to the right of their spouses and children to be in touch with them, at least while they are still to be tried.

We are in the video age, and seeing is believing. Minister Tchiroma must know that in this day and age, his word alone is not enough to assure anybody that these people are alive. The absence of video footage of their transfer from Nigeria to Cameroon, and the fact that not even their lawyers have had access to them since this saga began, can only fuel growing suspicions that they have been summarily executed.

The only way for both States (Nigeria and Cameroon) to shake off their rogue stigma in this matter is to come clean, and return to legality. We know the way Nigerians feel about their Government’s ineptitude in this matter, and trust them for holding their Government to account. What we don’t know is whether Asso Rock has inoculated itself against the fallout of this kind of loss of face in the eyes of the world. As for Etoudi, immunity to censure seems systemic. But it is impossible to be indifferent to the spiraling cost of this pointless, ramifying war. Any responsible and responsive leadership could have prevented it by recognizing the problem in time and showing a commitment to seeking solutions. Now a prisoner of his own arrogance, President Biya will probably need to drum up the material resources to delete “terrorists and secessionists” from the map, (perhaps with the help of France and its vassal states in the neighborhood), or else muster the moral resources to reverse the alarming trend of radicalization. He, or whoever acts in his stead henceforth, must look at the age range of the main actors in this standoff, and understand that the backlash of his campaign of contempt and hate will span coming generations.  Abducting, even executing a handful of leaders will not change that. Even the blind can see that Southern Cameroonian youth have crossed the threshold of fear. Violence has clearly not worked. Try something else.




Francophones are not the enemy

Be not derailed by the reckless rhetoric which seeks to pit Anglophones against Francophones in the ongoing conflict rocking Cameroon. We have posited in an earlier editorial, and still insist, that the name “Anglophone” is a misnomer for the people of Southern Cameroons. France and its vassal states can hold on to their francophone identity because, like Fame Ndongo’s two cubes of sugar in a drum of water, they are struggling not to be dissolved and lost in an English-dominated world.

For Southern Cameroonians, English is only part of a universal culture and set of values to which they were exposed during the trusteeship days, and which they have since espoused. The Yaoundé regime is bent on reducing Southern Cameroons to a mere linguistic expression, in a bid to counter the osmotic pressure from a stronger culture.

Were this uniquely about French and English, what fools we would be, fighting a proxy war on behalf of two countries that exploited us! And by the way, were we British and French colonies as such? A colony is defined as a geographical area politically controlled by a distant country. The Cameroons were a German colony.  France and Britain did not conquer and colonise us. They were mandated by the League of Nations to help prepare us for independence after the Germans were routed in World War II.

The regime in Yaounde is behaving with the French like a girl who is so used to being sexually abused by a foster father that she cannot come to terms with putting paid to the abuse. And as if to share the shame in this kind of behavior, the regime tries very hard to make it look like Southern Cameroons are behaving in the same way like the British.

But history makes the falsity of that claim visible even to the blind. Yet Yaounde is intentionally stuck with that illogic, in the ostensible hope of using it to forge some semblance of synergy among the Francophones against “secessionists who want to destabilize” their country. And that is because it is aware of the entire country’s growing disaffection with its litany of failed policies.

Lest this false narrative beguile some Francophones, it must be known that Southern Cameroonians are NOT at war with them. In fact many of them are heard to say that what they call the “Anglophones problem” is actually a “Cameroonian problem.”

Is that an expression of implicit solidarity with Southern Cameroonians whoare being treated as sub citizens, and even sub humans? If it is, then they are perhaps too cowardly to show it in public.

But if by Cameroon problem they meant that the mistreatment of Southern Cameroonians is only one of the many manifestations of bad governance, then that would be tantamount to the recognition of the Southern Cameroonians as fighting on their behalf too. Again they are too emasculated to even support them openly. Instead they are busy preparing for elections as if nothing wrong were happening, while Southern Cameroonians are dying, with their homes and property torched. And it’s not only Francophones. Even Anglophone MPs, Senators, and the SDF have adopted the same business-as-usual attitude.

