Since Cameroon came into the spotlight for marginalising its English-speaking minority, the country’s economy has continued its onward march to the brink of collapse and government actions are not helping matters. The country’s authorities have continued with their spending spree which many economists and observers consider as a game of self-destruction that might lead to a popular uprising.
Recently, the government sent huge delegations to Western capital to explain to the Diaspora what little actions it had taken to appease Anglophones. The mission was a huge flop with some of the delegations meeting stiff opposition from the same Diaspora they were supposed to share perspectives with. The ruling party delegations that cost the country a whooping USD 500,000 left Western countries with no success and the government has been working hard to hide the true amount spent on those futile missions from a hungry and desperate population. Right from the beginning, Members of the same delegations knew that they were heading for a mission that was doomed to failure, especially in countries such as the United States, Canada, Belgium and South Africa where there are huge concentrations of Anglophones. The anger and disappointment of the Anglophone Diaspora have been felt across the world and it was, indeed, ill-advised for the government to undertake such a project at the time it did.
But faithful to its policy of self-destruction, the ruling CPDM, known in Cameroon as a crime syndicate, saw it as an opportunity to put some money into the pockets of their friends and party faithful. From this failed mission, it was believed that the ruling party and the government would learn some of the hard lessons of life. But learning and doing the right thing do not seem to be in the party’s DNA. Cost-cutting does not exist in the government lexicon. This has recently been demonstrated by the big bill the president has imposed on the country after living abroad for close to onemonth due to health issues. The president’s medical vacation has cost close to USD 2 million in a country wherein millions are sick and unable to buy even the cheapest generic medication for their debilitating illnesses. This figure includes the cost of a chartered flight that brought the president and his entourage to Yaounde sometime last week.
However, it should be pointed out that this figure does not include the numerous plane tickets that were bought for many government officials to go to Geneva to address issues facing the country. According to our sources at the presidency of the republic, the country’s president, Paul Biya, while lying in his sick bed in Geneva, had been pulling the strings from the Intercontinental Hotel where he had an entire floor reserved for him and his team of about 50 staff, including domestic servants and body guards. He had a suite reserved for himself where only his aide de Camp, Joseph Fouda, could have direct access to the ailing “monarch”.
His collaborators such as Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh (Secretary-General at the Presidency) and Jean Nkuete (CPDM Secretary General) were always flying back and forth to have documents signed, while the Prime Minister, Yang, Philemon, who has been quietly sidelined, spent most of his time at Mont Febe to disguise his frustration with a government that is simply using him as a window dressing to appease Anglophones. He is hardly aware of what is happening, as most of the decisions are taken at the Unity Palace and without his knowledge, our sources at the presidency intimated.
As the Southern Cameroons crisis deteriorates so too is the country’s economy, but this does not seem to deter the government from playing its old games. While the president and his men were burning through money like wild fire in Geneva, his ruling CPDM party hastily organized desperate and hungry Southern Cameroonians, commonly known as elites, to head to their constituencies to convince their people to turn their backs on a revolution that has not only crippled the courts, but has also kept Southern Cameroonian students away from school for more than a year.
Even kids knew that such a mission was doomed to failure as Southern Cameroonians were still burying their dead and licking the wounds they had sustained on October 1, 2017, following a failed declaration of independence. More than 300 persons were rushed to Southern Cameroon on a mission that has not posted any impressive results. These rejected and shameless elites invaded the region like ragweed, but despite the food and drinks they took with them, there is nothing to show for their presence in the region. Southern Cameroonians have made up their minds. They want errors of the past to be corrected and they insist that courts and schools will only resume when the government sets the stage for genuine dialogue. They also argue that for genuine dialogue to take place, those in jail must be released and a blanket amnesty granted to those who are currently living in exile.
Today, there are more than three million Southern Cameroonians living abroad, with the current crisis creating more than 60,000 refugees and more than 100,000 internally displaced persons. It should be noted that some 50,000 Southern Cameroonians crossed over to Nigeria after October 1, 2017, following the failed independence declaration, as refugees and they are being taken care of by the Nigerian government. Certain villages in the Akwaya sub-division have simply vanished from the map, as mothers and children have crossed over to Nigeria while boys and men are still hiding in the jungle for fear of being killed by government troops who went on a killing spree in Manyu Division because the Interim Chairperson of the Southern Cameroons Governing Council hails from there.
In trying to repress Southern Cameroonians and force peace on them, the government and its surrogates have ended up creating a pretty mess. Besides, the financial mess created by the president and his men due to poor judgment and huge hospital bills, there is also a huge political mess that has drawn the international community’s attention. Around the world, many people and leaders are blaming the government for the escalation of the crisis. They argue that instead of opting for dialogue, Mr. Biya and his collaborators have always resorted to colonial-style methods which have plunged the country into a serious political crisis.
They point out that the arrest and transfer of Southern Cameroonian leaders to Yaounde in January 2017, coupled with the disconnection of the Internet only made things worse, as the entire world condemned the violence that was unleashed on innocent Southern Cameroonians. The Southern Cameroons crisis has been going on now for one year and instead of taking concrete measures or implementing reforms that can help keep the country together, Mr. Biya has been ignoring the English-speaking minority, believing that time will help address his problems for him. But his attrition strategy is collapsing and woefully too, as many Southern Cameroonians are prepared to stay the course.
Ever since he returned from his “native Switzerland”, the “monarch” has resorted to his old ways. While the world is expecting him to be proactive, Mr. Biya has disappeared from public view and is very much preoccupied by his failing health. The Southern Cameroons crisis is robbing him of his sleep and despite the sleeping pills he has been eating like candy, the “monarch” is still restless and not having a good night’s sleep, claiming that Southern Cameroonians have ruined his legacy.
A recent report on the crisis by the International Crisis Group puts the blame squarely on the government and this has earned the much-respected group a ban from Cameroonian soil. According to the report, “Cameroon must urgently rethink a policy of ‘murderous repression’ in its restive English-speaking regions or risk the crisis spiraling into an armed uprising,” the International Crisis Group (ICG) warned Thursday, October 19. In a report on the political crisis in the Central African nation, the NGO said“the government’s crackdown on the Anglophone minority had failed and had only served to fuel a clamor for independence,” adding that Cameroon’s President Paul Biya, 85, must act swiftly to find a serious political solution to the crisis, urging the international community to speak out firmly against state violence that has resulted in the loss of many lives. “If he hopes to avoid an armed uprising in Anglophone regions, which would without doubt have an impact in the Francophone zone, the Cameroonian president must go beyond superficial measures and take responsibility in order to find political solutions to the crisis.”
If the government thinks its raids and massacres will address the Southern Cameroons crisis, then it is not aware of the danger that is staring it in the face. Its management of this unfortunate situation has been, at best, mediocre, and this has created a big mess which it must clean up. The inability of officials to use the right language during this crisis speaks to their belief in ferocious brutality as the charm that can that roll back this problem that still has many more scenes that will surely be playing out in the days ahead. The government has to change its strategy. Cameroon is going down the drain. The economy is suffering and the people’s confidence in their leaders is on the wane. It is time to consider dialogue; indeed genuine dialogue, as that magic wand that will restore peace in a troubled country. Arrogance and recklessness will not cut it. If Mr. Biya is really concerned about his legacy, then this is the time for him to step up to the plate to prove that he has what it takes to hold the country together. Presidential decrees have failed. Peace missions have only delivered more violence. The military has instead angered the people. What other card is left, if it is not dialogue?
A Cameroon Concord News Group Production