October 31, 2017.
Dear Mr. Felix Nkongho Agbor Balla,
It was with great disappointment that I learned of the burning of your family home in Mamfe. This piece of information has given me pause to reflect on the purpose of this struggle; a struggle in which you have played a significant role. Thanks to you, the struggle easily found a leader around whom the people easily rallied. Thanks to you, the struggle took a new meaning and life, and with your determination and vision, you are gradually giving moderates like me the strong belief in the thought that federalism can also hold solutions to the issues that actually triggered the Anglophone crisis.
Allow me to use this opportunity to urge you to continue treading the path of moderation and to use whatever means that are available to you to bring about meaningful and genuine dialogue that will result in the peaceful resolution of this crisis that is tearing our country apart. I would also like you to know that I stand ready to lend you the full spectrum of my intellectual strength in your search for a peaceful resolution of this crisis, provided that is done in the best interest of the Southern Cameroonian who has been dehumanized and marginalized for more than half a century.
Allow me to advise that we should never allow extremists to intimidate us and, if necessary, I would like to suggest that we, federalists, also come together to combat the hatred that separatists are sowing among Southern Cameroonians. You can count on my moral and financial support in this regard. The burning of your family home is one home too many and it simply tells me that some extremists hold that their view on this issue is perfect and every English-speaking Cameroonian must comply with their version of the truth.
Like you, I am a free-thinker and I strongly hold that nobody, regardless of where they are, should have the right to cower those who hold opinions that are at variance with theirs, into silence. Their intimidation must not be allowed to prosper, as no modern society should be governed by a single thought. Monolithic thinking has never been the hallmark of any modern democratic society and this must apply to Southern Cameroons in particular, and the Republic of Cameroon, in general. I would like to underscore that Southern Cameroonians must know that there are many shades of opinions in this struggle and any opinion that triumphs will only do so through sincere dialogue and not through intimidation.
All of us have been victims of marginalization. I lost a brother in Nigeria during his quest for knowledge. If Southern Cameroons had its own universities and other higher institutions of learning a quarter of a century ago, my junior brother, who would have been fifty-one years old today, would have been alive. After dodging bullets at the Ekok-Mfum border, he ended up dying a couple of months later in circumstances that still remain a mystery to me and my family. I therefore know the pain of marginalization, especially I have experienced it myself in the eighties when I could not read and write French. Nobody in this struggle should therefore believe that they have witnessed more marginalization than others and, as a result, their view must automatically become the Law of Moses and anybody who violates that law does not deserve to live.
Despite this disappointment generated by separatists due to their scorch earth policy, I still hold that you should continue to work with all level-headed Southern Cameroonians. I know you are currently in London where you are seeking to raise more awareness of the Southern Cameroons crisis. I have seen pictures of you at the offices of Amnesty International in London. I have also learned that you have been invited to deliver a presentation at the Chatham House on the Anglophone crisis. This is, in my view, a great effort on your path. Southern Cameroonians need a voice like yours to draw global attention to the deteriorating socio-political situation in Southern Cameroons. They need an intellectual mind that can effectively articulate their views and deliver them to an international community that has very low appetite for secession.
Like you, I want schools to resume. Like you, I want peace to return to our scarred country, but the right conditions must be in place. Our people are going through thick and thin. Their businesses have been ruined. Their loved ones have been killed and many are still hiding in jungles, especially in Manyu Division, where the government unleashed the full spectrum of its anger. Our people are still fleeing the violence that has been imposed upon them. More than 50,000 are currently seeking refuge in Nigeria and some 100,000 have been internally displaced. Hundreds are still in jails across the country where living conditions are deplorable. I therefore urge all Southern Cameroonians to work together to ensure that things get better for all those who are facing these challenges, with you leading the moderate wing of the struggle. I think your knowledge as a barrister and human rights advocate will be useful in this regard. I am therefore urging you to undertake more efforts in this regard; efforts that can easily bring the government to the negotiating table so that our children can head back to school soon. If this requires you to use back channels, please do so, bearing in mind that the interest of the Southern Cameroonian is higher than yours.
Thank you for all you are doing to make Cameroon a better place than you met it.
By Joachim Arrey
About the Author: The author of this piece is a keen observer of Cameroon’s political and economic landscape. He has published extensively on the country’s political and economic development, especially in the early 90s when the wind of change was blowing across the African continent. He has served as a translator, technical writer, journalist and editor for several international organizations and corporations across the globe. He studied communication at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom and technical writing in George Brown College in Toronto, Canada. He is also a trained translator and holds a Ph.D.