The Rambler would love to address this message not only to the Francophones but also to Southern Cameroonians, especially the “Tigers” who have been sabre rattling against Francophones lately.

Yes, you must have been shocked at the wave of euphoria among most Francophones when the news broke that Ayuk Tabe and his aides were arrested in Nigeria and repatriated to Cameroon. But the rest of the francophones may have jubilated simply because they thought that was the beginning of the end for the Southern Cameroonian struggle which was disturbing their business.

Now they know better. The wave of panic that swept the territory last  week, and the developments reported in Kupe Muanenguba this week attest that the resistance is not about to peter out, with or without Ayuk Tabe.

It can be argued that those who don’t stand with you are against you. But remember we are operating in a context of well cultivated collective cowardice.

So who is the enemy? It is not a people but a political setup that seems to make a mockery of the very raison d’être of Government. That setup has the jitters about anything that could upset the applecart, especially as elections approach. And the current shift of rhetoric to the election is to galvanize accomplices for the maintenance of the status quo. The question to ask, however, is whether the system thinks it has the magic to make all the bereaved, homeless and destitute Southern Cameroonian families suddenly swallow their grief and go out to register and vote.

The answer seems to be playing out at the police stations. Reportedly, everyone who goes there for a new ID card is asked if they have a voter’s card. If they don’t, their photos and credentials are taken for what many suspect as forceful voter registration. Many further suspect that this might serve to authenticate fake voters, come polling time. Applying that to the current crisis, it would then be possible to claim that many Southern Cameroonians registered to participate in the elections, in the hope of convincing the world that the “secessionists” are just a small minority of agitators. That falsehood which ignores and deliberately misrepresents real feelings and aspirations of the people is a key attribute of the real enemy.



Of intimidation, capitulation of decimation

Yaounde must be having orgasms about having at last found justification for whatever it grudgingly invested in the road link to Kumbo, Mamfe and Kumba. Constructed by foreign partners and perceived in Yaounde as a waste of resources for the benefit of undeserving Anglos, the road network now comes in handy, enabling the regime’s butchers to speedily shift their slaughter slabs from Jakiri through Bafut and Mamfe to Kwakwa.

“Kwakwa” is a pidgin phoneme mimicking a knock at the door, and last week it was the roving angel of death that was knocking at the door of the hitherto sleepy town along the Kumba-Mbonge road. Voices muted in fear, anguish and shock were heard in stealthy phone calls from villagers hiding in the bushes, to friends and relatives far and wide. Eyewitness accounts spoke of deserted villages as every living thing in the area fled from sustained gun battles involving ground assault units with airborne support on the one hand and a bunch of apparently ill-equipped youths on the other.

Hospital sources in Kumba were unanimous in the use of the word “overflow” with reference to casualties dead and injured. Our territory has become a vast expanse of bushes so dry and flammable that any careless smoker can start a conflagration with the casual flick of a cigarette stub. In Kwakwa, rows of houses have been razed to cinders in the midst of which lie the charred remains of Ma Paulina, a blind grandma in her mid-90s, abandoned by fleeing relatives as their homes were torched.

Reports say the casual flick that lit up the inferno in Kwakwa was the murder of a Chief after he allegedly defied a local administrator who could not brook contumacy, given his title and especially his name and ethnic extraction. And that triggered the spiral of retaliation, punitive expeditions and more of the same by the day.

Yesterday, it was Kumbo and Jakiri that were fired up by the spirit of resistance invoked by Hon Wirba. At that time some spineless bellyticians from the Southwest made it sound like this was “graffi” zealotry. The Southwest, to them, was not concerned with those grievances, or was too “civilized” to fight over them. Then swaggering Yaounde went flexing its muscles in Mamfe – apparently to teach them a lesson for producing an Ayuk Tabe who dared raise his head. Mass murders and arson on a wide scale became the adopted mode of punishment. That is when, even without clearance from Ayuk Tabe, young men in Mamfe decided they would rather die on their feet than live on their knees – after their relatives were murdered and their homes and property decimated before their very eyes.

