Third letter to Commander Ebube (1)

By Sammy Oke Akombi

Dear Commander Ebube,

Having written a second letter to you and obtained no reaction from either you or your gang, I considered it a waste of time to continue writing. Unfortunately, a gruesome event which occurred in Ndebaya, Manyu Division in the morning of Monday, May 27, 2019, has warranted this third letter to you and of course your gang. You murdered my relation and contacted a member of the family to collect the corpse at a given junction. This was duly done and the corpse was taken and kept in a mortuary in neighbouring Nigeria. You imposed sanctions on the family in order for the funeral of the man you murdered to be effected in his native Ndebaya. Despite resistance, somehow the family succumbed to some of your shameless demands. Your threats deprived many members of the family from paying their last respects to their beloved brother, uncle and father. I on the other hand conquered the fear that your threats generated, thanks to my personal conviction that it is a great honour when one dies, carrying out a good cause.

On Thursday, June 20, 2019, I left Yaounde where I am resident to Ndebaya. I travelled on a night bus that got to Bamenda in the Morning of June 21. I then took a mini bus from Bamenda to Eyumojock. It was a smooth ride going through military or gendarme checkpoints until the descent out of Bali where for the first time I was asked to identify myself at gunpoint. As I wondered at the scene, someone who sat by me said, ‘nawi pa o-o wuna no woriyi. Onli ask yifoyi own support.’

‘Alright pa your support’, the trigger-happy-ragtag-eighteen-year-old said.

‘My pikin, put that gun down first na.’ I said softly.

He looked at me menacingly and then lowered the gun. The man who sat by me said with much urgency ‘pa shake skin na.’ I understood what he meant and so I took out my wallet and took out a five thousand francs note and dropped on the ground for them to pick up. The others dropped lesser notes of one thousand francs and five hundred francs. They were better prepared for the dangerous journey. I wondered how I was going to cope with such demands in case there were more of such scoundrels on the way. And indeed they were – three on the Batibo-Widikum stretch and two on the Kendem- Bachuo-Akagbe stretch.

At one of the Kendem holdups – I’ll prefer not to call them checkpoints or controls, the minibus was hijacked and taken off the highway, by two of the boys who exaggerated their zealousness. They took us into an in-road about two kilometres away from the highway. There, they started the process of identification of people whom they considered pro- government. They told us their camp was three kilometres from where we were. After the identification the culprits would be taken to their camp. At this point, I gave up my goal of going to pay my last respects to my relation. However, I prayed silently for God’s protection. In the process, they identified a student, a young girl of about nineteen. They shouted at her and said, she was one of the criminals to be taken to the camp. Her crime was that she had crossed over to Douala to go to school whereas they (the boys) were in the bushes fighting for freedom. Another criminal was a retired teacher who was accused of having abandoned the struggle which they and lawyers had started. When they got to me, I thought of the story of mutilation of identity cards and so I simply said I had no identity card but I could show them my passport. When I took out the passport booklet, one of the boys surprisingly said ‘papa that one na plenty book. Putam back’. I kept back my passport and waited for their verdict. They asked the ‘criminals’ to each give them fifty thousand francs otherwise they would be taken to their camp for proper treatment. The retired teacher pleaded to give them twenty-five thousand francs and the student said she had nothing. I pleaded to bail the girl out with five thousand francs and they accepted, provided I added another five thousand for support. I agreed. This time the money was handed directly, not by dropping it on the ground. Our bus was thus released and the journey to Eyumojock continued.

The driver told us the experience he had had with the boys (your boys). They had abducted and taken him to their camp. After beating him with a machete on his soles, they had requested him to say his last prayers. Wittingly he had shouted ‘ Oh God of the Ambazonia Republic, descend on my fellow Ambazonians to set me free so that together we can fight for our freedom’. At this point they set him free. So despite their recklessness, the boys can be manipulated.

So Mr Commander, you see what the people, you claim you want to liberate, go through? By the time you would have squeezed all of them of the little resources they have, and subjected them to the torture you mete out recklessly, on a daily basis, they would be pushed to the wall and hell will break loose. I had tried in my previous letters to make you understand that this struggle you seem to hold dearly to heart is only a dream of the ego-centric, who understandably hate sharing. Already, you can observe what is happening among your leaders in the diaspora who are in disarray because of a dire want of this sterling virtue-sharing (the booty they have swindled from the gullible crowd). If the struggle is for freedom as you claim, then you and the rest of us urgently need to understand what freedom or liberation is all about. By God’s infinite mercy and grace, I was on time for my relation’s funeral mass at the Roman Catholic Church, Eyumojock, where as a tribute to him, I presented the paper below which I would like you and your gang to read and digest. (To be continued)

The man died in the hands of freedom

Freedom and liberty are near exact synonyms, especially in terms of content. The former is defined in standard dictionaries as the state of being able to do what you want, without anything stopping you. The latter is defined as the freedom to live as you choose without too many restrictions from government or authority. These two words are therefore used interchangeably. Many great minds have pondered over them. I would like to consider some of their pondering here. Jean Jacques Rousseau said in The Social Contract, “man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains” and Franz  Kafka in The Trial said, “it’s often safer to be in chains than to be free”. Another great mind Jean Paul Sartre affirmed that “man is condemned to be free. An American president Franklin D. Roosevelt who was in power during the turbulent times of the Second World War in one of his speeches pondered over freedom in the following words: “We look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression –everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way– everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear, – everywhere in the world.” Understandably, Roosevelt found the entire world lacking in the four pillars of freedom – freedom from want and fear, freedom of worship and expression. This same lack made Rousseau to talk about man having been born free and everywhere they are in chains. Kafka in his pessimism thought that it was even better to be in chains than to be free. They all sound confusing and that is why the concept of freedom and liberty should be given utmost consideration. In this regard I would like to bring to focus the words of Baron de Montesquieu who wrote in De l’esprit des lois that “liberty is the right to do whatever the laws permit.” In other words, every human community is free to have its dos and don’ts and every member of the community is free to do whatever they like, provided they respect these dos and don’ts.

It is a don’t in the Ndebaya community for anyone to prevent a catechist from carrying out morning prayers. It is a don’tto abduct another human being. It is a don’t to steal, kill, lie etc. So those who abducted and murdered Mr. Anthony Obi Asundep were not exercising their freedom. If they are free and going about their businesses then the community has descended into anarchy. Freedoms and laws should be the benchmarks of every human community. It is against this background that The man died in the hands of Freedom has been written.

In February 1959, a baby boy was born in the peaceful community of Ndebaya. This baby was welcome and was given the name Anthony. He grew up in the tradition of his people and went to school when his age was ripe. School and home gave him the education he needed to face the world. He was exactly two years old when the geographic area he belonged to became a nation. He grew up to understand that for his country, Cameroon to stand on its feet as a nation, it had passed through thick and thin. Some of his kith and kin belonged to an entirely different country, Nigeria. This country had won his admiration, for each time he crossed the border to visit his relations, he saw that roads were tarred and life was pleasantly different. But Anthony vowed that so long as the Almighty God in His infinite mercy had placed him on that piece of land which he could call his own, he would continue to pay allegiance to it and personally ensure its prosperity. When he left school, he traded for some time and then got married and started his own family. He easily became one of the most dependable persons in the community. He participated in the development of Ndebaya as it quickly became a home for many people working in the Sub-divisional headquarters, Eyumojock. Anthony was easily identified as a devoted Christian and he rose to become the shepherd of the Catholic Christians in the community. He opened farms and started a small business, taking advantage of Ndebaya’s nearness to the Nigerian border town of Ikom. Then bang the tarred road from Mamfe properly linked Cameroon with Nigeria, opening up lots of business opportunities for him and other enterprising young people in the community. He took advantage of the new developments and improved himself socially, culturally and spiritually. He believed in hard work and would tell anyone who cared to listen that total freedom is derived from working hard. Hard work he would insist gives you access to the means of survival. With such means, you can express yourself confidently in the knowledge that you are free to worship your God, free from want and fear. Unfortunately, in many of our communities, people like Anthony are rather envied than admired and emulated.

The development that had come as a result of the road had provoked the desire for a resident priest in Ndebaya and Anthony’s vision was for Ndebaya to become a religious sanctuary for Catholic Christians from both Nigeria and Cameroon and also a stopover resort for travellers of both countries. Unfortunately the evil that had been lurking reared its ugly head. The Ambazonian concept that has spiralled into a war caught up with Anthony’s vision for his much cherished community. It was Hiram Warren Johnson who said that the first casualty when a war comes is truth. And indeed propaganda has buried truth. So Anthony who had stood by truth was an unfortunate victim. The truth he believed in was that man is free to worship his God in his own way, express himself within the confines of the law and free himself from want and fear. In this firm belief he had left his home at 5.00 a.m. on Monday, May 27, 2019 to toll the Ndebaya Church bell for morning prayers. As the bell tolled to alert Christians to come and worship their God, Ambazonian warlords got up to carry out their evil deeds. They knew it was Anthony, the catechist who was behind the tolling bell and he was the same person who was going to conduct prayers. So they moved swiftly and abducted the village chief and one other person. Then they went into the house of God and confronted the man of God, abducting him too to an unknown destination. This happened in the full glare of other worshippers. They were thoroughly embarrassed as they stood speechless watching their catechist being marched away. Minutes later they found their voices and the news spread like a whirlwind to every shore that Anthony Asundep alias A.A had impacted. Hardly did anyone conjecture the reason for the abduction and so ears were on the ground to hear from the kidnappers. Minutes ticked away and then hours were gradually ticking away too. Finally, in the heat of the afternoon sun, a call came through from the commanding officer of the Eyumojock area unit of the Ambazonian Freedom Fighters, a certain General Lambert. We had kidnapped your father early this morning, but he has died in our hands. We have dumped the corpse at a given juncture, come quickly and collect it otherwise we’ll burn it up or throw it in a river. A family member was promptly dispatched and the corpse was collected and put in a morgue. It was after this that Ma Nkan, the sister and mother to the victim was called and told about the death and her reaction was “oh my God, my hope is gone! Is it the military again, who have gone on their usual rampage?” The answer was, “no mama, it isn’t the military, it is the separatist fighting for freedom.”

“So you mean my brother has died in the hands of freedom?”

“If you say so mama.”

At this point she cried out even louder, “freedom, freedom, o freedom, how your name is being misused. How the wicked use your name to commit heinous crimes? See what has befallen my kid brother in the name of freedom. When shall human beings understand that freedom before being collective is personal? Each one manages their freedom according to their circumstances.”

“I think you’re right mama. There’s so much criminality in the name of freedom. Humans if they believe in the God who created them should endeavour to understand that freedom is simply love for one another. If humans love one another there would be no reason not to be free from want, fear and self-expression. Mama if A.A’s death in the hands of freedom will ignite this understanding in people, then he would be one of the martyrs of freedom.”

“Martyr of freedom! Martyr of freedom, like our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ who died on the cross to set us free?”

“I think so mama.”

“If that be the case, then my hope is back. My kid brother has not died for nothing. I should rather thank my God for him.”

