No More Anglophones

If there is one thing to look forward to as an outcome of the much-talked-about dialogue, it is for us to cease to be called Anglophones. Depending on other outcomes, you would be welcome to call us West Cameroonians as in the decade following 1961, or Southern Cameroonians as in the preceding years.

This is with due respect to the fact that our brothers across the Mungo actually delight in being called Francophones, in obedience to their colonial master who needs that nomenclature to remind the world that she still has a sphere of influence in Africa. Arguably, today’s Francophonie can be seen as an escape from the challenge of competing with other languages, cultures and governance systems in a global arena dominated by the Anglo-Saxons. No other colonial power still finds it necessary to cling to its share from the partitioning of Africa, more than half a century after all the countries involved became independent. And the populations of these countries willingly make nonsense of their independence by clinging to their old slave identity in everything they do. They can cocoon themselves in this small colonial grouping and create their own norms, several notches below global standards.

And it is not altogether unlikely that what has come to be called the Anglophone problem in Cameroon stems from two psychological phenomena:

  1. That by insisting on upholding a completely different way of life and set of values, the Anglophones keep reminding the Francophones of what they are missing – a way of life they admire but are not allowed to adopt. In other words, the marginalization of Anglophones could actually be the expression of a cultural inferiority complex. Their growing predilection for Anglo-Saxon-style education buttresses this point.
  2. That the regime has realized that Anglophone values and attitudes are beginning to rub off on an admiring Francophone population, and that could begin to eat away on their proverbial docility. You could argue that the easy way to stop this process would be to let the Anglos go, which is what they want, to begin with. That would be a much easier option, but for the steady flow of dowry that Yaounde and France are reaping from the marriage. That is the crux of the matter, but is an aspect of the story that Yaounde cannot discuss publicly. And that explains the superficiality with which Yaounde approaches any talks – saying what it does not mean and meaning what it does not say. That is why it is more convenient for them to call Southern Cameroonian’s Anglophones, thereby reducing them to a mere linguistic entity – and by inference equal to the over two hundred linguistic groups or tribes in the country. That is why you easily hear inanities like “les Bamilekes, les Beti, les Bassa et les Anglophones.” And that is why, even in the dead heat of this crisis, all the regime could dream up as solution was the creation of a bilingualism commission. But don’t be fooled. They know it is not a language problem. They are just afraid of grappling with the huge iceberg beneath the visible tip.

That is why Southern Cameroonians should stop calling themselves Anglophones. We are not fighting a cultural or linguistic proxy war between Britain and France, knowing as we do that Britain traded us off to the French in 1961. Unlike Francophones, we are part of a global family, sharing not only the English language but a whole panoply of values and no nation in that family calls itself Anglophone.
Even in the Commonwealth of Nations, the United Kingdom as the former colonial power has had to relinquish every vestige of hegemony it once had over any member state once that member became independent. Even the name changed from British Commonwealth to Commonwealth of Nations, and that is just one other reasons it proudly bears the nickname the “Gentlemen’s Club,” of which Cameroon’s membership is proving a blemish  in many ways.

Now you will ask, “What’s in a name?” A bit of history will help here. African converts to Christianity were not only mentally engineered to adopt the Whiteman’s religion, but also to accept, as part of the branding, European additions to their names, which they call Christian names, and which they were taught to consider more fashionable. Africa as a continent has had to endure the same indignity at the hands of European colonizers and explorers who named cities and even whole countries after European monarchs and even less significant persons. Today, at long last, we are waking up and taking ownership of our fatherlands and shedding those slave names. Matabeleland which had been renamed Rhodesia as a trophy to Cecil Rhodes, has since shed its slave label for Zimbabwe. Many other African countries have done the same, demonstrating that they have found the answer to the question – “what’s in a name?” – And that answer is “everything.”

In voting to join what they considered as their brothers and sisters across the Mungo, former British Southern Cameroonians expected to shed the colonial label for a family name. Now we have painfully realized that “francophoneness” is not just indelibly tattooed on our brothers’ body but so deeply etched into their psyche that they feel lost in the world without it. With that realization, it is only fair to let them stay de facto slaves for as long as it takes for the narcotic loses its power.

But they must in turn recognize that West/Southern Cameroonians want to be seen for who they are – a people in a global family that only uses English as a means of communication, but for whom English is not a brand. That recognition should be the bedrock of any parley between the Biya regime and Southern Cameroons.

And for such adialogue to have gone well, it must end the cemetery, with the following epitaph on the tombstone:

Here lies Anglophone,

Vampire born of fear and distrust,

And by his casket in the vault

Waits one for Francophone

His evil twin still on the run

Bleeding a sleepy people white.

Biya, don’t bother to come

The Catholic Episcopacy, the omnium of reformed churches and the heads of new-fangled religious outfits have all taken their turns echoing the crescendo of calls for frank dialogue between the Yaounde regime and Southern Cameroonians.  Christians have been fasting and praying, while lone-wolf prophets and apostles have pronounced purported decrees from their various prayer mountains. Since we are told that whatever the Church binds on earth will be bound in Heaven, we can now say we know the mind of God in this matter.

The UN and a huge groundswell of international opinion have also been resonating with this clamour for dialogue. Some doubting Thomases had sat on the wall when early warning signals of genocide began to show in Cameroon. Today, they know for sure that we were not just crying wolf.

Yet the tenant in Etoudi seems to have put on his earplugs, shutting out the popular voice of reason, the voice of God through his servants and even the voice of dead Southern Cameroonians crying at the door of his… conscience (if any). Like today’s youth walking the streets with Bluetooth speakers in their ears, he listens to nothing other than the music of his big Presidential ego as distorted by his spin artists. That is understandable on grounds of what the French call “deformation professionnelle.” Having ruled by decree for over 30 years, he has such a hard time toggling into dialogue mode that he all too readily slips into deadlock mode. What could one possibly expect from any dialogue where one party chooses interlocutors for both sides?