After Mamfe it was Kwakwa’s turn, while Lebialem and Kupe Muanenguba have been sending out similar signals. Don’t be surprised that even in docile Fako the same causes will produce the same effects in due time. The message seems to be, “we are resolute in pursuing self-determination by peaceful means, but we won’t turn tail if you come at us with war”.

It is hard to tell what these people are armed with as they brace up to that eventuality, but it is obvious they have resolve, and that is a lethal weapon. Like Mancho Bibixy, they have their coffins ready. That mindset makes formidable foes.

Biya’s entry into, and potential exit from the present quagmire can be summed up in three words: intimidation, capitulation or decimation.

He inherited and perpetuated an autocracy in which he is answerable to nobody, and nobody dares stand up to him. The Southern Cameroons crisis is the first time a grouping openly defies him. His high-handed response was obviously a shock-and-awe move to intimidate them, and to deter any other group that might dream of emulating them. Now he has a darned hard time coming to terms with the fact that they have refused to be intimidated despite all the murderous savagery he has visited on them.

Of the next two moves open to him, the easier one is to humbly admit that, for too long, he has trampled on the toes of these people far beyond the threshold of human tolerance. It may look like capitulation, but a leader acceding to the legitimate aspirations of his people has a different name – it is called democracy, while standing in their way is called tyranny. Using force to do so is terrorism.

The last option is monstrous. It consists in decimating the entire population of those who reject what he stands for in terms of governance. It would only be an amplification of the bestiality that the people have already been enduring, with only one outcome – the harder you come at them, the more adamant they become.

Mr. Biya seems to have a track record of not attending funerals, but those who have been doing so on his behalf lately should report the rising numbers which suggest that the decimation option is a boomerang.

Dialogue in detention

It is said that frequent or prolonged contact with the anus makes the finger prone to contamination with feces.  You can’t do business with the crooked without casting aspersions on your own integrity. The media marketplace is currently awash with sneak peeks from a secret meeting on the future of Southern Cameroons. Just as the distention of pregnancy ends up disproving a maid’s claims of chastity, leaks from the Abuja talks tend to present the UN and other supposed honest brokers as being in flagrante delito of bedding (complicity with) one of the parties. New York has so far not denied allegations that it sponsored the talks. Of course conflict resolution by bringing the parties to the table is a befitting role for the UN, but the gangsterly modus operandi in this case more than suggests that prolonged contact with Yaounde has contaminated the Gutieres’ finger with shit.  What a scenario for bringing people to the negotiating table! Ayuk Tabe and his collaborators are spirited away from a hotel in Abuja, purportedly by the Nigerian Secret Service. The Nigerian government is ambivalent about whether it is an arrest or abduction. Tongues get a-wagging about a retired military aide of President Buhari’s who has been shuttling between him and in Yaounde counterpart lately. The public begins to grapple with the probability that Buhari is party to a plot to have the men spirited to Yaounde a la Umaru Diko, or to Ken Sarowiwa them in Nigeria if that fails. Then we hear stuff to the effect that the abduction was a preemptive strike by DSS to save them from being taken out by hit-men deployed by La Republique. In fact grapevine even puts a blood money tag of USD 500 000 to this operation. Between reenacting Diko and playing guardian angel, Buhari suddenly finds himself buffeted by a huge groundswell of international pressure on the matter. Top-notch legal minds and groups from within Nigeria and without (including Cherie Blair) are reported to offer their services pro-bono, to stop him from implementing a non-existent extradition treaty with Yaounde, and thereby sending the men to obvious death.

All this paints a most embarrassing picture of Yaounde – the picture of as a state that cannot be trusted to deliver justice to people it calls its own citizens, the picture of sovereignty without integrity and, in terms of corruption, a “shithole” (forgive the Trumpism) that no finger can get close to without being contaminated with fecal matter.