Thank God, Ma Nkan had found some sense and eventual peace in the cruel murder of her kid brother. Meanwhile the community succeeded to obtain the release of their chief and the other abductee when they paid up a whooping sum of one million seven hundred thousand francs ransom to the freedom fighters. Then the fighters heartlessly went further to ask for a two million francs ransom for A.A to be buried in the land of his ancestors.

The Ndebaya community went panicking for all homes would be razed if they failed to raise the money. In their panic they turned to Ma Nkan to raise the money if she would want her brother to be buried in Ndebaya – the land of his birth.She told them they were wasting their time for his brother had already shown the way to freedom. It no longer mattered to her where he was buried. Her only regret was that the country that all of them toil for has sat and watched very poisonous mushrooms grow on the invaluable soil of their ancestors.

My dear Commander, it is rather unfortunate that this has happened to our country. A lot of development has gone under water, especially youth development, as this crisis has made monsters out of young people who would have been the rising sun of the nation. Human blood has gone down the drain and this has implanted fear and hopelessness in those still alive. However, we shall forever be damned if we go out of the circumstances without having learnt lessons. Remember it is simplistically said that the first fool isn’t a fool but the second fool is a fool forever.

Cheers

S. Akombi

Rebellion as riposte to choked reforms

By Ngoko Monyadowa

The recent judgement sentencing of Sisikku Julius Ayuk Tabe and the Nera Hotel, Nigeria abductees in the absence of their lawyers to life imprisonment with concomitant colossal amounts running into billions as fines has lain bare the Biya regime’s inveterate inclination to abuse power and, by extension, disregard for the wellbeing of the very Cameroonians who by agency of the ballot box, even if lubricated by rigging, accord it a veneer of legitimacy.

Without recourse to casting aspersion on it since the procedural accompaniments preparatory to its pronouncement had ab initio attracted the ire of legal scholars, the feeling here is that its timing and cruelty conjure up a combination of insensitivity to the plight of suffering Anglophone youths who need to return to school in the days ahead and nullification of the much vaunted and money guzzling back to school mantra that has seen parliamentarians laugh home with FCFA15million each.

To the extent that such a very sensitive issue has vaulted into the political landscape at a time when even diehard separatists had begun eliciting support for a return to normalcy, at least in regard to schools resumption, the temptation arises to lend credence to the assertion that warmongers and moral cripples have taken the country hostage and nothing but pecuniary benefits derivable from freebooting drives such coldness. Dialogue has therefore been jettisoned!

 Admittedly, taking up arms against one’s fatherland is a heinous enterprise that requires meticulous investigation to bring out the reasons undergirding such adventurism and, if possible, proffer both commensurate punishment and solutions to the inducements advanced by perpetrators of such treasonable felony. Nevertheless, by the same token, government ought to have been more adroit in its management of the trial process to diminish the current legion of dissent. If for no other reason, the fate of children who have been away from school for three academic years and counting should inform a more civil disposition.

Indeed, at the risk of repetitiveness, there is every reason to believe that government has intentionally timed the sentencing to coincide with the back to school campaign. Unable to extricate itself from blame rooted in abhorrent misrule, it has instead embraced the scorn of local and international community by providing incontrovertible evidence of resolve to eschew dialogue in favour of military onslaught. 

This explains why one could not hold back tears for Cameroon after seeing television footages of some parliamentarians distributing school bags and a few exercise books to hired crowds of pupils and students in the name of government support to the back to school hymn. The issue here is not the fact that state money is being used and abused by people whose mandates hinge on parents of the same children being subjected to such derisory drama but more significantly, the purpose and process of making means available for pupils and students to return to school. How do we explain the fact that a category of citizens who have lost legitimacy and by that token declared persona non grata in their constituencies are the ones championing the back to school mantra? How many people among their supposed target audiences watch television in the bushes where current circumstances have compelled them to seek solace?

It reeks of presumptuousness for a cabal of turncoats that has not mustered the courage to be in their constituencies for three consecutive days in the last three years to be saddled with such an arduous project. To all intents and purposes, the feeling is that the Ministries of Basic and Secondary Education have been seriously spited by the lawmakers. These are the direct managers of schools and to that extent ought to be the handlers of the process of ensuring that schools resume effectively come September 2, 2019. Oh, no! Money is involved and such money is only good for the pockets of law makers and not school managers. A glorious wish indeed but certainly not a realistic picture of political pragmatism as it has easily crumbled under the complexities of current insurrectionary ripostes to such misrule.

Correlatively, the impression is that of a people in frenzy after being caught in a maze occasioned by illusory bravado. They are simultaneously everywhere and nowhere! Their actions depict so much antipathy for the well being of citizens to the extent that apartheid is clearly delineated between the lifestyles of the governing class and those who elected them in the hope that their interest will be primordial. No Way! There is no stopping them for the train of profligacy and callousness is in motion and any attempt to do so will suffer from the incendiary pangs of human infernos.  Yes, they operate with no qualms as if to say we are at it and so what! Indeed, our country is headed for a very dangerous precipice but surprisingly, many at the helm still lean on the fatalistic illusion of ‘all is well.’

Three years have come and gone like yesterday without any concrete solution to the political inferno that has bogged down governance. What began as a seemingly innocuous bubble has through inattention been allowed to degenerate into a festering sore that needs specialist attention. Its ramifications have reached a point where piecemeal handouts will not do the trick. The process of seeking solution to its malignant character must be holistic and drastic at the same time. In the circumstance, the feeling keeps cropping up that the intellectual repository that Cameroon seems to have represented is illusory and on that score wanting in intensity and reality. Otherwise, how can an issue whose character inheres in constitutional reform play foul on us to the extent that we are now killing ourselves? Greed, some may say while others posit that the explanation instead has root in uncertified lunacy that has afflicted many within our governing class.

Three years truly seem like yesterday but the repercussions have been ghastly and bestial. Roadside corpses have become mundane issues adorning conversations among travelers on major highways of Anglophone Cameroon. We seem incapable of properly calibrating the impact of the avoidable orgy of bloodletting that has sent most of us into trances from which we are still to regain consciousness. From premature deaths on both sides of the dichotomy between government and Anglophone separatists, we are now saddled with widows, orphans and prospects of famine judging by the business as usual approach adopted by government in distributing donations from the United Nations and other friendly donor organizations. As for handouts from government, they are already finding their way into local markets making it difficult for the intended beneficiaries to reap from such philanthropy.

Unfortunately, the time to sway public opinion is long past and gone. Blustering on television sets cannot and will not do the trick. Indeed, one would have imagined that there would be more ingenious ways of attempting to cajole Cameroonians like institutionalization of federalism but in a system operated by mobsters, money launderers and other people of doubtful credibility even the ordinarily intelligent get afflicted by indefensible callousness. This easily comes into play because of the unceasing and remorseless quest to be seen among the most obsequious of the emperor’s court jesters. And, since the emperor relies on such psychedelics to make decisions, the upshot is anti-people edicts that serve to implant apathy within the citizenry. Moreover, such civil sickness resultant from loss of national integrity engenders a credibility gap between government and the people owing to variance of interests.

Who wants Fru Ndi’s head?

By Ngoko Monyadowa

Today’s epistle is an offshoot of the recent calamities visited on the person of the Social Democratic Front, SDF, Chairman Ni John Fru Ndi and, by extension the already dwindling prominence of the party. Interest here inheres not so much in the newsworthiness of the party as the issue of their contemporaneity with political upheavals in the country. The fact that his recent abduction comes on the heels of other public relations fiasco emanating from the Chairman’s unreasoned visit to SONARA and the unfortunate aftermath of being muddied by a low cadre administrator fit to be his grandson is quite telling and, raises the spectre of a man at the helm of a party that acts on impulse instead of laid down strategy. Indeed, the pendulum swings of fate have not been kind to the SDF and its maverick Chairman in the recent past as epitomized also, by the saga of key to Limbe metropolis handed to him by the John Elufa Manga Williams, first class chief in waiting of the OPEC city.

Contrary to the perspective many have leaned on-that is Fru Ndi deserved the loathsome treatment showered on him during his botched attempt to show concern for the incendiary occurrence in Cameroon’s lone refinery, the contention here is that we must always make a distinction between political correctness and simple rules of decorum or etiquette. While admitting that Fru Ndi’s idiosyncrasy might have induced him not to exhibit concern much earlier for the more than 14,000 workers unceremoniously driven into penury by the activities of separatist militias, such a slip in diligence has nevertheless, impacted negatively on the viewpoint many Cameroonians hold on his person and the party he incarnates. Is he telling the public that he did not hear about chopped off fingers from the hands of workers who attempted to dare the separatists by going to work? Did the inferno at SONARA have to sprout for him to be jolted to sanity?

Oh no, Mr. Chairman while not pandering to the objectionable behavior of the officials at Cameroon Development Corporation, CDC, headquarters who ensured that a low-keyed, if not, snobbery reception was reserved for you during your almost afterthought visit to their premises, conventional wisdom would have impelled a more civil approach to issues of protocol and administrative niceties by ensuring that your visit is duly programmed.

 Even more embarrassing is the fact that a prominent personality like Fru Ndi, at least, considering antecedents relating to the restoration of multi-party politics in Cameroon and other sacrifices bearing on chivalry and erstwhile charisma, was reduced to a mere pauper by the agency of an upstart administrator passing off for Sub Divisional Officer for Limbe II who barred him from achieving his public relations stunt of visiting the charred remains of the once vibrant SONARA.

This incident readily brings to mind the impertinence of administrative officials especially, those sent to function in the English speaking part of the country. With a pigeon-holed mentality or mindset that predicates every issue on state authority leaving no room in its wake for personal initiatives infused unto them while in ENAM, there can be no gainsaying the fact that wet-nose administrators will be prone to unleashing abominable acts of indecency even to evidently respectable citizens. And, this is precisely the case with Fru Ndi, who advertently or inadvertently, opened his flanks to the exuberance of a “one and indivisible Cameroon” fanatic.

With the current situation of descent to free for all and his sometimes unguarded statements that exude indictment of the government for incompetence in handling the Anglophone crisis, it is not surprising that even without orders from above, fanatical Biya apologists could seize any available opportunity to drag the iota of honour he still possesses into opprobrium.

Coming back to the Key to Limbe metropolis issue, the wonder here is that the very chiefs who are unrepentant about Fru Ndi being disrobed of the honour of being in possession of the Key to the OPEC city are the very ones who had championed an earlier move that materialized in the bestowal of the same honour on the Senior Divisional Officer for Fako, Engamba Emmanuel. When chiefs reduce themselves to serfs and poodles of administrators and illegitimate politicians, the upshot is not surprisingly, the condescending posturing akin to what the governor of the Southwest region Bernard Okalia Bilai indulged in the advent to this year’s May 20 celebrations.  Moreover, if it is true as has been postulated that the persona dramatis John Manga Williams, had been summoned to Yaounde by a regime top brass and forced to recant his previous act of civility to Fru Ndi, then the issue is one of premature obsession with being seen to be in the good books of the paymaster-in this case Emperor Paul Biya.

