The government should be under no illusion that the struggle is over because the resistance just began.
As distraught Anglophones continue to query and reject the very basis of the Cameroonian State;with a majority favouring independence, the leadership of the Anglophone struggle remains embattled on all fronts over its tepid response to the violent crackdown by security forces in the wake of the October 1 restoration of independence, in which hundreds of Anglophones were killed, hundreds more detained or missing, with thousands forced to flee to neighbouring Nigeria.From all indications, the independence restoration was a political misadventure, given the growing chasm within the fractious leadership,unvested with the history of liberation struggles and the taxing and quite complex challenges of navigating global power relations. Amid the apparent despair in the face of genocide, the government seems poised to run down the clock through the backdoor without genuine dialogue to resolve the crisis.The mistaken assumption is that differences between federalists and restorationists will divide and kill the struggle.This is a fatal mistake because Anglophones remain resolutely committed to the struggle. In the face of genocide, the message Anglophones have sent to the government is clear and unequivocal: give us freedom or death. The government should therefore be under no illusion that the struggle is over because, if anything, the resistance just began.
This is no time for public grandstanding; nor is it a moment political self-aggrandisement. The struggle is at crossroads and whether you support federalism or independence, the question every Anglophone must ask is this:Besides the token measures of appeasement, what has changed in the past 13 months? Has government through its actions and utterances of its spokespersons shown any interest in dialogue, let alone a desire to consider federalism? Without demagoguery,the truth is that nothing has changed.The government has shown no interest in dialogue and regime apologists have repeatedly foreclosed any debate on federalism.It is now clear that Anglophones will never get federalism unless the regime is pressured to realize that the two options to resolving the crisis is either federalism or independence. The catch-22 here is that only pressure for independence by restorationists will force Biya’s hand towards federalism. It therefore stands to reason that all Anglophones should raise their voices for independence until the rising crescendo becomes too loud to be ignored.
While not unmindful of the great trials and tribulations confronting our people; after our youths have been killed, maimed and dehumanised, it is mind-boggling to even contemplate sending our children to school. This will be more than just a betrayal of the struggle, and the sacrifices of Anglophone activists, including the larger than life Mancho BBC, who are still standing trial on bogus charges that carry the death penalty.Besides, giving up school boycott; the main leverage of the struggle has no redeeming strategic value, even to the federalists, as it amounts to an act of unilateral surrender.Our work is not done as long as the Anglophone is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of brutality by Francophone security forces who see us as a conquered and captured people.This is a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the high price our people have already paid, we must brace and bear ourselves to our responsibilities as a people fighting for their freedom.The real battle is about to begin.Upon this battle depends the survival of the Anglophone nation. Upon it depends our own future and that of our children and grandchildren.
The government knows it has to break the momentum of our struggle or lose the war. If we continue to be defiant in the face of torture; if we recognise that this struggle is not about us individually and focus on the big picture; if we keep faith with the sacred covenant signed with the blood of those who have paid the ultimate price, so that we Anglophones should be free; then, make your reckoning and realise that it were better to die 10,000 deaths than to act out of coward servility because it is folly to give way to evil counsels; to refuse to do what has to be done; to listen to the naysayers and advocates of the enemy’s cause, and to fancy that because we have sacrificed so much in blood and treasure, we as Anglophones will henceforth cease to be treated as second-class citizens in Cameroon; that, whatever happens, Anglophones will no longer suffer marginalisation and discrimination, even as Francophones see them as dogs, rats and slaves to be scourged and butchered with impunity.
With schools shut down, leaving students to an uncertain fate,puerile arguments about mortgaging our children’s future have been accompanied by claims that Anglophones were deceived that UNESCO will declare 2017 a blank school year. Such baseless claims are a wilful misunderstanding of the functioning of the UNESCO Recognition and Validation of Certificates Commission; the UNESCO Education Quality Accreditation Commission and the UNESCO Policy on Accreditation and Global Education.No one needs telling that UNESCO has strict guidelines and education harmonisation standards which signatory members must adhere to, in order for an authenticated certificate from that country to be given the same recognition in another signatory country. One such guideline is duration of the academic year.If a signatory country does not meet the minimum requirements in a section or the whole country, certificates issued that year in the whole country are declared null and void. The jury is not yet out on the fate of the “political GCE” that was written in 2017, as the crisis continues, but it is anyone’s guess that UNESCO will have the last laugh on those 2017 GCE certificates.
Besides, of what use is an education that turn our institutions into degree mills that produce certificated graduates who are so half-baked educationally that they are neither useful to themselves nor to society? Those complicit school resumption advocates must be reminded that school boycott was not invented by Anglophone freedom fighters. It has been the weapon of choice for liberation movements dating back over 1000 years. After the Roman conquest of Britain, the British refused to send their children to school to protest the emasculating education the Romans were imparting on the children. Despite the threats, intimidation and heavy-handed tactics of then Roman Governor of Britain,Gnaeus Julius Agricola (AD77- 84), British children boycotted school for five (5) years. When Britain later colonized Ireland and instituted an educational system designed to keep the Irish stupid,the Irish held their children from going to school for two years. The famous Irish Revolutionary,Padraic Pearse eloquently captured the mood of the Irish resistance: “The educational system the English have instituted in Ireland is a murder machine; the schools are soulless and instead of teaching they destroy; they cannot make men but they can break them. We will keep the children home instead of sending them to the murder machine called schools.”
Apologists of school resumption deliberately refuse to look at the unacceptable face of a monumental national scandal wherein the government pays lip service to education; but treats students as liabilities and teachers like beggars.A situation where degree holders end up as bike riders and call box agents will not change by merely cajoling or threatening parents to send their children back to school.The school boycott, sad though it is, is a cruel reminder that freedom has a price and the price of freedom is very high because freedom is not given. It is pointless sending our children to school where dormitories are burnt under the watchful eyes of soldiers. The fury of the enemy has already been unleashed on our people and our brothers and sisters are already in their graves! Why should we give up now when nothing has changed in the past 13 months?Think about those who have paid the supreme price so that we may live in freedom. And then ask yourself: is my own life so precious, as to be purchased at the price of second-class citizenship?
Therefore, arise oh Ambazonians, for as Thomas Paine said, these are the times that try men’s souls.This struggle is our struggle; it is our struggle no less than it is that of the Anglophone leadership or the Anglophone Diaspora. We must have faith; we must not be stampeded by rumors or fear by detractors and naysayers. Confidence and courage are the essentials of success in fighting for our freedom. Let us unite in banishing fear. Together we cannot fail.And if we must die as Claude McKay told Black Americans during their fight for freedom and equality; “let us nobly die, so that our precious blood may not be shed in vain; then even the monsters we defy shall be constrained to honor us though dead! If we must die, let us face our murderous cowards like men with their backs against the wall; dying, but fighting back.” Let the conscience of every Anglophone hold a conversation with his/her soul; then take this solemn vow: I am fighting for my freedom; I know not what course others may take; but as for me, the choice is simple – give me freedom or give me death!
By Ekinneh Valerian Agbaw-Ebai
*Ekinneh Agbaw-Ebai is a Public Intellectual and graduate of Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government, where he was Managing Editor of the Harvard Journal of African-American Public Policy. A former Research Analyst for Freedom House, he is a Consultant and lives in Boston, USA. Talk back at firstname.lastname@example.org