Straddling the wall of shame

President Biya is on record as flaunting his executive privilege in an interview with Eric Chinje, when he boasted that with a mere nod of his head he could make and unmake people, in the sense of appointing them to high positions or sacking them.
And all his appointees, actual or prospective, have taken that statement very much to heart. Hear them talk about their work or anything – it all begins and ends with paying tribute to him, giving him paternity and praise for every initiative. They are all so self-effacing they dare not be heard to take credit for any achievement. And you can say they expect thereby to be absolved of the blame for what goes wrong since the President does all the thinking, and it would be redundant for them to do any.
That makes sinecures of most public offices in Cameroon, and reduces all appointees to idle worshippers, eternally thankful for unmerited privileges.
That is why it has been deemed an act of sacrilegious contumacy for any appointee to either decline an appointment or resign from any position.
That usage, like many others, is changing with the ongoing crisis. Appointments, especially to administrative posts, which were hitherto occasions of great celebration, are now the subject of great hesitation and apprehension. And that is an understatement, given the fearful faces one sees on TV when a new DO or SDO is being commissioned to replace another in the war zone, who was either kidnapped or killed. In what looks like a landmark case, one such official is alleged to have been sacked for turning down a deployment. As to what message that sends to his replacement or to any others appointed in like circumstances, your guess is as good as ours. But when administrators are, to say the least, no longer excited to be deployed in these parts of the country; when even more senior administrators stop rattling the sabre, move their families out of the affected Regions and only drive thereto and back every day under heavy guard, you don’t need a prophet to discern the signs of the times. A clear line has emerged which demands extraordinary courage to cross, both for civilian public servants and for the military.
Without admitting it, the Yaounde regime started drawing that line furtively in the minds of Anglophones the day Biya unilaterally mutated the country from the Federal Republic to La Republique du Cameroun. That line eventually became the foundation on which all and sundry now behold a rising Berlin-like wall with the blood of Cameroonians serving as mortar.
For the increasingly hazardous job of straddling that wall, Biya’s nod has fallen on an Atanga Nji, ostensibly to reward him for his vocal denials of the very existence of the line until it became a publicly acknowledged wall, but also as an expendable robot, knowing the level of bad blood between him and the people of the two Regions. In the judgment of many, the regime couldn’t care less about what happens to him for working against his own kith and kin.
And come to think of it, why does Biya create a new and separate ministry of Decentralization just when he appoints Atanga Nji as the first-ever Anglophone Minister of Territorial Administration? The divide between the two ministries is not readily perceptible, hence the suspicion that the one will do the dirty work while the other manages the trust, and who of the two will do what job, is anybody’s guess. After all, it is not new to have even junior francophone ministers and officials wielding more power than their Anglophone superiors. By the way, isn’t this whole conundrum about people from the English-speaking territory being seen but not heard for too long?
And as if by mere happenstance, in the rapid succession of SDOs and Dos in the war zone there is a perceptible policy of making the replacements mostly people from the same zone, like Atanga Nji, now their boss. Is that to say, “Let the dogs bite their own”, or because Francophones are refusing to risk their lives in what they see as somebody else’s war? Or else could this be, as some seem to suggest, an early warning of Yaounde’s plan of full-scale genocide, and an attempt to avoid useful casualties?
This leaves the restorationists between a rock and a hard place. Their fighters certainly face the tough choice between pulling their punches when they have to deal with their own from the opposing side, and throwing away the baby with the bath water.
In the meantime, that costly wall of shame is getting thicker and higher, with Yaounde, perhaps unconsciously, toeing the separatist line by phasing out francophone command-and-control in the embattled territory.
Now the regime’s indivisibility rhetoric hits this wall and the echo that comes back is laughter – because indivisibility is about building bridges, not walls.
Even attrition, the regime’s choicest weapon, has become too costly to maintain, and loss of face is now a barely avoidable prospect. So somebody will have to bite the bullet and cut the losses.
As the greater force in the fight, and especially as the one who declared the war, the regime can still take the moral upper by initiating a cessation of hostilities and a resumption of meaningful dialogue. But any dialogue is doomed to failure if it does not realistically take into account the costs incurred and still likely to be incurred in the belligerence, and the territory gained or lost so far on both sides. Justifiable concessions will be necessary.

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