As for the abduction of the SDF chairman, it is taken here with a pinch of salt. While condemning such an action that projects nothing short of moral depravity, there is every reason to believe that in a country that has exhibited undisguised signs of descent into a failed state, given that even known armed robbery gang leaders, money launderers, and all sorts of mobsters find their places within the governing class, nothing comes as surprise. While Fru Ndi’s post release narrative evokes clear signs linking his abduction to Ambazonian separatists, there is also the possibility of an unseen hand from the lunatic fringe of government that may want to affix an image of extremism on Anglophone separatists that is stalling the much desired inclusive dialogue. Fru Ndi, deposed that the crux of his abduction is his inability or refusal to withdraw SDF parliamentarians and senators from the current national assembly. This assertion is brought to naught by the fact that the concerned lawmakers, or is it breakers, won election in different constituencies and their stay or withdrawal from the national assembly does not depend on the Chairman. It has to be an individual decision.

What is certain is that whoever is behind the abduction of the SDF Chairman does not have a firm grasp of the issues at stake. Fru Ndi, is not a separatist and so whatever he does with the Biya regime should be of no interest to the Ambazonian cause. In fact, if as Fru Ndi claims, his abductors are from the Ambazonia fringe of separatists, then, such a lunatic clime is doing a disservice to their struggle. How then can they exculpate themselves from the stigma of extremism that has hung on the throat of president Biya like a sword of Damocles? On the other hand, if the hand of Jacob is impersonating that of Esau then we are in for an endless struggle because there are hawks even within the “one and invisible Cameroon” fringe of the political arena who do not want the war to end and by that token come up with antics that postpone meaningful dialogue. Whatever turns out to be the verdict, these are very trying moments for the SDF and its national Chairman, Ni John Fru Ndi. A more mature vision and communication strategy is sorely needed to erode the recent gaffes by the Chairman and the party if at all there is hope for rejuvenation in the pip

Those clamouring for Federalism are indeed “walking in the footsteps of our founding fathers.” They are the real patriots imbued with the transformative power to build rather than break the blocks of a unity in diversity nation; they are the genuine foot soldiers content with rewriting on the blackboard of our fifty-five years of uneasy coexistence, the erased memories of a fractured dream. For whoever silences the voices of Federalism only ends up amplifying the whispers of Independence.

Mwalimu George Ngwane,

The Rambler newspaper, January 7th 2017

SDF: Between suffering masses and political correctness

By Ngoko Monyadowa

Prevailing circumstances in the political arena of the polity seem to lend credence to the fact that hindsight may have for once been accorded premium within the ranks of the Social Democratic Front, SDF, Cameroon’s erstwhile preeminent opposition party.This can be adduced from the party’s decision subsequent to its immediate past National Executive Council, NEC, meeting that has put paid to the brouhaha relating to eventual participation during upcoming elections in Cameroon. In terms that are not amenable to equivocation, the party has made clear its resolve not to partake in subsequent elections in Cameroon unless government reverses its current lukewarm attitude to the Anglophone crises and brings forth sturdy and permanent solution to bear on it.

 The issue here is not so much SDF’s concern for the contemptible, if not, fatal plight of their most reliable constituencies in the Northwest and Southwest Regions, but more significantly, it is the fact that for once, the party will spare its devotees and adherents the noxious experience of being seen as sheep shepherded by blind men. The war President Biya has declared on Southern Cameroonians and the concomitant pogrom may be as atrocious as it is, but the fate and esteem of the party enjoy pride of place in whatever reckoning that is being brought to bear on decision making. This is so because decisions emanating from SDF’s NEC sometimes emit putrefaction and elicit interrogation as to the sanity of its members. This is certainly not commendable augury for a party that had raised the hopes of many a Cameroonian as a veritable repository of men with integrity that would eventually bring about much sought after change.

With the supra decision, the party seems to have begun evoking strategic thinking as guiding principle to decision making. Perhaps it has begun dawning on its management that the race for power is a process and by extension, elicits strategy and not immediate and expendable tactics. Strategy comes to play when planning envisions a long-term project while tactic is for immediate implementation after which it is consigned to the dust bin. Strategy also deals with planning, execution, evaluation and implementation of corrective measures in cases of failure.

 However, this does not seem to apply in the case of the SDF. Their errors of omission and commission have had tremendous effect on the Cameroonian political landscape. A few examples will suffice to make the point here that foresight and hindsight have hardly been accorded their rightful places by the management of SDF.

In 1992, SDF stayed off parliamentary and municipal elections in an atmosphere where the euphoria from ‘stolen victory’ rented the air in the entire country. Not surprisingly, Bouba Bello Magairi’s UNDP that was not even known in Anglophone Cameroon carried the day with all the seats in the Southwest Province and parts of Northwest. Had the SDF consented to adding its weight at a time when its popularity that hinged more on the Union for Change than the much complimented charisma of Ni John Fru Ndi counted much, the opposition would have had a huge majority in parliament and the councils and by that token, paved the way for the sacking of the CPDM. Its non participation opened the floodgate for opportunists like Augustin Frederick Kodock and Dakole Dissala to come into the fray with one-man shows that attracted ministerial appointments for them to the chagrin of embattled Cameroonians. We are where we are today because of that error in judgment, the current regime’s excesses notwithstanding. This is so because Biya would have, ab initio, not been there today to indulge in such excesses.

Another instance of SDF’s lack of hindsight is its deification of Ni John Fru Ndi, its leader.  In spite of strident calls for the party to regenerate via infusion of younger cadres into its management, particularly, at its helm where the current Chairperson keeps alluding to Biya’s headship of the CPDM instead of seeing reason in stepping down and making way for greater vitality within the party, Fru Ndi, and his cohorts have made SDF to be stigmatized as a Moghamo party where a cabal has entrenched nepotism and tribalism. After taking three shots at the presidency with results showing that he is facing diminishing returns, a discerning person would have left the mantle to another candidate. Oh no! Illusion of grandeur could not have let this happen. Fru Ndi, is larger than life and by inference could not have stepped down for another candidate within the party.  The third attempt of course, brought in the worst result.

Perhaps the worst gaffe by the SDF is its participation during the last presidential election. A combination of factors, including an aura of inflated importance that surrounded the party and, its presidential candidate Joshua Osih, coupled with lack of foresight and hindsight in the fact that Bamileke presence in the SDF was the result of lack of a credible opposition leader among their kith than true adherence and initial underestimation of the Anglophone factor pushed the SDF into its worst disgrace since its creation in 1992. From the leading opposition party, a position it has occupied unchallenged since 1990, the SDF opened its flanks for hitherto unheard of names like Maurice Kamto, (a CPDM renegade) and Cabral Libih to beat it to fourth position. This ordinarily would have never been contemplated. Oh no, the SDF is the leading opposition party! Some try to console themselves with the fact that a presidential election does not really test grassroots strength of a political party. Agreed! But does it change the fact that the representative of the SDF came fourth; two places down from its usual second?

One thing is certain and it is that SDF is not running away from subsequent elections out of concern for the plight of the callous mishandling of the present crisis pitting Southern Cameroonian separatists against the Biya regime. It is merely interested in the votes that its erstwhile sympathisers would bring to bear on its overall performance. This assertion takes root from the fact that SDF and Joshua Osih ought to have known that their main constituents are domiciled in the Northwest and Southwest Regions.

 Prodded by such knowledge, they would have quietly stayed away from the immediate past presidential election.Their current detour is not out of sympathy for the plight of emasculated and suffocating Anglophones writhing in the pains of an avoidable pogrom but a political strategy driven by a quest to use the numbers of those who would survive to garnish their now dented and blemished image.

Unfortunately for them, their espousal of a ten state Federation made known for the first time after their last NEC meeting puts them on a head-on collision with majority of Anglophones who now see a return to two-state federation or separation as worst case scenario as best solution to the current crisis. Here again, they are swimming against the tide of hindsight as most Anglophones are distancing themselves from a party that was once the pole of attraction of its political class. Whether their decision is ascribable to coming to terms with the necessity to lean on hindsight or a political tactic to reinvent its attractiveness to Anglophones will remain a matter of conjecture but what is certain is that SDF has lost its erstwhile dynamism and requires urgent reengineering.

How witchcraft is contributing to the under-development of Africa

(Being the Cameroon component of a four-nation transnational investigation commissioned/financed by the European Union Journalism Fund)

By Chief Bisong Etahoben

Ask almost every Cameroonian man-in-the-street whether he/she has ever experienced the negative effects of witchcraft on his/her social development and the answer without hesitation would be positive.

“Witchcraft and corruption are the two most devastating aspects of Cameroonian national life. They contribute more than 80% to the current under-development of this country. Without these ruinous aspects of our society, Cameroon would not have to wait until 2035, as the government says, before becoming an emerging economy” declares Prof. Victor Julius Ngoh, a history professor and one-time Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University of Buea and the University of Bamenda.

Although witchcraft is a crime punishable under Section 251 of the 1967 penal code, the nefarious practice continues to thrive with reckless abandon. And its negative effects on national development are very glaring to see.

“Look at the state of development of the various regions where witchcraft is at its peak as compared to the other regions and you will easily perceive the damaging effects of witchcraft on national development as a whole”, Prof. Ngoh says.

The Eastern Region of Cameroon is generally accepted here as the cradle of witchcraft in the country and it is perhaps no coincidence that it is the most under-developed region in the country despite its richness in natural resource endowments.

According to the 2016 Report of the East Regional Follow-up Commission for Public Investment Projects, more than 40% of investment projects earmarked for the region were abandoned uncompleted. And this concerned only the projects that had been started. There are those which were completely blocked for one reason or the other and the general consensus amongst the populations of the areas where earmarked projects were not started at all or scrapped after being earmarked is that neighbouring communities which coveted similar projects used witchcraft in causing the scrapping of the projects.

A senior official in the East Regional Delegation of the Ministry of Economy, Planning and Regional Development who did not wish to be identified for fear of being bewitched himself revealed that though officially the blame for the abandonment of the projects was placed on rogue contractors and corrupt officials, “quite some responsibility for the malfunctioning of the projects can squarely be placed on the evil machinations of witches and wizards”.

Cases abound in the Eastern Region where conclaves of wizards have worked to undermine the development of one village to the advantage of the other.

Court records in Bertoua and Abong Mbang in the region indicate that in one case, the Headmaster of a village school whose name was given as Mpoam was one night visited by a group of wizards led by one Medumba and another chief wizard whose name was given as Nkal. The group “spiritually tore open the chest and stomach of Mpoam and worked on his heart to force him into recommending that the village school he headed be relocated to a neighbouring village.

“Now, education is the road to development. If you deprive a village or a community of a school, you have deprived it of education and by extension its development”, says sociologist Eric Kombey who works at the Yaounde Central Hospital.

Other manifestations of the under-development of the Eastern Region because of its notorious position as the cradle of witchcraft in the nation is its under-population occasioned by the “agbati” witchcraft cult which thrives on making young females barren.

The “agbati” cult membership is restricted to male youths under the age of 35. One of its members confessed in court that he was an “agbati” cult member and because he could not easily get girls to fall in love with him, he uses his “agbati” powers to visit girls in the night and make love to them.

“Once I make love to a girl and ejaculate in her, she can never get pregnant”, the youth who gave his name as Appolinaire Marigoh told the court. He revealed that the “agbati” witch cult had a large following in the Eastern Region which accounts for the under-population of the region.

