Some time two years ago, I had said that there would be dialogue in Cameroon and very few people thought it would happen. Mr. Biya was still saying that he would not dialogue with terrorists.
I told him he would. This statement of his has been stuck in his throat like a bone and he has lost a lot of sleep because of this massive error of judgment on his part. As a leader, you never speak in absolute terms. The world, just like a country, does not belong to anybody and circumstances will always connive to alter our decisions.
By focusing on the North West and South West yesterday during his much awaited speech, Mr. Biya proved that he had been losing sleep because of the mess his soldiers have created in the two English-speaking regions of the country.
To spare himself some embarrassment, he put the blame squarely on Southern Cameroonian fighters. He knows that nobody in his right mind will believe that part of his speech.
Many soldiers have been caught burning schools and hospitals in the two English-speaking regions of the country. Videos of their atrocities exist and social media is awash with incontrovertible evidence of the recklessness displayed by the Cameroon army.
The whole notion of dialogue is welcome. But there are still some grey areas. From the way Mr. Biya rambled before getting to that point, it is clear that the idea has been pushed down his throat by the international community. Though the country is gradually falling apart, Mr. Biya is still working hard to hang on to his philosophy that has not brought any good to the country.
It was all the more soothing to hear him say that the economies of the two English-speaking regions had been ruined due to the conflict, adding that the impact of the mess was also rippling out to the other regions. That was what he should have thought about before declaring that war some two years ago.
He tried to display some humility, but from time to time, his old demons kept on rearing their ugly heads. He has grown up in the mentality of oppressing others. He cannot believe that times have changed and that new ways must prevail.
While we all condemn impunity, the government must understand that in this conflict, impunity cuts both ways. The government has been behind some of the most heinous crimes that have taken place in Southern Cameroons.
Children have been killed by soldiers. Old people have been roasted alive by our uniformed officers. Houses have been torched. If Mr. Biya dislikes impunity as he professes, then he must start punishing the soldiers who have killed innocent civilians in Southern Cameroons and those who commandeered those atrocities.
I am for the idea of an inclusive dialogue and was pleased to hear that the Diaspora would be included in the dialogue. I would be contributing my ideas and I look forward to meeting with the delegation he will be sending to meet Cameroonians living abroad in any Western capital.
I was also pleased to see Mr. Biya extend condolences to Southern Cameroonian families that have lost people as a result of this unnecessary war. However, the details and modalities of the dialogue are still murky. For Southern Cameroonians to really believe that he is serious, he must come up with a transparent framework that will be reassuring.
Mr. Biya has not been truthful to Cameroonians on many occasions and this has caused a confidence and credibility deficit in the country. There are many examples to prove that throughout his time in power, he has thought more of his own survival than the future of the country.
The Tripartite talks that took place in the early 1990s constitute one good example of how good ideas never really get implemented in Cameroon. The 1996 constitution that spells out the conditions for a decentralized system is another example. After 23 years, no part of that constitution has actually been implemented.
Mr. Biya and his team have to learn how to be truthful to Cameroonians. A true inclusive dialogue in Cameroon must involve a third neutral party and in this case the United Nations will be that third neutral party if Cameroon has to walk away from its ugly past.
In his speech, Mr. Biya also talked about granting clemency to all those who voluntarily drop down their weapons. This sounded like a joke. I will urge that the United Nations should be involved in the demobilization and rehabilitation process in Cameroon.
No reasonable fighter will drop down his weapons when he knows that the government can turn around and arrest him. We have seen that before. There are lots of innocent Southern Cameroonians in Mr. Biya’s jails. Some of those locked up are young men who just decided to come back to normal civilian life and they have been picked up and taken to Yaounde.
Mr. Biya and his government cannot be a neutral party in this situation when they are the architects of the war and slaughtering that have taken place in the two English-speaking regions of the country.
Also, If I were Mr. Biya, I would make more use of the “Royal We”. His use of “I” makes him sound more like a blood-thirsty dictator and not many Southern Cameroonians will ever trust him. He has been brutal before and could still be if given the opportunity.
Well, he had an opportunity yesterday to reconfigure the country. Though he did not totally achieve that goal, he however set the ball rolling for a possible dialogue. That dialogue should be driven by neutral third parties and not the Yaounde gang that has ruined the country.
Dr Joachim Arrey