The people are so accustomed to presidential monologue that everyone seems to be calling for the President to come to Southern Cameroons and speak to the people. Such calls must be based on any or both of two preposterous assumptions: 1. that all those long years of decreeing have conferred on him special powers to convince people.  2. that his longevity has rendered him all-knowing and so listening to the people is a dispensable formality.

The reality is that his coming to Buea or Bamenda now would be too little too late, even if he were to bring the Central Bank with him, and here is why: By what he has done and what he has failed to do, he has established himself as anything but a friend to the people of Southern Cameroons.

  1. He inherited a United Republic of Cameroon and while we were still complaining about the imperfection of the unity, he singlehandedly withdrew former French Cameroon from it by returning to its own old name. Thenceforth, Southern Cameroonians were left to choose either to complete the division by returning to their own pre-unification status or to accept implicit assimilation. That was an act of spite, therefore unfriendly.
  2. He systematically ignored all complaints and overtures made by Southern Cameroonians over the years (AAC1 and 2, correspondences from Foncha and Muna – key actors in the unification process) being attempts to incise the abscess on the buttock of our union. In fact, he lived in systematic denial of the very existence of what was then referred to as an Anglophone problem. This bizarre brand of leadership allowed the abscess to fester to the present point where he has had to admit it is more than a problem – it has become the Anglophone crisis. As long as we complained quietly and respectfully like the gentlemen we were groomed to be, he considered us toothless and so undeserving of any attention. Your friend may hurt you unknowingly and quickly make amends once you bring it to his attention, but he who persistently hurts you and ignores your complaints can only be an enemy.
  3. In November last year the, Anglophones, unable to bear the pain any further, grabbed the scalpel and barged into the lab to force the abscess to be incised. He branded them extremists, secessionist and terrorists, arrested, molested and detained some, causing others to flee their homeland. In all this, he made nonsense of their entitlement to justice and a fair hearing. That is anything but a friend.
  4. While vowing to keep his country “one and indivisible,” he openly singled out Southern Cameroons for internet disconnection on two occasions. Even as we speak the network is reduced to its very minimum, all to keep the world ignorant of the abhorrent things his regime is doing against Anglophones. That’s the stuff enmity is made of.
  5. September 22 and October 1 could have been seen merely as a neglected child’s ultimate tantrum to wrest some attention from an uncaring foster parent. But it became the president’s long-awaited pretext to unleash his dogs of war on peaceful protesters. He thus demonstrated beyond any illusion that he is not a parent. In fact the barbarity of the atrocities he visited on the people of Southern Cameroons embodied nothing short of deathly hate.
  6. His representative in Buea can call Southern Cameroonians dogs and still be maintained in the place, with not as much as a semblance of upbraiding. The last instances of such provocation and disdain on public record were in Rwanda, Iraq and Libya.

Those, therefore, who still credit Mr. Biya with a modicum of charisma in the eyes of Southern Cameroonians had better wake up and smell the coffee. The cosmetic charm of his 1983 visit to Bamenda – with a few words in halting English that fetched him the attribute of Fon of fons – has worn off completely. The people now know him better as one who does not deliver on his promises, and most of all as one who hates them with a passion.

So what would he tell them now to make them forget their slain children and their trampled dignity? The President should advise himself not to bother to come.

In saying this, we only seek to de-personalize state action in this matter, and so must not be misread to imply Southern Cameroonians turning their backs on dialogue with the regime. However, we consider the following four parameters critical to any such dialogue at this stage:

  1. The form of the state CANNOT be a taboo subject. In fact it is now the logical pivot of the talks.
  2. If the EU which is a union of sovereign states is sore over Brexit, it would be most unrealistic to expect Yaounde to welcome SCexit. However, inclusiveness in the dialogue means listening to all schools of thought, including Federalists and separatists. Government must accept the blame for its own intransigence that radicalized what they now call secessionists. It must also recognize that after September 22 and October 1, they are no longer a minority – contrary to what some of the President’s spin artists would still have him believe.
  3. Government has rendered decentralization most unpalatable over the years by using it as a time-buying diversion. If, however, the Francophones have not grown weary of it, it could be on the agenda only as an internal arrangement on that side of an eventual Federal Republic. As for Southern Cameroonians, they have been hurt too badly by this system to accept any arrangement that places them under the thumb of Biya’s appointees.
  4. Nobody should be allowed to be judge and party at the talks. That calls for a mutually acceptable external umpire. Arguments about sovereignty are untenable here, given the regime’s proven track-record of bad faith.

 

 

Southern Cameroons at UN: Complicit silence?

So UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres sneaked in and out of Yaounde, as we thought he would, with little more for the history books than his smiling pictures with his host and, some say, friend. How heart-rending to read the disappointment of many West Cameroonians who had expected the UN Scribe to make some dramatic pronouncement that would liberate their space from the present siege. That was an expectation The Rambler did not share, knowing as we do that the UN Secretary General, far from being the boss of any Head of State, is merely the manager of a club wherein heads of state, including offending ones, pull the strings on key issues. Indeed, until the peoples of the world arise and wrest back ownership of the UN, it remains a power-mongers’ league, serving their interests often with benign neglect for human values and universal standards.

This may sound cynical, but how else do you explain the fact that any one of five Security Council member countries (ChinaFranceRussiaUnited Kingdom, and the United States) can veto any substantive resolution even if all the other nations of the world deem it justified and necessary? How do you explain the money and energy that goes into nuclear nonproliferation and yet de-nuclearisation is never an option?

So, in expecting the UN to ramp up pressure on the Yaounde regime to cut out its crimes against humanity in Southern Cameroons, one must not lose sight of the fact that Yaounde is doing most of these things at the behest of, and as a proxy to France, one of the privileged veto wielders. In the matter of Southern Cameroons’ self-determination, France had already shown where it stood by rallying its African satellites to vote against it at the UN early in 1961. And so if anything could restrain France from using its veto power to block any UN attempt to set things right for Southern Cameroons, it can only be some kind of assurance that its colonial interest in Cameroon is not in jeopardy.

