Finally, it is dawning on Government that brute force as means of securing acquiescence from those, whose sovereign will had, in the first place, brought into being its existence is anachronistic and redundant in civilized skies. Adjunctive to the above assertion, is uplifting elixir from watching images and news commentaries pertaining to last Friday’s multiple and well-coordinated protest marches in Anglophone Cameroon. This reassurance is not so much from the fact that aggrieved citizens were demonstrating as to the surprising reaction from erstwhile trigger-happy security forces. Concordant reports bespeak general orderliness and little or no provocation, be they from protesters or security forces dispatched to ensure the events had smooth sail. Barring a few unfortunate incidents perpetrated by some overzealous administrators and protesters leading to deaths, we can say congratulations to President Paul Biya, alleged to have personally instructed erratic hirelings to refrain from confrontational inducements.
Be that as it may, there are some dark clouds that need to be highlighted. The commendable reaction of security forces has been tainted by some occurrences that unfortunately, portray invidious posturing of some elected and appointed officials in the polity. Uncontroverted reports have ascribed the murder of one of the demonstrating youths in Buea to the maverick Mayor, Ekema Patrick Esunge. For the avoidance of doubt, no one free of lunacy tag would subscribe to the damage allegedly inflicted on the fleet of cars pompously displayed in the courtyard of his Molyko abode. However, the fact that the victim was shot out of his gate and his inability to rely first on frightening the irate youths with gun shots in the air instead of shooting directly smacks of unmistakable intention to kill. The same gaffe is alleged to have been perpetrated in Mamfe by its now fugitive Senior Divisional Officer, SDO, and yet another in Santa in the Northwest Region. Whatever the circumstance of this killing in cold blood, the fact that these acts of coldness to human lives usually perpetrated by the forces of law and order have now reverted to administrators and elected officials who ought to be more sensitive to sacredness of God’s creation, raises the spectre of descent into governance abyss.
On the other hand, even as the events of last Friday can be said to have been spontaneous in character and execution, and by that token, difficult to pin down excesses on particular individuals, there is need for caution to be preached to Anglophone youths. It is difficult to see the nexus between a peaceful protest march and ripping of the gate of the National Social Insurance Fund edifice in Mile 17, ostensibly to deprive vehicles from accessing the junction. The entry into Government Bilingual Grammar School Molyko and subjecting unwary students to despicable whipping, also, conjures the image of a bunch of insensitive and depraved zealots on the rampage. In some areas the excesses attained the level of the nation’s flag being pulled down and replaced by that of a yet to be recognized ‘Ambazonia’ state. Such incivility does not portray the imprimatur inherent in Anglophones; a people imbued with respect for the rule of law and reputed to be each other’s keeper. Let our social media generals rise up to the challenge of educating youths on the need to tread softly and avoid unnecessary provocations that engineer undue loss of lives. Peaceful demonstrations, yes but no to anarchy!
Unfortunately, the portentous events of last Friday had been unfolding when President Biya was on the podium of the United Nations in New York, where he had gone to pontificate on compelling urgency for security against terrorist outfits like Boko Haram, ISIS and of course, other little known insurrections occasioned by disaffection of citizens over obtuse mismanagement of their patrimony by imprudent cabals. Another issue that caught the president’s attention, or is it that of his speech writers is climate change, even as timber is being illegally and unconventionally exploited behind his house. Setting aside the fact that he was addressing an almost empty auditorium, which in itself speaks volumes relating to treatment accorded our Head of State by his peers in other skies, there is the issue of keeping one’s house in order before worrying about the fire about to engulf that of a neighbour.
To add salt to injury, hired hand clappers and destitute foreigners were brought in to cushion disgrace emergent from apathy to our Head of State’s presence in the United States of America. This was done with the colossal sum of 750 dollars per person daily; the equivalent of about FCFA 500,000, from a treasury under suffocating pressure from the International Monetary Fund, IMF, to embark on structural adjustment niceties that will heighten pauperization of citizens. Such ego pampering would have been comprehensible from the likes of Ali Bongo of Gabon or his Central African Republic colleague in their 50s and not a man in his 80s, whose concern ought to be the mathematics of bequeathing a strong and stable country to posterity.
Lest it escaped his memory, Biya, should be reminded that charity begins at home. While conceding it is true that in terms of diplomatic rating, his presence in New York and the rare privilege of addressing the General Assembly of the United Nations are alluring to any Head of State, the number of years he has been officiating as Cameroon’s President ought to have been uppermost in his mind and dissuade him from such an ego pampering jamboree meant to further deplete his country’s already lean purse. Such grandstanding should be for much younger leaders who still yearn for stardom that President Biya’s twilight age can no longer give. If at all he needed this, he ought to have worked for same much earlier in his current Methuselah sojourn.
Back at home, the hope is that this aberrant departure from “autorite del’etat” (inviolability of state authority) has come to stay and will henceforth canalize government actions such that its current characteristic of AK-47 democracy ceases to adorn the minds of discerning Cameroonians, accredited diplomats and foreigners. Thinking of the current Government volte-face from its notoriety in employment of brute force to repress protesters, inexorably, compels us to imagine the number of lives wasted during previous commandeered expeditions that led to avoidable killings and destruction of property. The oddity of “Bepanda nine,” readily comes to mind. The discovery of mass burials in its wake reveals the extent to which Government can go in its desperation to foist President Biya on Cameroonians. Another episode of the sordid narrative of “kakhistocracy” as statecraft in Cameroon is the February2008 generalized strikes. Here, too, no fewer than 100 lives were lost in Yaounde, Douala Bamenda and Kumba to repression that materialized in gunning down unarmed youths protesting against mismanagement of the commonwealth. Had the Government applied the same tact that underpinned last Friday’s protest marches, we would certainly not be haunted by the ghosts of innocent Cameroonians who became sacrificial lambs for the perpetration of atrocious governance in our polity.
Prevailing times are very unpromising and call for above average attention to details. Such details include adherence to the principle of classlessness in dispensation of justice, resource allocation and legislation. Our country has lost too much to palpable negligence by implacable sycophants who hide incompetence under the yoke of loyalty to moribund party machinery and courtesan buffoonery. The breadth, spontaneity and organizational dexterity of last Friday’s peaceful protest, per force, allude to one thing; that is, Government has been taken completely off-guard. Having been caught napping, the solution is not resort to bravado. Such blustering, in the event that Government adopts it as option, would only lead to confrontation and loss of lives which is not what is needed at this very dreadful moment.
The solution lies in dialogue. For how long will Mr. Biya turn his face and give the impression that all is well when in reality, minutes are ticking off for a time bomb to explode. Can a genuine father allow his children to wallow in perpetual fear of sanguinary confrontation? The signs are very clear. Government has lost legitimacy in Anglophone Cameroon. The solution is an all stakeholders’ conference to canalize an architectural prototype for a new Cameroon. This should be tailored to suit the yearnings of currently disgruntled Anglophones, and why not, our complacent Francophone brothers seemingly under a spell that causes them to endure suffering while smiling (apologies to late Fela Anikulapo-Kuti). This conference is more urgent and mandatory than hosting of AFCON 2019 or safari trips to the UN that have no bearing with local reality that require much savvy that only perceptible enormous drive and commitment to purpose from Government can provide.
By Ngoko Monyadowa