In fact, the Eastern Region of Cameroon, which is the largest in land mass with an area of 109,200 square kilometres has the lowest population density in the country with only 5 inhabitants per square kilometre as against 97 inhabitants per square kilometre in the Western Region of Cameroon with a land area of 13,892 square kilometres.

“More than 80% of all deaths in the Eastern Region are attributed rightly or wrongly to witchcraft and it is the general conviction among the various communities in the region that the depletion in the population or lack of peoples thereof is as a result of the nefarious activities of witches and wizards”, an official of the Regional Delegation of the Ministry of Economy, Planning and Regional Development in Bertoua, who refuses to be identified for fear of being visited by the night people, opines.

The South Region which comes second in the witchcraft perception in the country also comes second as the region with the lowest population density with 8 inhabitants per square kilometre in its land area of 47,191 square kilometres. This, as against 24 inhabitants per square kilometre in the neighbouring Centre Region which has a population of 3,191,929 inhabitants.

“With its abundance of natural resources, which are currently being exploited by several foreign companies, one would have expected the Eastern Region to attract thousands of job seekers flooding there for employment. This does not seem to be the case because even those who go there and succeed in getting employment sooner or later abandon their jobs because of the prevalence of witchcraft. Even youth who are origins of the region would rather migrate to other regions in search of job opportunities which abound in their own region of origin”, reveals a labour inspector in Bertoua, the East Regional headquarter who opted for anonymity for fear of becoming the target of witches and wizards.

What frightens most people away from the East is the sudden, inexplicable and untimely deaths of the youths.

“Development is people; where there are no people to execute development projects or contribute towards the economic advancement of the people and area, there can be no development to talk about”, sociologist Kombey says.

Another area of Cameroon where witchcraft has chased away people and development is Obang in Manyu Division of the Southwest Region (where this writer comes from). Formerly made up of sixteen villages – Ekogati, Bakut, Osselle, Bajoh, Mgbegati, Abat, Bayib-Ossing, Okoroba, Ekpantang, Mbinda-Tabo, Bakogo, Akak, Ndebokem, Bayib-Arsibong, Etinkem and Bayenti – bubbling at the seams with a population made up mostly of youths in their prime, today, the Obang clan is a shadow of its former self with but fourteen of the sixteen villages maintaining some semblance of their former selves. One, Ekpantang has completely disappeared while Ndebokem which had completely been depleted due to deaths is beginning to look like returning to life with two former villagers who escaped trying to return to their former village.

Mami Oghem Agbor, today an old mother who lived in Ndebokem during its heydays but who was forced to escape from the village remembers with nostalgia the village as it used to be:

“It was one of the most vibrant Obang villages with all the natural endowments in both human and material resources. There was a thriving youth population and our traditional dances and jujus always carried the day in most cultural competitions. Our band was invited to all tribal celebrations in all Obang villages as we had the best flutters and drummers. And then the mysterious deaths started. Young men and women, boys and girls started dropping dead in their prime. We prayed to all our gods and did everything we knew to stem the deaths to no avail. Then the elephants started destroying our farms and after they finished with our farms they started advancing into the village tearing down houses and killing people in their sleep and even during the day. Finally, the few people who remained had to gather their belongings and children and some escaped to Bayib-Arsibong and some to Akak. I was one of the young girls who escaped”,  Mami Agbor reveals.

Mami Agbor could not tell me with certainty what brought about the situation, but she hesitantly says a land dispute between Akak and Bayib-Arsibong was generally believed to have been behind the demise of Ndebokem.

“The two villages which hemmed in Ndebokem were each eyeing its fertile land and so decided to decimate the population, destroy their livelihoods and subsequently take possession of their land. That is exactly what eventually happened”, she revealed.

Today, two descendants of the original villagers have dared to come back and claim their ancestral land.

One, Batey-Offigi, who is as tall as a giant says his mother took him and fled to Bakogo and got married to a famous traditional doctor and juju man.

“Everybody in the entire villages of Obang knows who my adoptive father Pah Tiku-Okphong alias ‘Cameroon’ was. They know he groomed me to take over from him both physically and spiritually. But I was not completely accepted in Bakogo so I finally decided to return to my ancestral home. I traced my father’s land here and built this house. Let them come again and try me. Knowing my background, nobody dared to challenge me when I came and started putting up this house, though this land was claimed by someone from Akak. The man could not dare utter a word to claim this land. And here I am now”, Batey-Offigi told me.

The other man who dared come back is Pah John Agbor-Mbog. He was taken away as a kid by his parents as they fled from Ndebokem “when witches and wizards invaded our village, killing, maiming and transforming into elephants to destroy our farms and houses”, he recounts.

Pah Agbor-Mbog who could not receive an education eventually became a cook and worked as a houseboy for the Senior Divisional Officer for Meme Division in Kumba.

“I could no longer continue to bear the stigma of being someone without an ancestral home to go back to so I braved it and returned here to claim what I knew rightly belonged to me. If I had listened to all the frightening stories people told, I should not have had the courage to come back here. But some of those witches and wizards who still hang around here know I lived among the Bakundu people who are reputed to habour the most powerful witches and wizards. The mere fact that I came and started building this house made them conclude that were I not an initiated, I would not have had the guts to return and so they have since left me alone”, Pah Agbor-Mbog revealed to me.

Development workers from both United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations in various African countries including Cameroon have reported in many cases that witchcraft accusations have resulted in mass movements of communities to neighbouring communities or even across borders contributing to the under-development of otherwise buoyant village communities.

This is the case with Ekpantang in Obang where the entire villagers either died of inexplicable causes or completely deserted the village to other villages.

According to one of the villagers now living in Mbinda-Tabo, “Even away from our ancestral village of Ekpantang, the witches/wizards who forced our parents to take us away from our village have followed us into exile. Most of our kinsmen have died and there are less than five of us who were brought here as infants still alive today. Our offspring too have not been spared, so we would rather not even waste our time in having children. When the remaining few of us alive today die, our village and its offspring shall have completely been wiped out, except perhaps in the history books”.

Within the 63,000 Nigerian community of refugees now cantoned in the Minawa refugee camp in the Far North Region of Cameroon, it is common knowledge that not all of them abandoned their villages because of the Boko Haram threat. Some ran away because of the fear of witchcraft.

“The number of mysterious deaths and disappearances in our village continued to mount by the day and though officialdom continued to attribute this to Boko Haram operatives, it was generally believed by a majority of us villagers that there was something beneath more than just Boko Haram terrorist activities”, one female refugee told this writer.

“You want me to give you my full names, of course you know I cannot because those people listen to everything we say though they are very far away from us now”, the woman said as she refused to be identified. The fear of witchcraft and its practitioners is all pervasive. Even thousands of miles away from home and their nocturnal persecutors, most of the refugees still believe their utterances are listened to wherever they are.

When whole communities abandon their villages to other regions or neighbouring countries, it goes without saying that development cannot occur in abandoned communities. Such communities are taken aback by decades in the area of development if they ever succeed in returning and regrouping again into the same villages.

A recent and current experience that would set back the two English-speaking Northwest and Southwest Regions several decades in deficit of human resource is playing out in the ongoing civil war between the Cameroon military and separatists.

At the beginning of hostilities between the two sides, separatists in Manyu Division which shares a common border with Nigeria started inflicting heavy casualties on the Cameroonian military. Surprisingly, many of the separatist fighters were proving invincible. Some soldiers who confronted the separatists in this front discovered a frightening phenomenon by which separatist fighters fired upon using heavy military weapons were seeming to be brushing away the bullets and advancing as if nothing had happened to them.

This phenomenon was eventually explained away by what is called “odeyshi”.

“Once you have been ‘cooked’ in the ‘odeyshi’ pot and gone through the entire initiation rites, no bullet can penetrate your body. And most of those separatist fighters in Manyu Division and elsewhere had been to Nigeria and gone through the initiation rites”, an Egbekaw resident with knowledge of the phenomenon told this Reporter.

Dr. Francois Bingono Bingono, is a retired journalist and former Sub Director at the national tv channel CRTV. He currently teaches African Communication at the Advanced School of Journalism and Mass Communication of the University of Yaounde I. He also teaches in the Department of Anthropology of the University of Yaounde (I) as well as the National Higher Teachers’ Training College. He also lectures in the Department of Literature and Cameroonian Culture as well as at the National Institute of Youth and Sports and the CRTV Audiovisual Training Centre.He holds a PhD in Anthropology.

Dr. Bingono Bingono is perhaps the only Cameroonian wizard who has come out publicly to profess his craft and is even intending to open a school where witchcraft would be taught. Dr. Bingono Bingono told this writer in an interview that the odeyshi phenomenon cost the Cameroonian military several casualties until they – witches and wizards – were consulted by government to do something about it.

“We (the witches and wizards) had to do something about it and we devised a means to add extra power to the weapons of our military that can now spit out bullets that can penetrate separatist fighters who have gone through the odeyshi grooming”, Dr. Bingono Bingono revealed.

“If this war continues for any time longer, we would for many years be faced with many development problems in the two English-speaking regions because there would be a big shortage of manpower to execute development projects. Already, many building and road infrastructure projects have been interrupted partly because of the war and most especially because of the shortage of manpower”, a Regional Development Officer who does not want to be identified because he is not authorized to talk on behalf of his ministry told me.

Dr. Bingono Bingono revealed that witches and wizards are not only mystic but they can also be heroic and can contribute positively to the development of national communities. He posited that witchcraft should not continue to be treated as a secret thing but rather, it should be talked about openly so as to sensitize national communities about its practice.

“Witchcraft can never be completely abolished as long as humanity exists. Even the Inquisition which resulted in the burning of witches and wizards on the stake during Elizabethan Europe only reduced the practice of witchcraft but could not wipe it out”, Dr. BingonoBingono said.

Citing cases where witchcraft has impeded development, Dr. BingonoBingono revealed that in “most of our rural communities, there are several cases where constructed bridges have collapsed, once, twice or even thrice and in some cases even six times” which he attributed to witchcraft.

“There are also cases where a road is successfully constructed only to discover afterwards that the road had become impassable because the trajectory suddenly turned into mashland. These are recurrent cases in our country. Cases such as brand new vehicles bought to serve the community and are presented with fanfare to the community only for the new vehicles to be unable to function for a single day. Cases of road construction equipment rendered unusable by witchcraft thus preventing the construction of roads to enhance development”, the confessed wizard said.

(To be continued)

“There have been cases where even contractors brought in from the white man’s land to construct roads have ended up realizing the effectiveness of witchcraft in blocking the advancement of their work and had to plead with recommended anti-wizards to help them undo the evil done by witches/wizards”, Dr. Bingono Bingono revealed.

Asked whether one village can block the development of a neighbouring village community Dr. Bingono Bingono replied: “We are living in a competitive world. We have seen development projects seized from villages and communities for which they were intended by government and moved to other villages. There are many of such cases. When we talk, some people may think we are recounting anecdotes but these are facts. These are things which happen in most parts of Africa”.