Then, all of a sudden, it emerges that Ayuk Tabe and is his team are actually forcibly brought to the negotiating table with, among others, Yaounde and her mentor and master, France.  All those in attendance have called for dialogue to resolve the Southern Cameroon crisis but the present approach raises many questions.

  1. Did unexpected pressure convert Buhari from an accomplice abductor /executioner to a Pontius Pilate who now seeks to save face by brokering dialogue?

Were the Southern Cameroonians abducted to be delivered to Yaounde for summary execution, or with intent to bring them to the dialogue table?

Were the UN and the Commonwealth complicit in organizing gun-point dialogue at no notice to one of the parties? That would speak volumes of their integrity as arbiters. Indeed many have opined that the ultimate resolution of this crisis can only be through a referendum in Southern Cameroon organized by the UN. So, if the UN now makes its probity questionable, chances of a peaceful settlement become irreparably impaired. For a people resolute on self-determination that will leave no option but the escalation bloody conflict.

That the IG were brought to the table by abduction and without notice, is incontrovertible evidence of the type of governance Southern Cameroonians can no longer stand. Yaounde’s idea of dialogue has always been to force its monologue down the other party’s throat. This is far worse than what it did with the consortium at the earlier stages of this crisis – at least the consortium did not go to the negotiation table from detention.




End impunity, cut the losses

The news from Nigeria has been heartening. The military tribunal there just passed life and death sentences on its own soldiers for atrocities committed against civilians during the fight against Boko Haram in the North. To be celebrated in this verdict is not the death or permanent incarceration of these soldiers – they must, in some way, have contributed to containing the Boko Haram madness – but the integrity displayed by the Nigerian military. Discipline is the established hallmark of any army, and discipline is incompatible with impunity. An army in deployment has rules of conduct and any violation thereof is visited with befitting severity. This includes the killing, torture and humiliation of non-combatants and even captured combatants.  Some soldiers use war or law-and-order campaigns as a pretext to settle personal scores or to visit their ethnic hate on people in a position of weakness. These are war crimes and crimes against humanity, and when an army is not seen to identify and adequately deal with the culprits, the criminal responsibility goes up the line of command, right to the commander-in-chief.

In dealing decisively with its war criminals, the Nigerian military have demonstrated that they take the honour of their uniform seriously, with impunity as an unacceptable blemish. That act may concern only a few soldiers but its symbolism is of great significance. Indeed it is a brilliant plume in Nigeria’s hat as a leader on this anything-goes continent of ours.  Every country claims to be a state of law, but in most of Africa the network of laws is like a cobweb. It can catch all the flies, bees and butterflies but the rhinoceros beetles just plough their way through. In other words we can apply the laws when the culprits are small fry but look the other way when it comes to heavyweights.

For those Africans who keep complaining that by prosecuting our leaders for crimes against humanity the ICC is trampling on their sovereignty, Nigeria’s action speaks louder than words. As long as zero tolerance for crimes against humanity is to be applied across the board, Nigeria should, in future, not need the ICC to carry out these prosecutions.

This makes it two lessons for Cameroon in a matter of weeks, coming just after Zimbabwe’s demonstration of how to deal with a spent but sit-tight leader. Cameroon cannot pretend that this is a new lesson. If you visit the Foumban palace museum, you will see among the relics an under-sized human skull. The palace historian explains that this is the skull of a diminutive coward soldier who, in war time, used to flee the heat of battle at the front.  At the end of the battle soldiers were expected to bring home the heads of enemies they had killed. This coward would then kill some unarmed civilian and bring home his head as a war trophy. Once found out, he was killed and his skull kept as a historic testament to intolerance for war crimes.

