“Southern Cameroonian fighters who started out with hunting rifles seem to be making significant progress in their procurement of sophisticated weapons” Dr Joachim Arrey
Cameroon Concord News senior political man Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai, recently caught up with Dr. Joachim Arrey, a translation, communication, and technical writing expert who has delivered effective language solutions to many organizations around the world and both men took a look at issues playing out in Cameroon and the world.
Cameroon Concord News: You have been very quiet for some time now. Why the silence?
Dr. Joachim Arrey: Thanks, Mr. Editor, for granting me this opportunity for me to share my perspective on some of the issues currently facing the world. Regarding your question, I would like to mention that wisdom dictates that sometimes you must be quiet, as silence could be golden. Also, I have learned over the years that when you talk a lot, not many people take you seriously. Everything must be measured in order to deliver the appropriate impact. However, I try not to be dead silent like Cameroon’s president when there are huge emergencies in our beloved Cameroon. A leader who holds his country so close to his heart should come out when the country is going through challenging times. This is the ideal way of consoling a desperate and despondent people.
Cameroon Concord News: Talking about Cameroon, the fighting in the country’s two English-speaking regions is still raging on. Do you see any end in sight?
Dr. Joachim Arrey: I have not been on the ground for some time now, but information reaching me gives to understand that the situation is getting worse by the day. Southern Cameroonian fighters who started out with hunting rifles seem to be making significant progress in their procurement of sophisticated weapons. From hunting rifles, they acquired sophisticated killing machines like AK-47s, making life in those regions unbearable. They killed and maimed many soldiers and innocent civilians. They sometimes even turn their own guns against their own comrades in arms and this has been very scary. The harassment of ordinary civilians by both government troops and the fighters needs to be condemned. The government and those who bankroll the fighters must ensure that civilians do not end up as collateral damage in a war that could have been avoided. Three years ago, I thought that was the worst the fighters could do in terms of weapons, but recently, they have morphed into manufacturers of home-made bombs which are blowing up soldiers in large numbers and leaving many families in excruciating psychological pain. This is making things worse and is reducing the prospects of diminishing the human cost of the war. Despite this gloomy picture, I am still optimistic. The government and the fighters must meet each other half-way. They must talk. The negotiating table can deliver lasting peace than any war. There are never any winners in any war though some people would like to make us to understand that there will be winners in this war. The government must walk away from its frozen position to demonstrate that it has a sound understanding of the situation. It must make huge sacrifices if it really dreams of winning this war. It must bend over backwards to bring back peace in the two English-speaking regions of the country and one of those tough decisions will be the unconditional release of Mr. Julius Ayuk Tabe, the poster boy of the rebellion, and all those who have been arrested within the framework of this conflict. This will not be a weakness on the government’s part, but a demonstration of the government’s desire for peace and security in the country. Currently, the government is dealing with many crises. The north is in Boko Haram’s tight grip. In the east, Central African rebels are a serious threat and if care is not taken, the conflict in the Central African Republic could spilt over into Cameroon and the consequences could be far-reaching. The Cameroon government must seek to reduce its military burden by dousing those fires that are easy to put off. The Southern Cameroons crisis is easy to address. All that is required is a huge dose of honesty, humility and political will on the government’s part.
Cameroon Concord News: You have written a lot about the conflict in the two English-speaking regions of the country. Your ideas on the way forward are music to many ears around the world. You see the Canadian system as a model that could be copied by Cameroon. Has any government official ever contacted you for you to share your ideas?
Dr. Jochim Arrey: Thank you once more for raising this issue. The conflict in the two English-speaking regions of Cameroon is of special interest to me. As you know, I am a native of Ossing which is in the Southwest region which is the region that has been significantly affected by the conflict. I do not agree that secession is the answer, but I have also clearly stated that I do not like the way the government has dealt with this situation. It could have explored other options before using military force. Military violence has never addressed any issues and it should always be an option of last resort. At best, violence will make matters more complicated. As you know, I have been writing and I continue to write urging both the government and the fighters to embrace genuine dialogue facilitated by a neutral third party as the ideal way of bringing about peace and security in the two English-speaking regions of the country. I have also been providing possible solutions to the causes of the conflict. As you know, I have lived most of my life in a federal system. I was born in a federal Cameroon. I lived in Nigeria for a long time, and I have been living in Canada for close to a quarter of century. The federal system may not be a panacea, but it has the potential to reduce conflict, especially language-based conflicts. Canada like Cameroon has also dealt with linguistic minorities and successive Canadian government have handled those differences between English-speaking Canada and French-speaking Canada in a way that is highly commendable. Cameroon has a lot to learn from this country that is considered as the epitome of peace and security in the world. Adopting some of Canada’s federal attributes will help Cameroon navigate its choppy and murky linguistic waters that have been spewing conflicts for a long time. There is a better way of governing Cameroon. The current centralized system is conflict- and corruption-packed, and if care is not taken, the country will be mired in conflict for a very long time and an implosion is clearly on the horizon. Regarding your question about anybody contacting me, I would like to mention that I do not have a monopoly of wisdom or knowledge on Canada. Government officials can directly work with their Canadian counterparts if they really want to make Cameroon an oasis of peace in a desert of conflict in the Central African region. When I write, I share ideas and those ideas could help point both the secessionists and government in the right direction. My role, as a writer, is to help society see its folly and may be, recover from its madness if the leaders deem it necessary. Hearing from any government official is of no consequence to me. A peaceful Cameroon is my objective when I write. I hope as Cameroonians we have the same objective.
