Somebody, please, help us to cry out loud, “Cease fire!!!” Arson is a cowardly tool, unworthy of noble causes and of dignified people such as West Cameroonians consider themselves to be. The gutting of public and private buildings and other property is little more than a primitive statement of our lack of restraint in the face of provocation.
It inflicts pain and loss on the object of our fury, but it does not redress its cause, does it? And it makes even less sense if it’s public (meaning our own) property such as schools or roads that we destroy. It is counter-productive to vent our anger against some bloke in Yaounde by burning schools in Limbe or Bamenda.
For one thing that bugger in Yaounde may appear to fume about it – for the cameras – whereas, deep down he really does not give a hoot, as long as it is not a school in Essos. He may, indeed, be smirking at how dumb we are proving to be, given that we are helping to aggravate the same damage we are complaining against, i.e. the systematic degradation of the our infrastructure which Yaounde started decades ago.
So you can reasonably expect Yaounde or its agents to ramp up actions and rhetoric that will fire you to destroy more of your own infrastructure, while they sit back and chuckle at your “anglofoolness”.
There are two phases to the degradation of our infrastructure. The first, which started with Cameroon Bank, the National Produce Marketing Board, the Tiko Airport, the Victoria wharf, to name but these, was pre-emptive, in that it was meant to render the prospect of eventual separation most unattractive. And the fly on the wall in high places seems to hint that there is further and more comprehensive degradation in the works. This second phase, says the fly, is part of Yaounde’s scorched-earth reaction if separation were to become inevitable.
To further demonstrate the counter-productiveness of the burning, it contradicts the non-violent rhetoric which is the hallmark of the West Cameroon struggle to get justice, and the disarming legacy of the Consortium that set the ongoing protests in motion.
The burning, therefore, risks sending the wrong message to the world – that Anglophones are an a cephalous rabble without a compass. Such a message would attract more laughter than compassion or respect.
Now, we must recognize that the sporadic burning of schools is the had-enough reaction of irate youths whom provocation has pushed beyond self-restraint. That is the smaller of two fires consuming this country. In fact it is nothing but the smoke from a bigger fire that has been consuming, not cars, not buildings, but the very fabric of which this country is made, and that for over half a century. The small fires are the occasional, involuntary work of youths who are angry because hungry- hungry for understanding, hungry for daily bread, hungry for assurances of a secure future, hungry for a sense of belonging and, above all, hungry for justice. To bring these fires under control all it takes is a few words of reassurance from Government with positive actions to match.
The bigger fire, which smoulders unreported, is the work of arsonists beyond all suspicion. Like careless smokers who enjoy flipping away their burning cigarette stubs, not caring if they start a fire that could raze farmlands and entire villages, those who run the affairs of this country take great delight in servicing their inordinate appetites, not caring if they tread on the toes of the citizen, and hence imperil the integrity of the state. They do this by mindless corruption and graft, tribalism, patronage and all forms of injustice and human rights abuses – all of which are pushing citizens to the wall. The Anglophone problem in particular is a fire that has been smouldering since 1961 and instead of continuing to stoke its embers with insensitivity and bad faith, and instead of clamouring about the smaller fires which are more an effect than a cause Etoudi must reign in the arsonists in its own house, and deploy genuine fire fighters now. Without genuine dialogue, things could only get worse.