The government of Cameroon has been in the business of gambling for a long time and it has been successful in many cases. In the 1990s, it played and won in the game of democracy that was supposed to reduce the president’s power, and this has given it the impression that it will always win. Its appetite for political victory is permanently on the rise and its weapon of choice has been manipulation and it has been effective over the last thirty-five years. Due to this growing confidence, it seems to have forgotten that its role is to settle issues facing the population and not winning arguments or wars against its own people. But this time around, the government’s charm is failing it. It is also suffering from senility and it is simply not producing the right impact. Anglophones both at home and abroad have united in their purpose and are giving the government a good run for its money. Schools have remained closed in many cities in the Anglophone region and ghost town operations in most cities and towns in the region have exceeded expectations.
Last week, Cameroon’s president, Paul Biya, felt he would break the back of the Anglophone struggle by releasing Anglophone leaders and others who had been wrongfully arrested within the context of the Anglophone problem that has hurt the country’s economy and dealt a severe blow to the government’s reputation. The crisis has not only demonstrated that Anglophones are sick and tired of the mistreatment they have suffered for more than five decades, it has also illustrated that the government is out of touch with reality and it is too inefficient to deal with some of the tricky issues that a well-organized democracy can easily handle.
The president’s act of “magnanimity” hailed by many regime surrogates has not really cut ice with Anglophones and many,such as Barrister Harmony Bobga,hold that “Our Colleagues and Compatriots, Barrister Nkongho Felix Agbor Balla and co. committed no offence to warrant abduction, incarceration and dehumanization for 195 days as of date.” He adds that “the discontinuance of proceedings before the military Tribunal of Yaoundé against them is of no legal moment, it is neither a Nolle Prosequi nor finding of not guilty. There is therefore no guarantee of their future pursuit so long as our nation is not restored.” He argues that “If it is a recognition of an error on the part of Mr. Paul Biya and his Government, it must be accompanied by an unqualified apology and due compensation.” Barrister Bobga further contends that “the avoidance of clear statistics of how many persons were arrested, detained, forced to disappear of purely and simply extra-judicially executed is a matter that raises concern. It is suggested that there must be a census from point of arrest or abduction to the point of release so as to ensure accountability.” This argument seems to be gaining traction among Anglophones who consider the release of their leaders as a well-orchestrated ploy to derail the struggle that has been playing out for more than ten months and whose objective is to compel the government to engage them in a discussion on the form of the State; an argument the government has vehemently refused to buy into. This is a government that is wont to manipulating and intimidating its people. Many of its members are frozen in time and the only language they understand is an iron fist.
As Anglophones and the government stick to their positions, the possibility of pulling the country out of the political quagmire looks really slim and this is no good news to the students who have unfortunately been caught in the fight that is likely to drag on for many months, except the government decides to come down from its Ivory Tower to understand that its first duty is to attend to the people and address their concerns in a democratic manner. The government needs to look for a way to retire this issue before it gets out of control. The problem has been a millstone around its neck for a long time, but from the look of things, it could spiral out of control, transforming the country into the continent’s newest hotspot.
Hopes of schools resuming today, September 4, 2017, had been very high last weekend following the release of Anglophone leaders, but the delay in releasing many others and the government’s refusal to propose a calendar for the discussion of the form of the state made many analysts to be skeptical about the resumption of schools and their fears have actually come through, leaving many students and parents heartbroken. The agony of the students is expected to continue and the consequences of the failure to find a long-lasting solution to this crisis will linger for a long time. Many girls are already pregnant and teachers are leaving the country in droves. Cameroon, the once-upon-a-time oasis of peace and stability, is gradually carving out a bad name for itself. Its reputation has been dented.
But it is the economy that is taking some of the most dangerous punches. Today, the economy of the Anglophone region has taken a nosedive and poverty is gradually taking root, especially in rural areas where agriculture is the mainstay. In cities, things are deteriorating at a very fast pace. Buea, the Southwest region’s capital is a ghost of its former self. Its popular Silicon Mountain has simply disappeared, and many locals are unemployed. This is causing many people to ask if the government and its leader actually understand the depth of the anger and frustration that inhabit the Anglophone mind.
A little strike that was supposed to have been dealt with in a democratic manner was allowed to escalate due to the government’s ill-advised decision to use brute force to cow Anglophones into silence. Anglophones have been nursing grudges for too long and the government has been behaving as if it was not aware of the long list of things that were gradually sapping the English-speaking minority of its love for the country. Unfortunately, things have taken a turn for the worse, the possibility of the government winning this war through military action is very slim. Civil disobedience seems to be working and many government officials are losing sleep over this mess created for them by Anglophones. Neither the Prime Minister nor his collaborators have been good enough to come up with solutions that can calm flaring tempers. Even ministers like Issa Tchiroma, Atanga Nji, Fame Ndongo and Laurent Esso who thought the problem would fizzle out, are today marveled at the unity of purpose Anglophone Cameroonians across the globe have displayed. Their determination is worthy of admiration and commendation, but many conflict management experts advise that Anglophones should be willing to meet the government half-way if the crisis has to be laid to rest. That is, if the government will walk away from the unitary state that has been spreading death and hardship across the country.
But the government has a long to-do list if Anglophones have to be part of a country they want to walk away from. The current elites of the region need to be retired. They have not only demonstrated their inefficiency, they have also proven that they lack the respect and credibility to bring their people behind them. Anglophone leadership needs to be renewed. The current leadership is ineffective. The elites, especially the ministers, have only worked hard to feather their personal nest. The people are angry and have clearly rejected them. If Mr. Biya wants a speedy resolution of this conflict, he has to retire some of the people who have been around him for too long, especially the hardliners, as they are no longer relevant. If he does not take actions that will help calm down tempers, Cameroon will continue to be in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons and the agony that is clearly visible in the country will continue for a long time.
From the Editorial Desk
Cameroon Concord News