The conduct of Cameroon’s military in Buea and Bamenda in the past few years, and especially in its recently declared war against the people of Southern Cameroons, is laced with crimes against humanity. And since nobody in the rank and file has been held publicly accountable for these misdeeds despite all the visual evidence flooding the social media, the responsibility for the crimes falls squarely on the shoulders of the commander-in-chief. And the longer the conundrum drags on the greater the carnage, the heavier the grievances, the more frightful the gravity of the case to be answered, the more inescapable the consequences, the slimmer the chances of reconciliation and the more distant the dream of oneness and indivisibility.

The picture the regime is marketing of the current crisis is that of some foreign hand trying to de-stabilize Cameroon in the guise of the Anglophone secessionist movement.  Sometimes we lie so persistently that we begin to believe our own lies. It does not take a soothsayer to tell anyone that this regime sowed the seeds of its own destabilization they day it abandoned the path of rigour and moralization and opted for social unaccountability and impunity. The head’s personal coffers are bottomless and he is surrounded by an arrogantly wealthy ethnic cabal ready to do anything and everything to avoid accountability, even if it means the whole country gets torn down. Any form of governance that gives the people a voice is a potential threat to this gang and must be blocked by all means, fair and foul. That is why they can’t imagine Biya leaving, no matter how tired he may become, unless he is to be replaced by one of them or someone they are sure to control.

It is thus obvious that the Southern Cameroons awakening sends shivers down their spines, and must be attributed to some external machination to destabilize Cameroon. That is a ploy to enlist any residue of nationalism among Francophone Cameroonians, even if the gangsters themselves no longer believe in Cameroon.  Indeed ‘The Rambler’ challenges the security services to investigate the over 50 top officials of this Government who are now rumoured to have acquired foreign nationality as a safety valve.

In any case, they know that the shedding of Southern Cameroonian blood and the blood of other innocent Cameroonian soldiers has not been in the national interest. If it is true that Biya has ordered an end to the madness, it is indeed the least he could afford to do now. He may find it a humiliation to retreat in the face of a war be declared, especially given the reports of heavy losses among his troops, but he should not be ashamed of ending a war he should never have started in the first place. And in any case, it is never too early to stop senseless bloodshed.

As for what impact the end of hostilities will have on Southern Cameroonian disaffection with his regime, that is a completely different kettle of fish.

Zombie elects from the cemetery

There is one truism about the gorgon that was born on February 11, 1961: it is terminally ill. What manifested for decades as a nagging malaise over socio-economic inequity has morphed into hate most vile – like a virulent cancer whose malignant cells have multiplied with infernal speed. Now recovery would be a miracle because by way of medication the surgeon-general has nothing but vials containing a more dangerous strain of the same pathogen – hate.

Far from stoking any fires, The Rambler searches in vain for something on which to build optimism. Certainly it is not to be found in the ruling party’s unexplained refusal to include on the parliamentary agenda a crisis that is degenerating into a bloody civil war with the makings of a pogrom. This is a regime that denied the existence of the so-called “Anglophone problem” for decades. Following the rapid escalation in the last year or so, they have come to admit it is not just a problem but now a crisis. And yet, what is it that could possibly stop a parliament that trumpets the indivisibility of the country from discussing a crisis as serious as this? One hears murmurs of party discipline. Is this some form of witchcraft or cultic enslavement? Is there some blood compact that binds everyone in the CPDM to ignore or systematically oppose anything that is likely to contravene the interest of their strong man? How else does one explain the fact that Southern Cameroonian MPs in that party join in blocking debate on a crisis in which they are losing hundreds of their kith and kin back home?

The thing got so baffling that one of them received a projectile on his head shot by a female Francophone MP from another opposition party. The poor thing could not humanly bring herself to deal with the sinister illogic of this man fighting against the interest of his home constituency.

A few days before, a Senator was reported as boasting that he demanded the heads of 30  Anglophones from his Colonel son currently on a crackdown assignment in Mamfe, adding that he needn’t fear any arraignment by the military tribunal since “le pays nous appartient” (we own the country).  In a state of law, a senator who makes this kind of statement even as a joke in a bar, would have to resign once it becomes public knowledge. But here was this guy bellowing it out on the floor of the chamber itself, because he could not stand the SDF’s insistence on having the “Anglophone crisis” on the senate’s agenda.