At present, French interests are facing an existential threat in Africa, with strident calls for a review of her mainly exploitative relations with countries in its zone of influence. In fact, it does seem that the Elysee has lost its long-standing psychological hold on much of its African pre-carré, and all it will take for the whole house of dominoes to come tumbling is a brave new crop of visionary and patriotic African leaders, undaunted by the prospect of being ‘Thomas Sankaraised.’

By all indications, Yaounde’s “meilleur éleve” is not of this stamp, despite recent prattle from an errant first daughter claiming he is part of some half-hearted attempts to ditch the colonial currency, the CFA.

Because of France’s economic dependence on the pre-carre, it tends to consider it suicidal to let catchments like Southern Cameroons slip between her fingers.  And in a UN where there seems to be tacit maintenance of the old partitioning of Africa, who will rock the boat in what concerns Southern Cameroons? Certainly, not the UK, that clearly bungled the territory’s transition from trusteeship to independence.

In fact, we are still to hear the UK refute allegations (citing declassified British Government records) that it sold Southern Cameroons to France for a paltry 20 million pounds sterling.  This sale, if confirmed, would be tantamount to a new form of slave trade at state level, for which one should hope that the UN can, and will, hold Britain to account. It would be so obnoxious an act as to have reduced the UK to a moral dwarf in the eyes of Southern Cameroonians who, all these years, have been claiming great moral high ground for their former “mentor.” Finally, it would explain Britain’s silence in the face of Southern Cameroons’ present predicament, because you cannot do that and not feel like Judas Iscariot. But that can of worms will have to be opened sooner than later.

So who will raise a finger for poor Southern Cameroons at the UN, even as its sons and daughters are dying and thousands are fleeing for refuge? It was heartening to read Donald Trump’s tweet in this regard, after his ambassador’s statement decrying corruption at the UN. He may be a maverick but it may also just take someone like him to upset the applecart. After all, like it or not, he is the leader of the free world, and tyranny anywhere is a threat to freedom everywhere.

Postscript: Suspicion is rife that Biya’s recent “goodwill message of peace” missions to the ravished Southern Cameroons territory were an eyewash; surreptitiously, hastily concocted to deceive a gullible Guterres?

 

 

 

 

Mr. Guterres, UN Scribe must hear this

Sources seem persistent about an imminent visit to this land of calamities by UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres.  He may thus be visiting the scene of the ongoing carnage before the country’s own President – unless the latter chooses at last to cut short his unexplained month-long stay abroad and rush home to receive the August guest. (Mr. Biya returned to Yaounde hours after this Editorial was written)

What the UN scribe will hear in Yaounde is anybody’s guess. Prime Minister Yang will certainly reiterate his boast of last week – that the dialogue prescribed by the UN has already taken place between the regime and the Anglophones; that as late as last week, Government has dispatched elite missions to the troubled Regions to commune with the people, and that normalcy has returned; that the demands made by Common Law lawyers and Anglophone teachers have been met and the detained leaders released; that Government allowed the protest marches on September 22 and October 1, in keeping with its usual respect for civil liberties.This spin will sound credible coming from Yang, because it will be thought that being an Anglophone he would not lie against his own people. But you need to know what belonging to the ruling party cult here does to people’s sense of integrity.

As for what will not be mentioned in Yaounde, the list is far longer – including clear crimes against humanity, like unarmed protesters shot with live bullets, hundreds of youths abducted and kept in undisclosed locations – that is if they are still alive; surreptitious, nay, nocturnal burials, homes broken into, women raped and property looted by troops supposed to protect them, etc.

Certainly, a day or two before the SG’s arrival, internet will be fully restored in West Cameroon, for him to know that claims of internet disconnection were mere lies to discredit the regime.

And it will take a trip to the field for Mr. Guterres to assess firsthand the veracity of harrowing allegations such as the discovery of mass graves in Buea, the 36 bodies in a container in Ngeme, Limbe, people shot dead from helicopter gunships, and the latest – a military truck driver crushing cars and people in Molyko exactly like recent terrorist attacks in Europe.

As far as we know, the UN Chief Executive will be conducted by state protocol and may be prevented from meeting families likely to spill the beans about regime operatives trying to buy or bully them into silence over the killing of their loved ones.

One can only count on Mr. Guterres’ personal integrity and on the fact that such gate-keeping is not strange to the UN. We hope he will bring along a contingent of dependable UN investigators, not the corruptible ones Nikki Haley has been talking about – and that some of them will meet with the thousands of refugees from Akwaya who have been forced to flee through the jungles into neighbouring Nigeria.

It will take all this for the UN boss to see that West Cameroonians are not just crying wolf, but actually grappling on a daily basis with the monster of hate from the very pits of hell.

That said, we have no illusions. Mr. Guterres is a diplomat, and whatever horror he may find on the ground, he will only reiterate recommendations for the peaceful resolution of the crisis through dialogue. And he will go back to New York, leaving the regime sovereign latitude to show proof of good faith. And it is in this detail that the devil resides – precisely the dearth, or even the death of good will.

Mr. Guterres must know that as far as trust between the regime and West Cameroonians is concerned, an irreversible chemical change has taken place.  Though the latter have been smarting from discrimination, marginalization and humiliation for decades, it is likely that any survey conducted as late as last year would have shown less than 20 percent of West Cameroonians in favour of an outright breakaway. Many still believed in giving this marriage of inconvenience another chance. They were even split between separation and a return to federation. But conduct the same survey now and you just might see something like 80 percent pro-separation. Among the remaining 20 percent about 5 percent will be those protecting their positions and privileges in the regime, and those who fear reprisals for failing to stand with their own people against the abuses that fueled this crisis.