As to whether he could cite a particular case(s) where witchcraft was used to sabotage a project(s) Dr. Bingono Bingono replied: “We live in a world where people are daily looking for ways to make money out of others. I don’t want to get involved in a situation where I would be sued by somebody or conclave of witches/wizards to show proof that a particular project was sabotaged by he/she/them. However, you may remember the case of the seven storey building that collapsed in Mvog-Ada some years back. Well I am told there was a dispute over the land as some family was not satisfied about the way the land was appropriated. I hear they used their ancestral powers to sabotage that construction because they were cheated out of their land. But don’t quote me. There are several of such cases I know but count me out if you want names and periods”.

The University Don cited the case where President Paul Biya called on village communities in Far the North Region where, Boko Haram has been wrecking havoc on the populations and under-developed the region by several decades,to use their knowledge of witchcraft and super natural powers in fighting the evil forces of Boko Haram.

“If the Boko Haram menace is subsiding right now, it is because some initiated took the initiative to use their supernatural powers in sowing seeds of confusion within the ranks of the Boko Haram terrorists. Don’t you see how they have been bungling their operations and many of their suicide bombers are being detected and arrested before they detonate their devices? You think that is for nothing?” Dr. BingonoBingono asked.

“If witches/wizards are sincerely approached to release their extraordinary powers to fight a just cause, they would certainly do so. The most immediate remedy is always to use those specialized in anti-witchcraft who most times can succeed in undoing what witches/wizards have done”, Dr. Bingono Bingono said.

Witchcraft is a criminal offence and punishable under Section 251 of the Cameroon penal code; how come you openly declare that you are an initiated wizard yet you have never been prosecuted? Can you tell us more about your initiation and activities as a wizard? I asked Dr. Bingono Bingono.

His answer: “It is true that witchcraft is punishable by law in Cameroon. But the truth is that the law only comes in when someone has used his powers to commit a crime. I have never committed any crime so there is no reason to arrest or prosecute me. If I were to discuss about my initiation with you then I would be initiating you too so let us leave things at that. Truth be told, I have had people who know me or have been told about me coming to me asking for advice where there is the suspicion that witchcraft was involved in certain situations within communities. And wherever possible, I give the necessary advice in order to avert unfortunate situations. Don’t ask me to elaborate on this because I will not”.

On several accidents that result in hundreds of deaths when it is getting to the end of the year and which are most times attributed to witches and wizards Dr. Bingono Bingono declares: “It must be retained that the soil feeds on blood and each time when we are getting to the end of the year, it has a hunger to gulp this liquid. We can say that the end of the year is prone to deadly accidents than other periods of the year simply because we go towards a period when nature has a need for revival through blood. There is nothing alarming about that”.

The University Don called on pastors and priests to stop protecting bad witches and wizards and also stop denouncing the good ones who once denounced may turn into bad witches/wizards.

“Even in traditional/village communities, witches/wizards should be seen as possible agents of development. Society should make them understand they can use their powers to advance development. They who see the world beyond can help develop society and as such, government should have confidence in them and bring them into the mainstream of national development because they live in the past, present and future”, Dr. Bingono Bingono declares.

“I suggest that there should be a multidisciplinary platform made up of philosophers, intellectuals of western modernity, the elite, but above all not forgetting traditional servants, be created to search for solutions to the various problems affecting our communities today. Purification rites, incantations, exorcism which should include strategic patrimonial initiation and those who incarnate these traditional values should not be forgotten when searching for solutions to problems of national development”, the confessed wizard advises.

Though witchcraft became a punishable offence in Cameroon five years after independence under Section 251 of the 1967 penal code, arrests and prosecutions have not been easy coming. Those found guilty of witchcraft can be sentenced to from 2 to 10 years imprisonment and a fine of 5,000 to 100,000 CFA francs.The Eastern Region alone, which is considered the cradle of witchcraft in Cameroon carries the highest number of prosecutions in the courts, with the overall number of cases handled in the region alone higher than the total number in all the other nine regions put together.

A representative of the Minister of Justice who elected for anonymity because he was not authorized to talk on behalf of his ministry recently told participants at a seminar on witchcraft that there are between ten and twenty cases of witchcraft handled by courts in the Eastern Region alone per month.

According to a senior judicial official in Bertoua, the East Regional chief town, “just about ten percent of all the criminal cases handled in the region involve witchcraft. And prosecution is difficult because of the reluctance of witnesses to testify against accused witches/wizards for fear of being visited by the accused persons during unholy hours of the day”, the official who refused to be identified for fear of being bewitched revealed.

During a seminar on witchcraft held at the Catholic University of Central Africa in Yaounde in March 2005, many participants agreed that “the majority of legal decisions based on the penal code are unacceptable”.

Mounyol Mboussi, author of the book “Sorcellerie en Justice au Cameroun” explained that Cameroonian legislation does not define ‘witchcraft’ clearly enough, which complicates the judges’ task. Mounyol who was at the time President of the Vina Court of First Instance suggested an overhaul of Cameroonian legislation dealing with witchcraft as such legislation does not currently exist from a legal standpoint.

“During the whole of my time in Mamfe, Southwest Region as a magistrate, I handled just one case of witchcraft. And since I became an Appeal Court judge, I have not handled a single case involving witchcraft”, Justice Mbeng Ako of the Buea Appeal Court told me.

“I guess not up to 1% of the cases brought to the courts in the Southwest Region involve witchcraft”, the Appeal Court judge revealed.

As to what he would advise the government to do in curbing the practice of witchcraft and thus ridding society of its negative effects on development, Justice Mbeng says government has already taken action by criminalizing witchcraft under Section 251 of the penal code.

However, he says, “proving that someone is a witch and has committed an offence through witchcraft is difficult and the decision as to guilt is left to the judge’s discretion which, without evidence, is often times based on the statements made in court, which, of course, can lead to many errors”.

“I think the society would only have to live with the witchcraft phenomenon as it is today in the hope that as society develops and becomes more enlightened, future generations would discover that witchcraft may just be some imaginary thing that does not actually exist”, Justice Mbeng opines.

Meanwhile, distinguishing between the responsibility of witchcraft for abandoned projects and the corruption of government officials and contractors is a very herculean task. While most community leaders are quick to blame rogue officials and contractors for abandoned projects, the hush-hush talk within most communities hosting these abandoned projects is that witchcraft has a hand if not completely responsible for the unexecuted works.

Getting even villagers in the villages where the abandoned projects are cited and who would otherwise have benefitted from the services of the abandoned projects to talk is not easy as most of them have a hand in the abandonment of the projects due to their nocturnal activities.

“They know those responsible for chasing away the contractors and in most cases, some of them are involved in the witchcraft activities behind the abandonment of the projects. But they would dare not open their mouths to talk for fear of being bewitched or exposing themselves”, a noble in Efok told this Reporter.

Rev. Dr. Dieudonne Massi Gams, Chairman of Cameroon’s National Anti-Corruption Commission popularly known by its French acronym CONAC has called on communities where projects have been abandoned to conquer fear in order to galvanize themselves against threats and intimidation from corrupt officials and apostles of the night.

“The fight against corruption and supernatural powers is a fight against evil and the struggle of light against darkness”, the clergyman told this Reporter.

Fighting against the negative forces of witchcraft that have contributed in undercutting the development efforts of government is not and would not be an easy task even in the near or far future. For one thing, the fear of the unknown remains one of the most debilitating aspects in the fight against the forces of the night. This fear is so pervasive that even highly-placed government officials who would otherwise be at the forefront of the fight are so frightened to make any declarations concerning what they are doing to combat witchcraft.

“What can one actually do to fight something you are not seeing? It is like fighting against the breeze. These people see us but we don’t see them. What we may think we know is often just based on assumptions or the denunciations of individuals who may in actual fact be enemies of the people they accuse and may be doing so as some sort of revenge for perceived or real wrongs against them.

“You talk of data as if you are a stranger to this country. We have been involved in sensitization campaigns to educate our field staff on the importance of gathering data on our investment projects in various parts of the country. Even in this regard, we are finding it difficult to get them to gather and send us the data. Now you talk of data on witchcraft and its effects on our projects? First we have in the past found out that the little data that trickles in from the regions is most times not grounded on provable facts. Then you ask about data on witchcraft? Field staff who live within the communities are so imbued in the fear of witches and wizards that even when they have information on the activities of these evil forces, they are afraid to mention it in their reports to us. They say witches and wizards have eyes and ears everywhere. I can tell you without fear of contradiction that even in the next decade or two, we would not be in a position to gather any data about the nefarious activities of witches and wizards”, a very senior official in the Ministry of Economy, Planning and Regional Development who opted for anonymity because of fear of the unknown declared.

According to sociologist Eric Kombey, fighting something you are not seeing as the official mentioned above says, can be done by way of educating and sensitizing the various communities and the practitioners of the craft on the evils of witchcraft and how they can use it positively.

“A good number of development projects such as road and bridge construction in some communities have been slowed down or abandoned because of the activities of witches and wizards. Even activities such as agriculture, lumbering, fishing and mining including business development, industrialization and human relations have been greatly affected in some communities for fear of the wrath of witches and wizards.

“One way of curbing these negative forces is to engage the local communities hosting such development projects in advance and educate them on the necessity to cooperate with project executors to ensure the success of the said projects since the projects are for their own benefit”, Mr. Kombey advises.

Though witchcraft can be said to be evolving because of the involvement of educated and modern practitioners such as Dr. Bingono Bingono, the core practitioners who hold the core secrets of the craft can be found mostly within the very old and transitory age group ranging from over seventy years and above. These individuals are mostly found in rural communities far away from modern civilization. And most of them are very angry people who believe society cut them raw deals and so are determined to wreck havoc on the communities that they consider treated them badly.

“Positive actions? What positive actions? Can you see anything positive about me here? Just look at me. Do I look like a normal human being? I live in this hole with no children or grandchildren to take care of me and you tell me of contributing positively to the development of this community? What positive thing has the community done for me? There is the saying among our people that children are the walking stick of the old. Now I have no children who could have borne me grandchildren to take care of me. Do you think I did not want to have my own children? Why did I not have my own children? What did I do that I was refused the joy of child birth? This community is responsible for my situation and they have to pay as long as I have any breathe of life left in me”, one old lady who said she does not know how old she is but gave her name only as Mama Baboke told me through an interpreter in Abong-Mbang in the Eastern Region.

“At my age what do I stand to benefit from any development that may come here in future? I shall be dead and gone by then. So don’t talk to me about development. Let us talk about what I am now and what I am going through. I hate everything around here and I hate the portion life reserved for me. I got married to four wives and bore eleven children. None is alive today. All my wives are dead as well as my eleven children. They were all ‘eaten’ by these people you see going up and down here. They are ‘people’ in the day and ‘monsters’ at night. They ruined my life and I am going to spend the rest of my life fighting for revenge. If you care, go and report me to the police that I said so. I will even be glad for them to come and kill me, after all what am I living for right now?”, one very old man who gave his name as Pah Zok told me through an interpreter in Yokadouma in the Eastern Region.

Between the resolve of old witches and wizards (who strongly feel they are being cut raw deals by their various communities) to continue with their nefarious activities and the doubts expressed by a legal practitioner as to the possibility of exorcising witchcraft in the immediate future, there seems only a single middle ground for now: educating the various communities and witchcraft practitioners on the necessity for them to cooperate wherever/whenever development projects that would benefit all members of the society are earmarked, as sociologist Kombey suggests.