Even in this country such a call for mass murder would have attracted an indictment as a crime against humanity if it had come from someone who does not enjoy ethnic immunity like Mr. Obam Samuel.

A similar call for the murder of Anglophones was recently reported to have been made in a TV broadcast by a young journalist from the same tribe and bearing the same name. Is this strange happenstance or they are family, with hate in their DNA? To everybody’s shock, this “mille-collines”-type journalist is not only still walking free but also still broadcasting. So, indeed, some are more Cameroonian than others, depending on what tribe they were born in.  Some lives do matter, but not others. And this is a euphemism, if you listen to the testimonies of thousands of refugees from Mamfe now wintering in Nigeria.

Last week The Rambler conjectured that the rescinding of the Mamfe SDO’s order to evacuate the villages might be both a decoy for the local population and a ploy to distract international opinion from any intended pogrom.  We turned out to have made a real crystal ball reading. The refugee testimonies and the images of the carnage are damning. Soldiers are trained and paid to kill. All it takes is an order from hierarchy. But what kind of army would allow soldiers to force men and women to strip in public and, as if that were not enough, demand that naked girls massage the boys’ manhood before the crowd, and then beat the hell out of them for having an erection as a result? Just imagine that this is happening in villages where, with few exceptions, the people are all family. The boys and girls subjected to such a sickening ordeal are thus brothers, sisters or cousins, with their parents looking on. When Biya was declaring war, is this the level of bestiality he had in mind, or is his army gone berserk as a result of all the apparent impunity it enjoys?

In any case, we are getting used to infra-human behavior from all these sick people. Our real preoccupation is the disgusting degree to which so-called Southern Cameroonian senators appear to have been emasculated. What crime would they possibly have committed, had they refused to sit in the same senate with someone who had just called for the murder of their constituents? Their silence speaks volumes of their weightlessness – the same so-called party discipline having reduced them to nonentities. On the line from that chamber of horrors, one of them admitted to the Rambler, “There is little we can do, because we have blacklegs among us.” That clearly means they dare not say what they think and feel, for fear of reprisals.  In a proper country gutless individuals like these would never again be allowed to get anywhere near the legislature or have anything to do with political leadership. But don’t be surprised they are dreaming of reelection next year, even if their constituency will be a huge cemetery.





Courting graveyard peace, nursing seeds of vengeance

It is impossible to have listened to Paul Biya the other day at the airport without thinking of what Gratiano said about Antonio’s silence in Shakespeare’s play, ‘The Merchant of Venice.’ Paraphrased, he said some people use silence to hide their ignorance and to feign wisdom. Those who have been blaming Biya for his loud silence in the face of the Southern Cameroonian crisis must now admit that it stood him in better stead not to ope those lips at all, than to show the world, as he just did, that Sir Oracle’s coconut shell was empty.

We are aware he is a hostage to scheming hawks who censor what he should know and hence inform what he says. And his declaration of war left us conjecturing what spin he must have been fed, to make him sound so sure that Cameroon was now under terrorist attack in the name of a secessionist movement. But at least his censors appear to have given him access to some figures for once. Six policemen and soldiers killed in Mamfe. That figure is so annoying it made the President break his silence – something the killing and disappearance of hundreds of Southern Cameroonians and the flight of tens of thousands of refugees into neighboring countries never did.

Biya makes no bones about the fact that for his exaggerated longevity in power he feels indebted, not to his popularity (which is at rock bottom) but to a military that is always on hand to force his will on the people.

And he spoils them rotten in return. Just see what chunk of the nation’s budget he allocates for their comfort, even in peace time.  They are the only public servants whose promotions come with the regularity of a Swiss watch. But their overriding privilege is the total impunity they enjoy for all the outrageous things they do to the citizens in the name of national security.