Cameroon Concord News: I have heard many South-westerners refer to you as the governor of their region. Do you have any aspiration to run as the governor of the region when and if a federal system will be instituted in the country?
Dr. Joachim Arrey: Many South-westerners refer to me as Governor because of the development ideas I share with them. Many hold that in a federal Cameroon, those ideas could help our region grow by leaps and bounds. Many have been encouraging me to head back home upon retirement to throw my hat into the political ring. These encouragements are indeed good, but for now, I am still busy with other things. I have a few years to retire, though I am not yet tired, but I think that there is a lot to do in Cameroon and around the world, even when on retirement. Upon retirement, I would like to devote my time to real estate development and writing. Writing is a gift from God, and it comes naturally. Of course, if I join politics today, it will not be out of poverty. It will clearly be out of principle. I have been abundantly blessed financially, health-wise, and knowledge-wise and I have always held that sharing that knowledge with those in need of it will be one great way of giving back to my country. I don’t yet know if getting into politics in Cameroon will enable me to do more for my people. There are lots of hungry people out there and they see politics as a means of enriching themselves. I disagree with that. I believe in people living within their means, no matter what. I am not sure this perspective of life will be admired by many who see politics differently. I must weigh all these situations against potential results before making any decision regarding politics in Cameroon. At my age, I am no longer scared of anything. I have already lived two-thirds of my active life; the kids are adults now and I have had a blast over the last 25 years. I think this is the time to give back and there are many ways of achieving this goal. When you are almost 60 and you still feel like you are just 40, then you still have a lot of gasoline in your tank. You must use this gasoline to positively impact many lives.
Cameroon Concord News: Regarding giving back, I see you advocating for Manyu’s development. Are there any on-going projects that will help give Manyu a face-lift?
Dr. Joachim Arrey: I must be blunt with you regarding this issue. Manyu Division should be making giant strides towards sustainable development if its citizens are serious. It has the men and the brains. Unfortunately, the people lack the right mindset. Development is a game of numbers. There is power in numbers but the Manyu man has not yet understood that. He is still individualistic and loves going it alone. Unfortunately, his solo efforts always come to nought. Until the people of this Division of Cameroon learn that they must pool their resources, they will never achieve anything meaningful. This is a region with thousands of young men who all say they want their region to develop, but when you tell them to contribute just CFAF 1,000 a year, they all run away. They even tell stories that are not true, and they blame political leaders for all their problems, including their erectile dysfunction issues. If you cannot give CFAF 1,000 a year for the development of your region, why do you think others will come to develop the place for you? Talk to those in the Diaspora and you will be more disappointed. They all have these big titles and certificates, but the mindset leaves much to be desired. It is not just enough to obtain certificates. The Manyu man should start thinking beyond certificates if his own region of the country must develop. We cannot continue to expect much from others when we cannot contribute just CFAF 1,000 for projects in the region. We must learn how to build confidence. If you live abroad and you cannot give away CFAF 1,000 (USD 2) per year for development purposes, then you do not deserve to blame others for not helping to give your region a face-lift. If 100,000 Manyu people give CFAF 1,000 each, every year, we will end up with CFAF 100,000,000 every year and this will help us undertake some meaningful projects and we will create jobs for our children and grandchildren who are still struggling to find their way around the maze. Unity is strength! The Manyu man must understand this. Certificates alone will not take us to where we want to be.
Cameroon Concord News: Last question. Have you taken the COVID-19 vaccine?
Dr. Joachim Arrey: Yes, I have, and I urge all my friends and family members to get theirs so that we can start living a normal life again. They should not listen to any fake pastors and conspiracy theorists. I will also urge them to engage in physical activities that will help to boost their immune systems. The pandemic is urging us to change our lifestyles. This global pandemic has dealt with people who are obese and those who engage in social behaviour that compromises their health. With co-morbidities, we cannot survive the pandemic’s relentless assaults. Diabetes, high blood pressure and heart problems are mostly man-made. We can avoid them if we change our lifestyles and behaviour. The vaccine will help to give us the protection we need against this insidious and dangerous virus. Let us all get it!
Cameroon Concord News: Thank you, Dr. Arrey, for your time!