Letter to commander ebube

Sammy Oke Akombi

Dear Commander,

On 10th February 2019, you rudely kidnapped me verbally. You may be wondering how someone could be kidnapped verbally. Let me explain. On that fateful day I was lying helplessly on a hospital bed and then in a very rude manner, your call came. It was an unfamiliar number and so understandably I could not pick it up. You insisted until I thought it could be someone in distress. I requested my wife who had come to attend to me in the hospital to take the call and pass it on to me.

Without the necessary civilities at the beginning of a phone call, you arrogantly asked why I had not read your messages. I was dumbfounded and so could not say anything. So you ordered me to go to my message box where you had lined up three messages. In the first one, you introduced yourself as the “Commanding Officer of the Mountain Lions of Fako,” a fierce unit of the “Ambazonian Defense Forces” and then you went on to state the purpose of your message: urgent request for a motorbike to help you carry out deadly missions.  Before I could read all the messages, your call came through again demanding that I act immediately.

My wife got panicky, wondering at what to cope with, my helplessness on a hospital bed or the threats from an unknown caller? Switching off the phone would not make sense as we were expecting friendlier calls from people who know us and we know them. But your menacing call could not give us any respite. The messages poured in, in their numbers. One of them promised me death by being roasted alive and another to kill my entire family if I did not comply with your request.  This is how I felt verbally kidnapped and the only way for a release was to comply with the request you had made – buy you a motorbike in order for you to carry out deadly missions. Physically and mentally weak my wife prevailed over me and we complied with your demands in cash in the hope that you would release me.

On 11th February the day after you had received the ransom, the nation rose up with the sad news that the District Hospital of Kumba had been set aflame, driving my thoughts to my aunt who had been hospitalized there for close to two months. It did not take me another five minutes to receive the news that she was one of the four victims who had been burnt to ashes in the fire. My grief overwhelmed my pain and for the rest of the day, my illness meant nothing to me. On 13th February your menacing calls and messages resumed and I thought I should explain my state of mind and health to you hoping you would understand. Unfortunately, it did not make any sense and the harassment persisted. I resolved to complain to the security agents at my own peril but the response was indifference. In one of your messages, you said you were fighting in order for me and my children to have a fatherland. In this regard, my contribution was imperative.

This message reminded me of an earlier call from someone I assume is your boss because he called himself General Satan. He too had asked for my financial contribution, saying that he and his boys were suffering in the bushes for our fatherland. And also another Commander like you whose name is Virus had promised beheading the Chief of my village if the elite of the village did not send their financial support for the struggle. I would like to observe that you work on assumptions. How would you on your own start a struggle and assume that everyone else must be part of that struggle. I and many others, who are terrorized by you and your likes: Generals Satan, Scorpion, Tiger and Commander Virus, do not believe in your struggle for a fatherland because God in his infinite mercy had already given us one. He did not give life and land to us humans so that we should fight and kill one another for it. There is no denying that we are His creation and like the good Father that He is, His intentions are that we live together in love and peace while respecting and helping one another. Your persistent harassment of my family has taken the calm and peace that we require.

You call yourself Commander Ebube but you are faceless. There’s nothing worse than constant threats from a faceless entity. This is happening not only to me and my family but also to a large number of the population of Cameroon, including school children who have been out of classrooms for close to three years. Given the ineffectiveness of security measures, the population has become so vulnerable that they act like zombies.  It is not only you who have taken advantage of this but also bandits and corrupt individuals. In case your financial taps have run dry, I would like to advise that you rather make demands for assistance from those who had convinced you to take up arms against your God-given fatherland. A fatherland which you and I have always sworn by, whose worth, we say, no tongue can tell and have always pledged to win its welfare in toil, love and peace. If you Mr. Commander now talk of a different fatherland from the one we have always known and believed in then you are being hypocritical. Only hypocrites profess one thing and do the other.  I would like to let you know that Cameroon as a nation should together fight its battles. If any group of the whole has been dislocated in personality, it is our collective responsibility to put things right, whether Anglophone or Francophone. Our brief life on earth is to straighten things for others, not in sweat and blood.

Mr. Commander Ebube, I would rather be a freeman in my grave than be subjected to the threats you are currently meting out on me and my family. Tell General Satan and Commander Virus that a struggle worthy of sympathy and success cannot be led by viruses and Satans.

Best regards.

Digression from matters of the moment

Penultimate week, the social media was awash with reactions to what has now come to be termed the Messanga Nyamding challenge. The substance of this gibberish is the self-acclaimed Biyaist’s contention that Southern Cameroonians are supposed to be grateful to President Biya whose so called magnanimity has permitted them to enjoy the luxury of elite professional schools whose doors would ordinarily not have been opened to their dim-witted tribe. My take on it is to refer all those who feel their feathers have been ruffled to the anecdote in one of Chinua Achebe’s novels that throws up the scenario of a mad man in rags who went into a stream where villagers usually bathe and carried away the hanging clothes of someone who had gone into the steam. The narrative continues that instead of reflecting for a while on the issue so as to come up with a palatable solution, the victim jumped out of the stream and set out behind the mad man in his nakedness.
The account continued that, the madman ran into a crowded market with his pursuer valiantly behind him. Note that in African mythology the simple act of a mad man entering a market automatically renders his affliction incurable. To aggravate issues, mad man was known all over for his weird attitude but, the victim whose clothes he had taken from the improvised hanger at the stream had been known to be a rational being. However, his appearance in the market in Adam’s suit conjured up no other explanation than that he too, had suddenly gone mad to the point where he had entered the market and cannot be cured. The lesson here is that when somebody who is supposed to have been educated up to a certain level suddenly opts to rant using statements that cannot withstand the cannons of incontrovertible data especially, if such a person more than usually associates himself with the CPDM, the conclusion is that very little rationality should be ascribed to him.
Not being inclined to waste useful time on worthless name-droppers and mean attention seekers like Messanga Nyamding the suggestion here is to redirect our energy to more poignant issues that foretell grave danger to Southern Cameroonians if requisite attention is not brought into play. The issue is of course, is Professor Jacques Fame Ndongo’s revelation on Radio France International, RFI, that the CPDM party is ready to discuss federalism with the aggrieved component of Cameroon. Straight-out nonsense! What a cheap form of digression! Where has the indivisibility of Cameroon been consigned? Are they now willing to negotiate with terrorists? Or, like the Southern Cameroonians who have opted for separation as worst case scenario in their quest for greater autonomy they too, are giving the impression of embracing federalism to entice moderate Southern Cameroonians.
Without subscribing to the extremism of those who want out of Cameroon, the temptation nevertheless arises to query the sudden capitulation? And, why is it that it is coming from the ruling party and not the Government even though such a distinction is irrelevant in our skies underpinned by politics of next of kin. If there is any realism in Fame Ndongo’s claim, then it must be borne out of avowed impossibility of imposing their will on Southern Cameroonians. Should this be the case, then its import must be relied upon heavily in the event of any negotiations for a federal system of Government in Cameroon. They shall be negotiating from a position of weakness and so must not be accorded the privilege of dictating the pace of deliberations. The worst case scenario of a return to the status quo antes 1972 but, without the one party system instituted by Ahmadou Ahidjo in 1966 must be relied on as our pathfinder.
While conceding that this might be the first step towards an armistice in the current mutually devastating hostilities, the fact that this is coming so suddenly and more than half a year since President Biya declared war against unseen terrorists, floats the perception of weary warmonger pretending to be inclined to peace when the reality is that underestimation of the opponent has occasioned a drastic reversal in fortunes. In the event, what Southern Cameroonians had begun clamouring for since the late 70s, and followed up in the 80s and 90s is now being proposed on the airwaves of a foreign radio.
Our president is too big or has surrounded himself with an aura of inflated importance such that he cannot address the nation on the issue. A lesser being must be the one assigned to talk down on people he still considers second class citizens. How unrepentant and daft!
Granted that a modicum of seriousness can be ascribed to Government intention to discuss federalism; did it have to take so much loss of lives and property for the regime to be jolted to reality? How are the mighty fallen! Fame Ndongo, of all people in Cameroon was the one saddled with the announcement that the regime is disposed to engage in discussions on federalism after he had derisively posited that “Southern Cameroonians are just two cubes of sugar in a basin of water, ” meaning their grieving voices do not count. Nevertheless, circumstances including resilience of Southern Cameroonians and pressure from the international community even though not enough is rubbing off on the abysmal callousness that the Biya regime has brought to bear on governance and conflict resolution in Cameroon.
When international observers voice what trenchantly reflects its modus operandi of their governance, the regime opts for trading insults with an organization that will still do the same thing the next time the opportunity arises. Driven by a disposition that sees every issue as being susceptible to quick fix provided a reasonable wad of money comes into the fray they had hoped Amnesty International would succumb to fleece bait. Unfortunately, for them, not having their umbilical cords buried in our skies, the same indicting reports with corroborating evidence have kept rearing their heads to the chagrin of an irredeemable regime mired in ruthless abuse of the rule of law.
The desperation is clear. What is certain is that the country is down and out! Stone broke! But this does not seem to mean anything to an old man whose very close association with an avaricious wife has induced puerility and outright freebooting into his mind-set. And, so no matter the hue and cry out there, he is steadfast to clinging onto power until his dying day. He wants to see the stadium named after him go operational like a kid anticipating new dresses at Christmas. A man who chooses to host Africa in a sports fiesta whose alternative is many more hospitals, schools, houses and improved livelihood for every Cameroonian is certainly not in tune with the prerequisites of android-age governance. He wants to be adored, venerated and even pampered. Too bad, the nimbus clouds are gathering and soon the storm will appear with a ferocity whose end will be difficult to determine.
Oh yes, the diversionary tactics will not change what God has reserved for those who have wholeheartedly embraced the devil and are occasioning avoidable pain on ordinary citizens whose only request is an enabling environment for peaceful living. Nemesis has decreed retribution and the price shall be incalculable.
By Ngoko Monyadowa

Mr. Biya, embrace zero tolerance accountability!