The last 15 percent would be those who are just scared of the uncertainty that the change may bring. This group includes some Southwesterners who, buying blindly into the regime’s divide-and-rule tactics, have become mindlessly resentful of their Northwestern brothers, and think they could be “safer with Francophones.”

Events since September 22 have, however, jolted many in this group out of their sleep.  They too have been learning that the regime has the same disdain for what it now calls “Ambazozos,” “dogs,” or “les Bamenda,” whether they come from the Northwest or Southwest.

In a word, it will take a miracle to reverse the high degree to which West Cameroonians have been radicalized by the murderous hate that the ruling elite has unleashed on them since 9/22.

Those talking about federation at this point are what could be described as “softheads” who still hope against hope that the tiger can change its spots. But it must be said that federalism is the greatest, indeed the only compromise that West Cameroonians could possibly accept at this point – and even that with a lot of reserve, because once bitten, twice shy.

The message coming out of West Cameroon today can be summarized thus:

We have had enough of being the slaves of slaves. Since their mock independence, surrogate leaders have submitted us to outright slavery at the hands of France their former (and still) colonial master. In 1961 we not only got sucked into this slave status, but they (leaders) in turn made slaves of us and are keen to keep us as such. Now, that has to stop. If they want to stay slaves of France, we shall henceforth be nobody’s slave. Either we live together like two brothers, each in his own apartment in the family house or separately as neighbours.

Any dialogue that makes light of this resolve on the part of West Cameroon is not worth having.

 

 

 

Dialogue, not ‘liarlogue’

This week marks another mass deployment of so-called Anglophone elites to West Cameroon. Their mission, as spelt out in a release signed by Pr. Paul Goghomu, is to “commune with the population, bring the President’s goodwill message of peace and encourage the return to normalcy.” This brief could not end without the hackneyed song – “to constructively dialogue with the population.”

Somebody said that the dog of the king is the king of dogs. The population to which this mission is being sent is nowhere close to forgetting that a civil servant paid with their taxes publicly, repeatedly and unrepentantly called them “dogs.” If the Government wants to be given credit for even a semblance of solicitude for feelings of these people, the least it could have done was to promptly redeploy such a civil servant far away from the population he so insulted. But the Government failed to even distance itself from this revolting characterization, meaning that he spoke the Government’s mind. One can, therefore, rightly consider the new missions to West Cameroon as the deployment of the regime’s privileged dogs to go back to their home kennels and muzzle the local “ngong” dogs, either with small dole-outs or empty promises that as often, commit nobody. Nothing better demonstrates how trite and hollow the so-called constructive dialogue is meant to be.

By the way, the word elite denotes a group or class of people enjoying superior intellectual or economic status. Like every other lofty concept, elitism has been emptied of meaning in this country. The regime has lowered the bar to include political harlots, fiscal delinquents, illiterate lawmakers, ex-convicts and politicians long disavowed by their constituencies – all having a single common denominator – a signature that entitled them to dog biscuits and a new leash.

Both Goghomu and the PM his boss, have led similar parley sessions before, with the results we all know. So someone, please, help us to understand how, after wanton brutality and bloodshed by Government troops have driven the stakes up, the level of Government representation at any dialogue is going down instead of up. Past the PM who is little more than a senior dog by extraction, and past the House Speaker whose legislature has rendered himself irrelevant by its obsequious behavior towards the executive, it was time the President himself stepped into the fray. We saw him send condolences to President Donald Trump over the shooting of 50 or so Americans in Las Vegas. So he knows how a leader should feel the death of his fellow citizens. In America and elsewhere, even in Africa, it takes a lot less than that for a President to cancel any foreign trip and return home to commune with his people who are hurting. At this moment West Cameroonians are in total disbelief regarding all the killings, mass arrests, rape, looting and terror. Are all these hateful things being visited on them by some foreign army of occupation or by people they have been calling their forces of law and order, their protectors? It is a time that calls for reassurance that this is still a country they can call their own. Yet the President has chosen to downplay it all by sending out delegations of the lowest, provocative level imaginable.

One wonders if the President or his aides are aware that it is this same couldn’t-care-less attitude of his that has brought this country to the brink of implosion. Does he know that he is vindicating those who have been saying that he has no interest in real dialogue and so there is no need for West Cameroonians to expect anything from him other than the forceful maintenance of the status quo?  One hopes that those who censor the information he gets will let him know the circumstances under which we almost lost Nfon V.E. Mukete, one of the few existing politicians with a conscience and a liver – that is if it means anything to him.

In the prevailing circumstances, one cannot but wonder what the so-called elite are going to tell the people other than what the regime’s griots have already said – that troops did not kill anyone, except in “self-defense,” and that the so-called Anglophone crisis is about a small handful of separatists led by a few power-hungry schemers abroad. The Government knows from the massive 9/22 demonstrations that this is far from the truth. Anglophones in their masses have had enough of being sidelined, and they said so in no ambivalent terms. Dealing with that requires real dialogue, not “liarlogue.” In fact, the president ought to distance himself from anyone peddling lies in this matter, because such a person is clearly in the camp of those who want the crisis to fester. If, on the other hand, it is actually Government policy to lie about what has happened, then speaking for, or belonging to, such a Government cannot be the envy of any human being with a sense of personal honour.

It is clear the so-called elite have nothing to tell the people – nothing they do not know. So are they coming to listen? They already know the painful truth and it is eating them inside, even if they have to keep a straight face as they sing for their supper of dog biscuits. Come October 24, they will have earned their mission allowances but what will have changed?

What then? The more lies the Government tells about the situation, the more it papers over the cracks, the more its troops  continue to molest West Cameroonians, the more they will be radicalized and the more difficult the road to reconciliation will be.

