An Open Letter to the Prime Minister of Cameroon
Dr. Dion Ngute
Prime Minister, Republic of Cameroon
Dear Prime Minister Dion Ngute,
Allow me to congratulate you on your appointment as the Prime Minister of the Republic of Cameroon. I would also like to express my admiration of your efforts aimed at seeking a long-lasting solution to the Southern Cameroons crisis that has resulted in the unnecessary death of some 2,000 Southern Cameroonians.
Your trip to the North West regional headquarters of Bamenda, despite the violence that is playing out there, is testimony to your firm commitment to seek a just and fair solution to the conflict that has put our country in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
However, before focusing on your mission to the North West region, I would like to point out that l would have loved to send this letter to you through the official channel, but given that our civil service is ineffective and corrupt, I have opted to send it via this medium as I do not want it to end up as a dead letter.
Regarding your peace-seeking mission, I would like to highlight that many Southern Cameroonians, especially those who have been directly affected by this “man-made catastrophe”, are watching you very carefully as their future depends on the resolution of this conflict that could have been nipped in the bud if the government you serve had not made arrogance and repression its hallmarks.
I have personally been listening to you on your “roadshow” and I will continue to do so as you take your message of peace to our beloved South West Region next week. Like you, I am a bona fide son of the South West Region and I want peace to prevail so that our people can return to their land and live a normal life.
However, as a Southern Cameroonian, I am concerned by some of the messages you have been delivering while on your roadshow. While I welcome the message that your president, the one you serve and adore, is now open to discussions on the form of the state, I am however concerned that your mission seems to be doomed to failure, especially as your government is determined to exclude an important segment of the Southern Cameroonian population which you and your government have tagged as separatists.
For any dialogue to be meaningful, all shades of opinions must be welcomed and discussed at the negotiating table. I am an unapologetic federalist, but I hold that it is incumbent upon me to dialogue with and understand those who hold that secession is the ultimate solution.
I think those who have been calling for a separate Southern Cameroonian state have been pushed to the wall by your government and it is incumbent upon you and your government to convince them that separation is not a good option for the country. That is one job you should be prepared to handle in the days ahead.
These people have been pushed to the wall by your government’s refusal to listen to the people’s grievances for decades. Eliminating them from any dialogue might only radicalize them and make it impossible for our country to achieve the peace it needs.
These “separatists” are Southern Cameroonians too and they deserve to be heard. They must be given a chance for them to express their views so that, together, we can find a lasting solution to this unfortunate situation.
Their leaders are in jail in Yaounde and your government has been putting them through a pseudo trial that does not speak well of the country. Those in jail must be involved in the dialogue for it to be meaningful.
Allow me to point out that a first serious step towards seeking peace will be publicly acknowledging that mistakes have been made, apologizing for the lives lost and property intentionally damaged by government forces.
Mr. Prime Minister, unconditionally releasing all those who are being held in your dungeons in Yaounde will send a clear message that your government is serious about restoring peace in the country. A blanket amnesty should be granted to all Southern Cameroonians at home and abroad as a confidence building measure.
Southern Cameroonian leaders at home and abroad should be allowed to prepare for any inclusive dialogue that may be organized by your government in the presence of the United Nations and other stakeholders like Canada and the United States.
It should be underscored that there is a confidence deficit in Cameroon. Cameroonians, especially Southern Cameroonians do not trust the Yaounde government, as it is noted for speaking from both sides of its mouth. These issues require Cameroonians to look at each other in the eyes and say those home truths that will enable us make giant steps towards peace.
I am also pleased to know that you met with lawyers in Bamenda and you listened to them religiously in order to gain a better understanding of their own issues. I would like to advise that the conflict that has torn our country apart is not a socio-professional issue.
It is a constitutional and political issue that needs to be addressed in an inclusive dialogue like the one the United Nations and the International Community have been calling for over the last two years. If your government is still insisting on its own approach, then it is not yet ready to see this matter settled definitively.
It has also been reported that you advised lawyers in Bamenda not to focus on the root cause of the conflict, but rather on the way forward. I understand that you and your government want to walk away from the mess you have created but walking away from it without seeking to know what triggered it will be like striking the branches of a problem instead of its roots.
Like most Cameroonians, I would not like this ugly history to repeat itself in Cameroon. If thunder strikes twice in the same place, then we have not taken all the measures necessary to keep it at bay. It is incumbent upon us to come up with solutions that will never put future generations at risk.
To achieve this, we must carefully examine the root cause of the issue. We should not just flip the page without reading it. It is an ugly page, but we must read it to understand how it all unraveled. We should be driven by the need to spare future generations such a disaster and not by the political expediency that your government is noted for.
I know you will be heading to the South West Region next week and you will be delivering the same messages over there. I would like to remind you that you have to meet with people who will tell you the truth and not only with those who will flatter you.
While seeking opinions at home, do not forget that the Southern Cameroonian Diaspora is a formidable force and its opinion must count. There is no way there can be peace in Cameroon if the opinion of the Southern Cameroonian Diaspora is not taken into consideration.
The Diaspora has the resources and men to destabilize the country for a long time. Its vast financial resources can be used for development purposes if the Yaounde government partners with it in a win-win partnership. Rather than alienate this group of hard-working Cameroonians, it will be in the government’s interest to work with this Diaspora that has played a significant role in the conflict.
This situation is critical and only the truth will bail our country out of this political quagmire. This situation does not require long speeches. Many have died and many are still dying. Your soldiers are still kidnapping and slaughtering innocent civilians. Their license to kill is not yet expired. I would suggest we make these consultations as short as possible in order to commence with the inclusive dialogue Cameroonians are waiting for.
Mr. Prime Minister, I would not like to take your time. I know you are a busy person and you are honest and peace-loving. I sincerely wish you the best in your undertaking and I stand by for any input you may need in this regard.
By Joachim Arrey
About the Author: The author of this letter has served as a translator, technical writer, journalist and editor for several international organizations and corporations across the globe. He studied communication and public relations at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom and technical writing at George Brown College, Toronto, Canada. He also studied translation at the Advanced School of Translators and Interpreters (ASTI) of the University of Buea, as well as Languages and Linguistics at the University of Calabar, Calabar, Nigeria. He holds a Ph.D. He can be reached at: email@example.com