Those who have worked with projects where accounts have to be rendered to donor agencies are quite familiar with the title of today’s missive. What this means is that deliverables are known through planning workshops and outcomes can easily be monitored through well set out monitoring and evaluation mechanisms that eventually lay bare reasons for successes or failures and in the event of the latter corrective measures are evoked pronto. Even as this is conceptualized at the micro level, no insurmountable impediment bars it from being transposed to the macro realm. This way, the maneuverability that engenders corruption is profoundly marginalized.
What is being marshaled here is the fact that we are afflicted by our current woes because of absence of proper planning, monitoring and evaluation in the course of managing our economy. Our approaches have been ad hoc at best and, not surprisingly, our outcomes are anything but reliable or reflective of inputs in terms of human and material resources. In the event, bread and butter issues like food, health, housing, electricity and education have become luxuries instead of necessities.
We have found ourselves in this quagmire on account of abysmal disregard for human suffering. Some say it is inherited from Jacobin fixtures traceable to Napoleonic France while others parry such inclination by positing that France wherefrom such philosophy is deemed to have emanated had since moved to governance that tallies with current technological and managerial realities whiles we are still ensnared by medieval European feudalism. Our quest for undeserved comfort reflects unbridled profligacy that has eaten deep into the internal fabric of the ship of state to the point of boring holes that are now threatening it with possible capsize.
Even so, the horror of imminent Armageddon does not seem to impel us to embrace caution through eschewal of unwarranted provocation and wanton acts of misrule. After mismanaging the economy of a potentially very rich country like Cameroon for the past 36 years, President Biya and his coterie of CPDM political gangsters still think that they ought to be given another chance. Ordinarily, there would have been no axe to grind with such a decision, given that it is a constitutional right for every eligible Cameroonian to aspire to the highest office in the land. However, 36 years of profligacy and callousness in governance have reached the limit of tolerable indecency. Fortunately, Francophone Cameroonians are beginning to clean the cobwebs from their faces and coming to terms with the essence of Anglophones’ clamour for imperative constitutional reforms that would bail us out of impending descent into hell.
Not surprisingly, as if hit by some demonic affliction, Mr. Biya and his regime are still to see that we are all in the same boat in the middle of the ocean without life jackets. This means if the boat were to capsize, there would be no survivors, including those of them at the forefront orchestrating disaster. The atmosphere is still that of business as usual, despite immutable signs of regime end. We are still deluding ourselves of our invincibility even in the face of a tough adversary like the United States of America. In our delirium we see ourselves crushing every obstacle along the way to eternal bliss at the helm of state. We have hired chiefs, some inconsequential in terms of their chiefdoms and the legitimacy of their suzerainty over their subjects to sing lullabies, all in a bid to console ourselves that we are still in charge.
While this revelry in utopia lasts, our children are dying on a daily basis. Indeed, youths who are derisively referred to as “leaders of tomorrow” are the greatest victims. Whether on the Government side or separatists, the story is the same. Young men between 18 and 30 are sent to die in a senseless war that would have been averted if we had not allowed our bloated egos to have the better part of us. This does not mean anything to a regime blinded by inordinate focus on perpetuating itself in power despite glaring signs of having been disavowed by the citizenry and by extension total loss of legitimacy.
At the last count, no fewer than 40 youths were slaughtered in what will henceforth be remembered as the Menka-Santa carnage. As usual the barbaric act has been justified by the regime’s Joseph Goebbels as retaliatory action against terrorists who had been kidnapping Government officials and killing law enforcement agents on official assignments.
Whatever the stigma that is attached to the slaughtered youths, nemesis is bound to catch up with the perpetrators. This is so because power is always ephemeral and no matter the length of time it spans, there is always a beginning and an end, given that change is the only immutable fixture on planet earth. While we deceive ourselves by sending a few who have deprived the rest of us of water, light, food, housing and healthcare facilities to Kondengui Central Prison, we should be preparing our way to the International War Crimes Tribunal and eventually to hell as retribution for condemning whole generations to eternal misery through acts of commission. We have over the years watched how an avoidable conflict was degenerating to intractable internecine war. And, because we were not prepared for what we have foolishly embraced out of bravado, our otherwise valiant soldiers have needlessly fallen prey to more determined separatist forces with a genuine cause to defend.
This is in no way an extolment of the puerile bravado of the separatist forces that have taken up arms against their fatherland. Far from it! On the contrary, this exuberant youths who hardly master the stakes of the cause they are supposed to be defending must be told that world history is replete with cases of intransigence that has led to decades of senseless bloodletting. While admitting that the process of courting peace had been mismanaged by the regime, there is no excuse for the callousness that has taken hold of an otherwise commendable initiative to bring to world attention the excesses of the Biya regime as concerns alienation of the Anglophone component of Cameroon.
We are all culpable: that is those that have taken arms against a legitimate Government no matter their grouse against it and a Government that embarrassingly sees no fault in its decision to embrace bloodletting instead of dialogue with a component of the state that has every merit to be aggrieved, judging by the decades of misrule that adorn Mr. Biya’s Governance report card.
If his CPDM cohorts and he are driven by the illusion of invincibility to think that they can begin crying Uhuru then they must have their brains examined by a neurosurgeon. This is no time for bland rhetoric like not negotiating with terrorists. It is not time also, to worry how we found ourselves in this avoidable miasma. On the contrary, before it becomes too late, let this whole frenzy over perpetuating himself in power through elections whose outcome is already determined despite unmistakable signals of having been disavowed by the citizenry not stoke the embers of an already looming genocide. We still have time to trim and even prune our bloated egos for the good of our country. No one can claim greater allegiance to a “one and indivisible Cameroon” than the other. We are merely failing to see the pitfalls to such a desired vision. Once more, Mr. President retrace your steps and save the country from imminent cataclysm otherwise, you will have to render account to posterity and face retribution that may inexorably, bring your children on board.
By Ngoko Monyadowa