There can be no peace without justice, and no justice without truth. Like it or not, October 1 has toggled from the status of the day commemorating unification to that of a day when mindless repression and bloodletting shattered the foundation of that unity. Is it possible to patch it back together? Great nations are those that make stepping stones out of the rubble of their turbulent past. The people of West Cameroon have a resilient spirit and a big heart. They are capable of rising above the memory of their leaders’ bestiality, but like every patch, there will be eternal scars that a little carelessness may open up in the future. Any return to normalcy will take a firm guarantee that their dignity as a people is restored, NEVER again to be tinkered with. Such a guarantee can only emerge from the deliberations of a no-nonsense truth and reconciliation commission. Unlike the Musonge commission, this must be a commission comprising representation from the Government and an equal number freely designated by the aggrieved party, with the arbitration of a neutral third party. Time for window dressing is past.

 

 

Citizens or prisoners of war?

The mass arrests and extra-judicial killings that have been taking place in Southern Cameroons these past days are a clear illustration of the conflict of legal systems that has fueled Anglophone disaffection for over five decades, igniting the powder keg late last year.

These unconscionable happenings are the carefree application on the Southern Cameroons population of an alien legal system by which you are guilty once accused, until you can prove yourself not guilty. This concept and practice of justice is alien and unacceptable to a people who have been used to a system in which nobody is guilty until so proven by the accuser. At one time it seemed that the regime was beginning to see reason, when in an interview about embezzlers of public funds, the President asked the famous question, “ou sont les preuves?” – implying that he too saw something wrong in presumption of guilt which, unfortunately, he is now applying to the entire Southern Cameroons population. Now troops can burst wantonly into people’s homes, search them without warrant, rape the women, loot property, abduct young people and take them wherever they want, shoot them even for fun, completely ignoring their families and their human rights.

The first time we heard the word “terrorists” in this whole saga, it was used to designate the same people with whom Government delegations had been holding discussions only days before. Mere disagreement with Government proposals suddenly turned them into terrorists and qualified them for arrest and months of detention on charges nobody could substantiate. Then one day, a crude IED (improvised explosive device) goes off in Douala, and everybody decides to ignore the open secret that this happened at a point where SCDP fuel is alleged to be constantly leaked for illicit sale. A cheap conclusion is promptly drawn that this must be the work of Anglophone terrorists, simply because something similar had happened in Bamenda a week prior.

This is not to offhandedly discount any connection between the two incidents, but to say that any such connection ought to be established after proper investigation, or else this would be nothing short of the same unacceptable presumption of guilt.

Now there is persistent talk of mass graves, of villagers killed in their farms by helicopter fire, of people’s homes and property savaged by the same forces whose job should be to protect them. The things one hears first-hand from victims and eyewitnesses can only be perceived as war crimes or crimes against humanity, depending on whether what is happening in Southern Cameroons is considered as war or not. And if this is wartime, then Cameroon is at war with itself, but even war has its rules.

The Rambler remains unequivocal that destroying life and private or public property is a counterproductive way of venting outrage. And if it is unacceptable coming from protesters, such barbarity is least tolerable coming from security forces.

We hear it repeated on the state and other media that the declaration of Southern Cameroonian independence was an act of intolerable provocation. Admittedly, it would be naïve to expect any Government to brook secession without raising a finger. But the regime that has always bragged that Cameroon was an island of peace in a turbulent sea has failed its very first test – missed its very first opportunity to prove it.

Those who are quick to compare Southern Cameroons to Biafra have certainly chosen to ignore the difference – that the drive for the restoration of Southern Cameroons independence is actually a matter of relinquishing a failed partnership between two states, after more than 50 years of trying to redeem it.

All the violence we now see from Yaounde is nothing but the bluster of a male chauvinist ruffled by the threat of divorce because it will expose his inability to keep a happy home, and yet his methods only help to strengthen the case for the divorce.

The question to ask is how do the words “one and indivisible” now ring in the very ears of those responsible for these atrocities against Southern Cameroonians? Who divides the country more – the one who hoists a different flag to show that he has had enough of being subjugated, or the one who kills children for daring to do so?

You can give a dog a bad name and hang it, but after this senseless bestiality what does Yaounde expect? That Southern Cameroonians will now return with their tails between their legs to accept a new status of prisoners of war who will henceforth be seen and not heard? Shall your ‘one and indivisible Cameroon’ henceforth become half free-born and half-slave? And how much can any country count on the loyalty and patriotism of a slave population with their eyes streaming with tears and their hearts brimming with anger over their dead? After this horrific victimization, who or what will reconcile Southern Cameroonians with a regime which has demonstrated so clearly that it is more interested in their territory than in themselves, except perhaps as hewers of wood and fetchers of water? Is it a president who, by ignoring their pleas for over 30 years, has pushed them to the wall? Is it the President who could only order restraint just long enough for him to finish his speech in New York, but later chose to enjoy himself in some foreign resort while his troops massacred their children in their numbers? Is it a President who was not there for them when they needed him most? Is it a parliament that went toasting around a monument of concrete and glass in Yaounde while Southern Cameroonians were being killed for daring to express their hurt?

Is it the so-called Anglophone elite who were too cowardly to stand with their people in their ultimate moment of distress but were prompt to collect mission allowances to preach the indivisibility doctrine to the people while sweeping well-articulated grievances under the carpet?

Is it the UN, who created this problem in the first place, and now seems to place diplomatic niceties over the need to correct their mistake and avert bloodshed?

Is it the Queen of England who gave Southern Cameroons away to France as a surprise “little gift”, as Pompidou described it, and has since been aloof while Anglophones become victims of a proxy war between the Anglo-Saxon cultural heritage and the French?

Is it France who initially voted against Southern Cameroons’ independence, and who has been the master puppeteer of the  assimilation which led to this carnage – all that in a bid to secure unfettered access to whatever lies in the womb of the territory’s earth?

Before the killings, everybody was paying lip service to dialogue. Of course, dialogue remains the only way out of the conundrum, but who still has the credibility and moral authority to broker it? Who?

 

 

 

October 1 and the cornered dogs

September 22 and October 1 have played out like a tug-of-war between SCACUF and the Yaounde regime. They took turns in claiming victory, the one for the massive and spontaneous demonstration that came like a blitz on 9/22 to show how much it had the people’s ear, and the other for the relatively low level of crowd activity on 1/10, which was manifestly due to the huge, dissuasive deployment of troops to prove that it had the final word.