It is precisely such atrocities committed in Mamfe recently that have radicalized local youths and produced the backlash Biya now calls acts of terrorism. The Government took care to put the whole of Southern Cameroons under a blanket communication blackout, seemingly to ensure that the world never gets to know who actually did what to whom in Mamfe. So when Yaounde accuses so-called terrorists of killing soldiers, it is its word against that of the local population who claim Government troops killed some of their own in order to frame the local youth, and hence justify the genocidal onslaught that Biya now seems to have given sanction to.

Could Mr. Biya have made that kind of statement without knowing that he was drawing the line between lives that matter to him and those that don’t? – Between valiant servants of his country and dogs native to an enemy country under siege?

The Biya regime has this knack for stripping words of their value. What do you reasonably expect when heavily armed troops invade a community and, on a daily basis, rape, maim, kill and disappear people before the very eyes of their loved ones? When, past the threshold of normal human endurance, these people rise up and, with the energy of despair, throw whatever they can back at the assailants, who of the two is the terrorist?

And, as usual, when he speaks, he leaves his foot soldiers to read his mind and act in any way they imagine could impress him – so that when things go dramatically amiss, he can turn around and say that was not what he meant. That is how, immediately after Mr. Biya’s declaration at Nsimalen, and while views were still diverging at what many now call a council of war with his Generals, the Senior Divisional Officer, SDO, for Mamfe orders whole villages to evacuate their homes. With one characteristically mindless order SDO Oum thus transforms tens of thousands of villagers into refugees. They either move to no one knows where, or anything may happen to them thereafter, he warns. And the blanks he leaves in his press release are promptly filled by allegations of a planned military raid in which all able-bodied local youths will be shot dead, disappeared, characteristically maimed or arrested.

Only when the alarmed population begins to flee helter-skelter, in all directions does it dawn on the Government that it is committing a crime against humanity for which someone may have to answer at the International Court of Justice, ICJ. And that sets in motion a series of panic manoeuvres. The local administrators, including the dog minder governor, realise they have embarrassed instead of impressing their paymaster. In the ensuing confusion two key hallmarks of the Biya administration are perceptible – impenitence and dishonesty.  The SDO, who signed, stamped and distributed the release to all local press organs goes back to (in his own words) “contradict” it. He goes to great length to say what is wrong with such an order, but seems to find it beneath his dignity to apologize to the population for any inconvenience it may have caused. To his credit, however, he does not claim, like his boss in Buea, that the order was fake. And while the SDO and Governor are contradicting each other, the confused population wonders if the rescinding of the order was not just to correct a tactical error, by making them stay put for the military to come and decimate. Indeed, the boot work has since been audible in the dark, suggesting that someone is biting and blowing – that while someone is un-talking the war talk as a diversionary tactic, the regime is actually walking the war walk.

And the world watches on, wondering if there really is a captain to this drifting boat – not just someone sleeping in the captain’s cabin but someone steering the course and reading the compass.

In the midst of all this bumbling, President Biya will have to do or say something else to persuade the population of Mamfe, and indeed the entire Southern Cameroons, that when he talked of restoring peace, he did not mean graveyard peace. If that is what he wants, the massive military arsenal he is now deploying all over Southern Cameroons can bring it about in the batting of an eyelid, since the population is unarmed. But he would have to bear in mind that under every tombstone in that graveyard is a seed of vengeance in hibernation.