Shredded Cameroon can still be recuperated – Nico Halle

Barrister Nico Halle is not a run-of-the-mill personality that can be cajoled into an interview if he perceives that long earned and nurtured reliability is on the line. The current Bar General Assembly president and international peace crusader was recently in Buea for a private function.
However, his concern for immediate return to peace and by extension social justice and equity had the better part of him, leading to acquiescence to an interview to edify Cameroonians on some very burning issues pertaining to the current crises in the country and governance as a whole.
Judging by his discourse, he eschews confrontation like a plague and sees no reason why other Cameroonians should not make it part of their personal mottos, if only as contribution to a society of enduring peace and stability.
He agrees that issues have been allowed to deteriorate to current levels because of mutual display of irreverence for the word of God that is encapsulated in love for one another and country.
Nevertheless, as gloomy as the prevailing circumstance may seem, he sees Cameroon coming out of the present doldrums fired by confidence, determination and love. The peace crusader in him makes him exude an aura of implacable optimism in the eventuality of reason prevailing over the current irrationality being exhibited by protagonists in the war of attrition pitting Government forces against alleged separatists with obeisance to a yet to be midwifed Ambazonia Republic.
As euphemistic as his pronounced modesty and training as lawyer could permit him to come across, his narrative is inexorably, suffused with a consensual and urgent need for Cameroonians to sit around a table and dialogue, akin to typical Bantu cosmogony of solving intractable issues under the shade of a tree in the village square.
As usual, it is a pot-pourri of dexterity in handling complex issues in a very readable manner that can only emanate from The Rambler stable. (See inside pages)
Cameroonis on fire.If you agree, would you want to discuss how things became this bad?
For about close to 20 months there has been tension in the two Anglophone Regions,so it is not news to anybody. You know so well as a peace crusader, spanning more than 28 years, I am saddened, disturbed, troubled and worried by the situation. Since the eruption of the crisis, everybody knows I have been on the field preaching peace, preaching harmony, preaching serenity and also praying that God almighty that created this great nation, Cameroon, should look down with pity and instruct his children, Cameroonians how they can come out of this quagmire. So that is what I have been doing and requesting also that all the stakeholders; that is, Cameroonians of various orientations should act with restraint. I have, since the beginning, condemned the killing of civilians, policemen, soldiers and gendarmes, I have condemned the destructions; all the property that is going belong to Cameroonians; those who are dying are our brothers and sisters. That is why I have been pleading with Cameroonians to go on their knees, reason better and come up with lasting solutions because nobody ever benefits from violence. People benefit from peace and I always say peace is the weapon of the strong,while violence is the weapon of the weak. In my peace crusading, I have also highlighted the importance of love, justice, equity, the rule of law, the respect for human rights and liberties, patriotism, accountability, transparency, the fear of the Lord.
These are all what we call core spiritual values which will constitute the platforms for peace to exist. That is my mantra. I stand on that and there is no problem without a solution.
You just reeled out, peace, justice, fear of the Lord and all that… The common assumption is that nature doesn’t entertain a vacuum.By the same token, if there is no justice, equity, rule of law, then nature would most likely fill up, make up foran apparent collapse of leadership so to speak…
When you talk of leadership in terms of…
Wherethere is good leadership, there would naturally be a concomitantwilling followership…
I am thinking of leadership in terms of all Cameroonians. All Cameroonians are called upon to contribute towards what we might call true leadership and it is true that there are people who might be in leadership positions starting from their homes, from schools and universities. Mayors, parliamentarians, ministers, senators, the justice system and all of these are leadership positions. If each of these groups were to perform their duties with love, justice, equity, respecting the fundamental law which is the constitution, what we have just described as a falling situation would be reduced to the barest minimum. There is no perfect system in the world but there are systems that are good.Good for me, is not perfect. So, when we talk of leadership, we should look at leadership holistically. You are a leader in your office.Youare interviewing me. I am in Buea for a thesis defencebut, I am being interviewed now because you approached me. You are the leader, the way you approached me showed that you are a leader. You were cordial, you were welcoming, you were nice and that is leadership.I am thinking of leadership in terms of people who have control over units, those small units globally now make the entire nation.
One istempted to think that in Cameroon, crass authority has taken precedence over humble leadership.Leadership is serving; it is serving the people humbly and not leading haughtily. But we are like stuck with a clique of people calledparty leaders, ministers, governors, et al, dictating to the people, breathing down their necks. We think that is the reason for the protests, the uprisings.
That is another way of looking at it and you do have the right to that approach. I am looking at leadership from a holistic point of view because itis this conceptualization that brings about passing the buck.If all the homes were being well managed… I remember when I was very active as Ntumfor, I did indicate that if each village were well managed in Cameroon, Cameroon will have no problem. But if some villages are well managed and others are not, there is trouble. So, I am looking at leadership from a macro point of view because in my house, I should be able to assume responsibility.But I should understand that my wife has a role to play, my children have role to play for serenity to reign in my house. If Nico Halle alone wants to install peace in my house, it will not work; my wife must say ‘yes, we need peace,’ the children also must be part of it, my cooks too must be part…
Which is why we think, we don’t have leadership per se; rather we are stuck with a clique that is to say the very least, assuming ownership of Cameroon.
Again, that’s the way you look at it, but another way of looking at it is informing the people that each and every one of us has a role to play for that kind of leadership that is in your mind to function because leaders cannot succeed when the people whom they are leading are not contributing their own quota.
We insist that the typical Cameroonian leaderinsists for everybody else to shiver and pander; offices must shut down, road must be blocked for hours when he is moving from one point of town to the other. It is a tin god phenomenon.
Thank you very much for that take. If it is a tradition or usage that when you must move certain arrangements must be made to enable you move because you are representing the people, if the people accept that from their will, then that is what they are practicing. The only way we can depart from that is by coming up with some other form that is better than what you are describing.
Are you in effect endorsing a situation whereby a woman in labour must postpone bringing forth her babyor that access to hospitals should be blocked for hours,because a leader is about to drive by?
No, definitely…
I don’t know any system that will…
But that is what obtains in Cameroon.
If you have taken note of that…
Yes, we have,
Then it is unfortunate but I don’t think that it is proper.
Or,that state institutions should stop functioning because a leader ismoving from pillar to post?
Again, I get back to what I said.How did we get to that? If it has been in vogue, how did we get to it and why must we not depart from it because we are moving modern. Why can we not depart from it? Can we depart from it? These are the questions…
Ok, we love that and we hasten to ask you; how did Uganda get to the stage of inventing an Idi Amin? It is either Ugandans were heckled or suppressed to a stage where they couldn’t do their own thinking or, they became such sycophants, that they couldn’t point out to Amin that he was naked; they might have been cheering him all along until he inevitably stepped on a banana peeling and kismet decided his fate. The same could be said of Romania’s NicolaeCeausescu, Slobodan Milosevic of Bosnia Herzegovina and the like.The dustbin of history is full of such impulsive tyrants.
Well, you have a mastery of…
Not exactly;What we are indicating here is thatCameroonians have cultivatedthis cringing culture of deifying ordinary mortals who should be their humble servants.
We don’t mean to flatter you, Barrister Halle, but you radiate humility, your social status notwithstanding.Candidly, to get rid of the collective suicide that Cameroonians are steadily committing, we think that something has to give sway somewhere and that is a clear cut moral, leadership restructuring. It is our honestview,Sir.
Yeah it is your observation
This question may have been addressed above, but maybe for emphasis, how, do you think, the arson that has so far been visited on some 70 Anglophone Cameroonian villageswith hundreds of people murdered be checked?
I don’t know. I am not privy to those statistics but I said and continue to say that there is no problem in the world without a solution. I just think we have to take our destinies into our hands, to be honest to ourselves, get together and chart way of getting out of this situation which you have just described. Of course, this problem which you have described could have been taken care of if we had love, justice, equity; if we loved this nation, you and me and all those who have gone down to say this cannot happen. But I am sure you know so well that there are people who are not happy when there is peace because they exploit this kind of situation for political or financial gains. I really ask myself where these kinds of people are coming from. People who don’t espouse peace, who don’t promote peace, who are comfortable in violence, who are comfortable in conflict, in quarrels, in misunderstandings; they can create chaos in order to take advantage and pull fast ones. With all of that, it accounts for what we have just described. So, it is possible that we can bank on what is done.Scales have fallen off our eyes, the masks have fallen too.Let us sit down.It is the moment for us to tell ourselves that we love each other; we are our neighbor’s keeper, we doesn’t deserve what is happening; that people are being killed, there are burnings, there are destructions, refugee migration problem.It is only sordid; it should not happen to a blessed nation like ours.
Barrister Nico Halle, this is a very pointed question.It is assumed that forces of law andorder are trained to be exceptionally disciplined and more methodical that the ordinary civilian. But when at the drop of a hat, they loot, rape, kill and burn villages it is dangerous for the polity, don’t you think?
No, nobody would say it’s normal. Nobody in their right senses would say it is normal so…
Would you then advise someone in distress to run to a gendarme, soldier or policeman for protection? That would be tantamount to nursing suicidal instincts, right?
I think I have said earlier on, that situations like this are exploited.Either way, the gendarmes are dying, the police and the army; the civilians are also dying in their numbers from what…
Unfortunately, hundreds ofinnocent, hapless, unarmedcivilians are being slaughtered like chickens;not the ragtag army that is said to be fanning the embers of secession.Note that those who are fighting the bush war hardly have houses anywhere.They are in the bush fromwhere they sporadically attack…
What I am saying is that the situation is very painful. I have said that whether a gendarme, a police, an army or a civilianis dying, they are all our brothers and sisters, who should notdie. They are burning property, whether private or public.It is our property, so, we are taking ourselves many years back. When people are displaced, it usually very difficult to…
By the same token you are stating that nobody should kill.
You can be sure. Nobody has the right to take the life of any person.
And the forces of law and order, how do we bring them back to start playing their constitutional role of protecting that life and property?
I have condemned this from Day One,that whether it is the forces of law and order or the civilians, nobody has the right to take another person’s life. You don’t deserve to die. I have said this across the board. So I look at it globally; I don’t go into specifics. I will tell you that for the past 13months, I don’t sleep.Anybody who goes to bed and sleeps in the face of this situation lacks love because when I watch certain images my heart bleeds.I am one person who is empathetic and sympathetic. I am compassionate; I don’t like to see a drop of blood. I don’t want to see a corpse; a corpse of natural death, fine, but when it comes from bullets, when it comes from rough handling and all of these, that tells me… and if you have noticed,I look emaciated. I do not sleep. It is not just because I am a Cameroonian but because of my role as a peace crusader. As a peace crusader, I am asking myself questions; why can all of us in Cameroon not be converted into peace crusaders?
Are we agreed that one or two institutions, whether traditional or corporate of our country have failed in their mission, in their assigned mission to Cameroonians, which is why people are being shot at, people are not listening, people are getting into the bushes, some people are burning down others’ homes?
Unless and until our mindset is changed and unless I start looking at you as my brother with love; I am not talking about brother from the same Region, no!Brother from the same nation, we are all brothers. That is how I look at it. Now, some people like I said when they go to bed they can sleep, they can eat, I lose appetite. When I just hear that there is burning in this part, no appetite and my day is shattered, my week is shattered. And that justifies why I am permanently on the field. Last time up to including December, I used to go… but I was advised, ‘take note Nico Halle, you are doing a great job, people are appreciating what you are doing but not everybody is happy that you want this situation to stop because of what they are benefiting from it. Please don’t announce your goings and your comings, just go.’ So now, I just target groups and I go, they don’t know where I am going.
Have your interventions and preachments paid off?
They have paid off. You know if I were not peace crusading, you shouldn’t even ask that. If I have reconciled journalists, families, traditional rulers, politicians, pastors, lawyers that you know, then you can imagine. If I were not on the field,… I am not blowing my trumpet, but maybe the situation would have escalated; it might have been worse. So, it is paying off and I thank God for that. I am sure that the fact that people appreciate what I am doing because they know the impact that my peace crusading has had in all of these.
Would you say the present imbrogliohas stainedwhat ought to be the immaculate canvas of legality in Cameroon? We are asking this based on the fact that security forces are on record as having beaten up Lawyers seized their wigs and gowns, muddied them; in short, desecrated the judiciary?Has this pristine act of the khaki boys compromised the third estate of the realm role of the judiciary in this country?
I did condemn that act very cogently,
We are asking if it has watered down legal prestige.
I am saying that these were people; these were lawyers who were asking for what is good for the nation. When you saw the grievances of the lawyers there was no trifling item in their grievances; they were asking for the OHADA Law to be in both languages…
And something else
And a few other things, ok, and then for them to have been vandalized, rough handled… I came out with communiqués condemning that and I still consider that that was not proper because nowhere in the world are lawyers treated that way. I think that things have escalated beyond just the lawyers and the teachers grievances to other proportions which God alone knows and so, to be very honest with you, I have not ceased condemning in the hardest of terms the behaviour of some of our Cameroonians; be they in the civil, in the army, in the forces of law and order, I have condemned that. It is on record that I have been very constant as far as that is concerned.
You have this antecedent of checking, attending to moral, social and why not, political values;ensuring that they are on course. In crusading for peace and changing mindsets, have you approached those who referred to other Cameroonians as ‘rats and cockroaches’ that ought to be exterminated and the local authority that repeatedly referred to a cultural entity in Cameroon as ‘dogs.’Have you reached out to change the hearts of those who assembled at the Buea Mountain Hotel and preached Rwanda-type xenophobia? Remember some of the xenophobes were rewarded with appointments to top national offices.

All of that is unacceptable. You will agree that it is decadence.
Have you been to them?
I don’t …
Let’s be blunt. We are talking about the ranking Regional administrator who kept calling people of a particular cultural expression dogs.
Did I need to go to the administrator? When I condemn a situation, when I condemn the violence and disproportionate words used, I don’t need to call… if the cap suits you, wear it. If I must name, then it is unfortunate. But you know what I have been doing and that is non-negotiable. I don’t compromise when it comes to the crime decadence. You know me and you have been following up and so, it is not about names.
But we thought if you don’t confront them, face to face, it would be like tacklingdisease symptoms and not the disease itself.
If I were to indicate that all of that including others is unacceptable, do I need to come to tell you that the words you used were inflammatory, were out of proportion? Otherwise, then I must visit every Cameroonian who has made a statement.
No, symbolically you might visit one or two persons, I think Jesus did it.
But do you know that I have visited people in Cameroon? When they talk of peace crusading, it means meeting people, meeting groups of people; using papers, interviews, making pronouncements on television and on radio. Once, you do that, you reach out to so many people and they understand my take on this whole thing. I think there is hardly any Cameroonian who up to, and including now has not known Nico Halle’s position.
We are also saying that interpersonal communication can only reinforce mass communication; if you came to me directly and said, ‘what you said go back and unsay it,’ you would have touched a heart.
You see, that is your own approach. I am Nico Halle and having my own approach. My approach is not confrontational. Peace crusading is not confrontational, that is the difference between Nico Halle and others. They will go confrontational, but Nico Halle is peaceful. There is no day you will hear me insulting anybody or promoting violence and it starts from my house, it starts from my office, it starts from wherever. I know that the fact that my stand for the truth is unbendable, uncompromising causes people to smear me, persecute me and blackmail me and each time I see that, I am happy, it means that I am doing something.
Would you die ready for it, if you died crusading for peace?
I am sure you know that in November, December 2017 when it was bad on the ground and I was out for two weeks in the Northwest and Southwest, I went to Mamfe; that was the boiling period.Just the day before, they had killed two gendarmes. I went to where the killings took place against all counsel. I went to all the military bases and I spoke with them. I told them that we need to respect our human rights. I prayed with them and I asked that the Lord should enable them do work for the nation. I went around; I met politicians in the Northwest, met some in Southwest and these are the two Regions that are greatly affected.
If you were to ask me if I will die, if I left Bamenda and everybody who heard I was going to Mamfe said don’t go. In any case I told them I will die eventually, if I die communing, fellowshipping with my people of the Southwest, I will not care. But I went and met the people; they embraced me and that impacted. The fact that somebody had showed concern at that time… I could have been shot if they wanted to, but to be very honest with you, they embraced me in the Northwest and the Southwest Regions where I went to.
Have the authorities recognized and appreciated what you are doing,whichothers could only set out to dowith blaring sirens in tow and for mouth watering per diems?
I want to let you know that, across the board, I have been appreciated and that is what for me is the motto; that is what motivates me to do more, because I have been appreciated for what I have been doing for peace to reign in this nation; not only in the Northwest and Southwest. My peace crusading is not limited to the Northwest and Southwest. You are aware that of recent, I had an international award for peace crusading not just in Cameroon, Africa but the entire world. It means that the ripples of what I have been doing are worldwide.
And has that included perhaps reaching out to the Diaspora Cameroonians who are like fanning the embers of the separatism?
When you preach peace, you are preaching peace for all. You don’t say this peace or what I am preaching should go for this people and this should go for the other people. You preach peace for all, because peace is good for everybody and that is my take on that. I am preaching peace and I will continue to preach until peace returns.If peace does not return, I will continue to preach. I am praying and I know sooner or later, peace will return to this nation. It is a beautiful nation blessed by God. God cannot allow Cameroon to be shredded and the state at which it is, it, can still be recuperated. I think that we just need to be confident, determined, and love and have confidence in each other, we will come out of this situation. I am very optimistic and positive.
On that comforting note, Barrister Nico Halle, we want to thank you for accepting to talk to us.
Thank you very much, may God bless you and bless The Rambler.
Interviewed by Nester Asonganyi & Charlie Ndi Chia