Yaounde’s restraint on the first occasion was obviously not a sign of weakness or magnanimity. It was dictated by the prevailing circumstances, happening as it did on the same day President Biya was addressing the UN General Assembly. On October 1, however, that restraint wore thin in the face of fewer protesters who were just as peaceful as on September 22, and there is little, if anything to justify the rise in casualties. The hate speech one heard on radio and TV all last week, coming mainly from hawks from the South and Centre, created the impression that despite instructions to exercise restraint, some elements among the security forces were spoiling for a chance to leave a trail of blood. Only video coverage of the demos would have enabled anyone to determine if those who were shot deserved to be. And there would have been videos galore, given the proliferation of smartphones which have turned virtually everybody into a citizen journalist. That such video coverage was proscribed cannot but fuel suspicions that someone had something to hide, or that there is an attempt to protect people who are committing murder under the pretext of enforcing law and order. Such suspicion is heightened by the fact that October 1 happened in an information penumbra. After Posts and Telecommunications Minister, Minette Libom li Likeng strenuously refuted allegations that she planned to deprive Anglophone Cameroonians of internet connectivity again, Southern Cameroons was again deprived of social media connectivity from Saturday night through Monday, October 2. So much for the Government’s ability to keep its own word.

On October 1 the argument of force may have triumphed over the force of argument, but using force to prevent any action only postpones it as long as the volition that drives it remains alive. An Ambazonian flag may not be floating physically at the Schloss, but it is certainly floating in the hearts of those who tried to hoist it but were stopped, and in the hearts of the masses that waved those peace plants in the remotest villages both on September 22 and October 1.

While it was all happening, somebody floated what they claimed was a leaked speech the President was supposed to make on October 1. Even at first sight such a speech appeared improbable because it was absolutely out of character for the Biya we all know. In an attempt to explain why he would be addressing the country on a date he has never celebrated, the writer cast the President in a mould of recognition of, and penitence for, the immense pain his regime and the one before it had so far inflicted on Southern Cameroonians.  In an even more dramatic turnaround, the President, in that speech, pledged to right the wrongs with immediate effect, including by going back to fundamentals enshrined in the initial federal constitution. It clearly was too good to be true and people promptly dismissed it as a figment of somebody’s imagination. But the fake speech could well have been a test balloon floated by a regime specialised in make-belief, to serve as a decoy. If that is what it was, he burst his own bubble by not even being in the country on such a crucial day.

That brings to mind concluding remarks made by Barrister Alice Nkom in an STV panel discussion, in which she addressed Biya directly (paraphrase): Mr. President, we have all seen your power. No one doubts your ability to silence opposition or crush insurgency. What we have not yet seen in you all these years is a human, compassionate president capable of listening and loving.  Please, show Cameroonians that you are a human being that cares.

Mark you, she is not an Anglophone, and there is every indication that if calls like hers had been made before and the President had deigned to heed them, the present crises would have been averted.

Now the skirmishes of the last two weeks have been won and lost, as the case may be, but has the war ended?  Henceforth the Southern Cameroonian people know that two forces are battling for their loyalty – one using a campaign for hearts and minds, the other using gun-boat diplomacy. And as long as the volition to walk away remains alive in the population, that tug-of-war will endure – one day it is the Governing Council’s Ghost town, the next day it is the Yaounde Government’s; so also will the proper and improper use of the social media – one day by SCACUF or its loyalists, the next by Yaounde or its surrogates.

And the regime can continue to spread its resources thin between deploying more troops against Boko Haram and using them to terrorise unarmed demonstrators who only need to be protected by the police.

If all of this is really about making Southern Cameroonians change their mind about walking away, then the regime ought to have understood by now that its methods are counterproductive. When, in large numbers, they get arrested and molested in Obili by soldiers lumping them all – federalists and separatists – as “Anglofous”and “Ambazozos”; when armed men make brutal incursions into their homes in Bamenda, Buea, Kumba etc…violating their privacy by searching their phones; when they get deprived of access to the internet and social media; and worst of all when a governor publicly refers to them as “dogs” – one has to be a fool to expect them to still believe in a country that does that to them. Every dog runs when pursued, but we all know what happens when a dog is cornered.

 

 

EDITORIAL: 9/22 Eruption: As the lava cools

September 22 is henceforth a marble milestone on Southern Cameroons’ political desert trail.  It was a day of self-discovery. Like the Lion of Oz who roared so loud that he scared himself, the entire population of Southern Cameroons shouted “enough” so loud that they could not believe their own ears.
In one of the many compelling videos that immortalized the event, the nonagenarian Fon of Besi broke down in public as the youth of his Fondom trooped around him along with the “Takumbeng.”  It was like the touching picture of children returning in tears to their father after a long sojourn with an abusive uncle.

And you had to be made of marble to not catch a treacherous tear sneaking down your cheek as you watched mammoth crowds in all Southern Cameroons towns take the plunge, undeterred by the eventuality of testy fingers among the troops pulling the murderous trigger.
At first, given the regime’s track record of brutal repression, “SCACUF’s” call for these mass protest rallies had looked like a tall order – until word spread that President BIYA had given strict instructions against shooting any protesters. His apparent change of heart was easy to explain: He was in New York to address the UN General Assembly that same day, and the protest marches would be a great opportunity for him to hoodwink the world as usual about how his regime tolerates dissent.
But if he thought he had a monopoly of brinkmanship, the seemingly simple-minded crowds beat him to it. On that score, 9/22 was a win-win for Yaounde and Buea. It was a near-win for President Biya’s public image laundry. For once, the world saw his police look on, as crowds all over Southern Cameroons spilled into the streets singing, “BIYA let my people go” or “Na how many people you one go kill?” It must have been a moment of mortifying restraint for him and his troops to read all the separatist placards, hear a different anthem sung in public and watch a different flag unfurl in a territory he believes he still controls. But it was only a near-win, because among the security forces there were blood thirsty ones who, unable to help themselves, defied his orders and felled eight unarmed protesters. Allegedly one of the murderers was a civilian – a mayor who now still walks the streets unperturbed.