Generals gracious to Mugabe and Grace

The exit bargain that Robert Mugabe has struck for himself and his family after what he did to Zimbabwe is palpable proof that Africans are incurably forgiving. The tottering nonagenarian stubbornly clung to power until he could clinch an immunity deal, making it obvious that what fueled his defiance was actually the fear of retribution for his abuses of power. The absolution package includes the 20,000 or more civilian deaths at the hands of his Gukurahundi brigade, which looked very much like a pogrom against the Ndebele. It also includes the 700,000 who became homeless and jobless following punitive crackdowns on opposition businesses which he called illegal. Thousands of the country’s best brains were forced into exile, either fleeing brutal repression or as a result of the complete breakdown of the Zimbabwean economy. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu put it, this is the man who, in 35 years, transformed the breadbasket of Africa into a basket case. He was quick to blame the country’s economic woes on Western sanctions to which his only answer was bull-on-the-railroad defiance. His successive Governments failed to find homegrown solutions to the deepening crisis, unable to switch from the vitriol of the liberation struggle to a new era of pragmatic diplomacy for the sake of his people.

Now in addition to the shrift, Mugabe gets a snug terminal lump sum of US $10 million, in addition to his monthly salary of US $150,000 which will flow till his death. To what does he owe all this goodwill? Zimbabweans in general may want to bury the hatchet, not least because they consider it as a blemish for their first executive president to be seen to die in disgrace. However, the decision to absolve and even reward him came from a team that was complicit with him in his exactions– and that includes the Generals who were his right hand and even his successor, Mnangagwa. It is not altogether an act of team solidarity either, given that in sacking Mnangagwa, Mugabe had shown disloyalty to the team, to the benefit of his wife and alter ego. His shrift must have come from their awareness that how they deal with Mugabe now will determine how they will be dealt with when it is their turn to fall out of grace.

Mugabe’s is a dream endgame for many African tyrants imprisoned in their palaces by the fear of retributions that await the loss of their presidential immunity. Such fear must have informed his attempts to relinquish power to his wife, just like his cronies who try to secure their exit by creating dynasties or by surrounding themselves with tribal cabals. Mugabe pushed his luck until the spectre of impeachment loomed, and was smart enough to seize the moment. Those who imitate him may not be quite so lucky.

The paradox about pride, it is said, is that it prevents some people from becoming ridiculous while it actually makes others ridiculous. Mugabe’s was clearly the latter case in point. And Zimbabweans appear to have understood earlier in the day that the pride and resilience he was flaunting in the eyes of the world had nothing to do with how they lived and felt as a people. His loyalty was to none but himself and his bloated ego. What loyalty was to be expected of a leader who openly dates his secretary and finally, for her sake, ditches the wife who saw him through the tough times of the nationalist struggle?

In any case, do we not know some members of his sit-tighter club who have gone as far as taking the lives of their spouses?

Some sage has said all men can withstand adversity but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power. Mugabe must have thought that, having led Zimbabwe out of colonial rule, he had secured an ownership right to power.

Cameroonians have been raising similar questions about the leadership of the main opposition party, the SDF. Ni John Fru Ndi had had the guts to bell the cat when Goliath Biya was bestriding Cameroon’s political arena like a Colossus. After the near miss in the 1992 election, is it fair or not for him to hang in there until he, hopefully, tastes of the power he sacrificed so much for? His answer has always been that he will stick in there only as long as the party wants him to.

While some believe their past political heroism gives them claim to power on their own terms, others cling on though they do not owe their accession to power to any known deed of valour. Cameroon’s Biya, for one, was given power on a platter of gold.

To all of them, however, Madiba Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela has an enduring lesson. Having paid a higher price than any of them, Mandela stood down at the end of a single term, when there was nobody and nothing to challenge his claim to a second term or more. Mugabe, like Biya and many others, kept playing accordion with the country’s constitution, making the country’s Senate appear and disappear at the stroke of his magic wand.

This is the time to insist that all African constitutions be amended to include a stipulation that any changes affecting a presidential mandate shall not be applicable to a sitting president. This means that   any change in term limits, amenities or powers, for instance, can only affect the next President, not the one in whose watch it was initiated.

It remains to be seen how Mnangagwa and his Generals intend to steer Zimbabwe out of the waters muddied by Mugabe’s bumbling leadership. But the genie is out of the bottle and Zimbabweans have found their voice. It’s time to switch from strong men to strong institutions.