The win for Southern Cameroons was mind-blowing. Never again will the Yaounde regime delude itself or anyone that the Anglophone problem is just a handful of ambitious, frustrated fame seekers, misleading a small group of people. To those who had resigned themselves to suffering in silence because the spectre of bloody repression hung over them like Damocles’ sword,  last Friday brought new meaning and proximity to Barack Obama’s words, “Yes, we can.”
With the rush of adrenaline that 9/22 triggered, two new dangers now lurk. The first is naive triumphalism. Yaounde’s restraint last Friday should not delude anyone into assuming some cheap victory. The now popular trend to associate the Anglophone struggle to terrorism must not be taken lightly. Whether or not Yaounde succeeds in marketing that new label abroad, it cannot be expected to pass the opportunity to use it as a pretext for extreme repression.
The other danger that lurks is foolhardiness. Having crossed the threshold of fear, chances are that some young people will take liberties and carry out unnecessarily provocative acts. Already, videos have been in circulation, in which some Francophones complain that their cars were savaged as they tried to enter Southern Cameroons territory. If that is true, the authors of such mindless behavior must be promptly reined in because 9/22 was not against Francophone Cameroonians, but against the oppressive policies of the regime. It must not be seen to herald the creation of a xenophobic state that would treat citizens on the other side of the cultural divide as enemies. Southern Cameroonians must not lose sight of the eventuality of perfectly legitimate retaliation for any xenophobic behavior, and God alone knows what could happen to the droves of their kith and kin living and working across the Mungo. This is to say nothing about the likelihood of a brutal response from Yaounde itself. It would be sheer naiveté and complacency to assume that Scexit is now a slam dunk just because 9/22 happened. All in all, those who pull the strings must take counsel and refrain from putting anyone in harm’s way unnecessarily.

Having pulled off 9/22, and while setting their sights on other milestones, the parties must take a moment to draw some appropriate lessons from what has happened so far.

Totally flabbergasted by massive mobilization on 9/22 the “colonial” Chieftain in Buea is quoted as saying, “they took us by storm” – an unwitting public acknowledgment that there is a them versus us – a dichotomy that has all along been on the mind of the regime and its vassals, but just being papered over by beguiling hashtags like “one and indivisible Cameroon.”

The statement is also an acknowledgment that the regime grossly underestimated the depth and scope of the anger it has provoked by its insensitivity and lack of respect for Southern Cameroonians.

9/22 was the eruption of a sleeping volcano. After ignoring the rumblings in its belly and the multiple little tremors for over half a century, Yaounde is now shocked and awed by the magnitude of the eruption, and that speaks volumes of Biya’s ability to lead a people he knows so little. And whatever may happen hereafter, it seems evident that that has shifted, some say from Etoudi to the Diaspora, but more from Etoudi to the streets, holds and valleys of Southern Cameroons.

9/22 was a final fail mark for Biya’s proactivity. Now starts the ultimate reaction test. Should he fail that too by still resorting to brute force and falsehood, he can as well just say Adieu to Anglophone Cameroon.

Francophone empathy: hash tags

The cultural differences between Francophones and West Cameroonians are unmistakable and seemingly irreconcilable. Yet, it must be said loud and clear that the latter’s disaffection and outrage in the current crisis are directed, not at the francophone population but at the separatist policies of the regime.  Yaounde is, understandably, at pains to blur the divide between itself and the francophone population as the target of that outrage. Having treaded on their toes all this while, Yaounde has realized that the ‘Anglos’ are poised to return fire, and it has taken to using that population as a human shield, to justify further acts of molestation.

In the meantime, what is the attitude of that francophone population itself to the “Anglos” and their problem?

It is an open secret that in the dead heat of this crisis Francophone immigrants in West Cameroon are being used as geckos on the walls – to glean intelligence about locals and turn them in for any pro-secessionist comment they make in a bar or in a taxi.

In business, those living in Bamenda, Limbe, Kumba etc… secretly or overtly take advantage of “ghost towns” to make fast cash on the backs of their West Cameroonian competition.

Over the past two decades they have flooded most good schools west of the Mungo with their children. Now most of them are reported to be massively moving the children back to schools in Douala and Yaounde. Like migratory birds they are flying off their perch before the tree is felled, or heading home before the evil season sets in.

Those who choose to bide it out make up the bulk of the scant attendance which government spin portrays as effective school resumption – especially in schools owned or dominated by Francophones.

All these acts bespeak a near-total absence of francophone solidarity with, or even empathy for, their Anglophone hosts and their predicament. These acts are either a contribution to, or a manifestation of what is now seen to be Yaoundé’s strategy to cast the West Cameroon struggle in a xenophobic, anti-francophone mold. And that strategy seemingly finds vindication in a few isolated and misplaced manifestations of vitriol against Francophones, coming from irate youths who slip between the fingers of those who are trying to keep the struggle focused and peaceful.

How heartening, however, that as this crisis deepens, one begins to hear a crescendo of francophone voices in the private media passionately calling for an urgent negotiated settlement of what they now agree is a logical Anglophone response to marginalization and maltreatment! It took three things to bring about that paradigm shift: the first is over half a century of Anglophone resilience, self-restraint and eye-on-the-ball sense of national priorities – meaning those of the Cameroon they still considered as their fatherland notwithstanding;

The second is the crude and unrestrained repression with which the regime responded when West Cameroonians, unable to hold in their anguish and anger any further, let the shit hit the fan.

The third is the staying power they have demonstrated in the face of that repression, keeping their response peaceful despite provocation to violence by trigger-happy elements of the regime.

The latest in the line of vocal expressions of solidarity with the Anglophones came from Marafa Hamidou Yaya. As an erstwhile kingpin of the regime he has intimate knowledge of the genesis and cursus of this crisis.  Is his present transport of solidarity too little too late? Well, not if you credit him with more than mere residual relevance in the unfolding of things in Cameroon, even after all these years in the cooler. And then, going beyond the common “je suis Anglophone” hash tag, he calls on Francophones to back the Anglophone school boycott with one of their own.

His call will be a hard to heed, for several reasons.

  • First, this is a population that is unaccustomed to any form of public protest no matter how much they are irked by anything government does.
  • Second, it is a population that is not very amenable to community action, perhaps as a result of the regime’s old policy of divide-and-rule. It is easy, with a threat or a bribe, to turn people even against their very kith and kin.
  • Third, the call is for Francophones to sacrifice their personal convenience for something as “illusory” as solidarity across ethnic and partisan lines. He is asking them to choose between interest and principles, knowing how paltry the latter’s chances are wont to be among the Francophones.

But whether they heed him or not, they can no longer pretend to not know what impactful stand they could possibly take alongside their hurting compatriots.

All of this is coming at a time when so-called Anglophone elites, including MPs and Senators, are too scared to stand with the people they were supposedly elected to represent. Instead, they have become back-to-school minstrels singing for a ladle of soup, pretending to love children more than their parents. If one thing is obvious in the conduct of our MPs it is that they need to go back to school, to learn the very basics about being a rep. That school is in their villages, not in Ngoa Ekele and it is about time the constituencies that sent them in booted them out.

Yaounde growing the fight in the small dog

During a dog fight tournament a man was showing off his huge, well-fed and fierce-looking German shepherd. Gloating over its size and strength, he taunted the other contestants, none of whose dogs, he was sure, could last five minutes in the arena against his champ.

He thought it was the height of ridicule when one man stepped up front with a small, mangy, hungry-looking mongrel.  “It seems you no longer want that little misery of yours and you decided my champion should get rid of it for you”, the swaggering owner of the German Shepherd said.

“Bring it on”, the other man retorted in quiet defiance, stepping back and leaving his little dog to face the giant.

At first the crowd was all sympathy for the little dog, as nobody expected it to leave the arena alive. At the end of the fight, however, it was its owner who beamed with smiles. As he stepped forward to pick up his new champ, he turned to the boastful owner of the mortally wounded German Shepherd and said, “you see, what matters is not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog”.

The events of the last eight months must have taught Yaounde that by ignoring the groans of West Cameroonians for over half a century they were not only postponing the problem, they were growing the fight in the small dog.

The quick exit of the Elad, Munzu and Anyangwe soon after AAC2 must have seemed a comforting confirmation to Yaounde that the scrawny “Anglophone” mongrel could not last five minutes in the arena.

The spiral of unexpected reactions since November last year has, however, demonstrated the impotence of Yaounde’s attrition weapon against the uncanny resilience of the oppressed.

After the Elad threesome went under, Yaounde could gloat about the sporadic, bramble-fire nature of West Cameroon leadership, especially with all the splintering, and with the appointee elite putting their hearts where their mouths were – all of this making divide-and-rule so much easier for the oppressor.

That’s how ostrich politicians like the Ngole Ngoles and Atanga Njis of this world could comfortably make stock-in-trade of denying the very existence of anything like an Anglophone problem – because they knew the fight was over even before it began.

But they were selling the skin of a living tiger. And the roar of that tiger has been reverberating in the streets, schools, churches, embassies and such other unexpected arenas as SED and Kondengui.

Yaounde must have been aghast, hearing Ayah, after his release, call even more resolutely for dialogue leading to federation. His single-mindedness, undaunted by the harrowing experiences of his detention, must have been most unsettling. His and Agbor Balla’s solidarity visits to those still in detention have been sending a simple message: that whatever detention may have destroyed in them, it ended up growing them as incontestable West Cameroonian leaders.

This message is not only hair-raising for Yaounde, it is flustering for the self-serving Anglophone elite – ministers, MPs, Senators etc… who have now been clearly disavowed by the people they claim to represent.

Before November 2016, Ayah, was little more than a magistrate known for his probity, integrity and the courage to call a spade a spade. He can be said to have gone into politics by accident, as it were, goaded by people who saw Cameroon’s need for a new leadership with values. Those core values continued to be his battle horse even as he bumbled his way as a greenhorn in party politics.  Somebody should have told Yaounde that by detaining and torturing him they were growing even the political fight in him.

Agbor Balla was a little-known lawyer whose concern, until November, was advocacy for a level playing field for Anglophone and francophone lawyers. Today he comes out of detention a hero for a West Cameroon nation he may not even have been advocating for in the beginning.

Fontem was teaching quietly in Buea, venting his anger about Anglophone education being diluted and compromised before his very eyes. Kondengui, has lifted him from that quasi-anonymity to such a status that, had he died in jail, his grave could have become a pilgrimage site.

Less than two months ago, Yaounde having banned the SCNC and even the Consortium, the long-expected happened. A new leadership for the West Cameroon struggle burst onto the scene and swung into action. Their accession to leadership may be unorthodox, the trappings of their authority may be rudimentary and their non-mastery of the ropes of politics and diplomacy may be evident, but they command unquestionable loyalty within a huge segment of the population, admit it or not.

A hitherto unknown and inexperienced Sisiku Tabe now has, thrust on him, a status that was never part of his wildest dreams. Few indeed may see him as the shepherd boy David, the least of Jese’s children, now called to be anointed.  But he is the latest on the list of ordinary people who are stepping into extraordinary roles, and whom the regime’s mindless intransigence and brutality will end up toughening and grooming as leaders for West Cameroon.  In the past few months regime surrogates and moles have thrown virtually everything at him, them and lots more is expected. But could it all just be part of God’s old game – hardening Pharoah’s heart and strengthening Moses’ hand?