US Congress- Cameroon National Assembly Palaver: There are reasons why Joshua Osih signed the petition
Over the last couple of days, a position statement signed by several colleagues of the National
Assembly including my humble person has been the main topic of discussion on several platforms and news outlets. This document has been subject to various interpretations, generating a lot of controversy on what its noble intentions were.
Given the unprecedented challenges the country faces, we are all called to take our responsibilities and we must boldly take it up when and where necessary. Cynics, in deliberately misunderstanding and misrepresenting the intentions of this document, have also seized the opportunity to peddle innuendos of my collusion with the regime in its poor management of the Anglophone crisis and from seeking to benefit from it. It is this toxic politics, to which we have subjected every aspect of our national life which is at the very heart of the protraction of some of the crisis we face today.
For the last 4-5 years, political apprentices have used sentimental judgements as a tool to stoke the sympathy of desolate Cameroonians, who have suffered and continue to suffer from various trials but never truly suggest any actual solution to the problems our fellow compatriots face. We will never succeed in building the Cameroon we believe in through such cynicism and in trivialising every debate in the country.
We are faced with several hard choices and we must face up to the truth and make those tough decisions. As famously quoted by Martin Luther King, Jr “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. The true neighbour will risk his position, his prestige, and even his life for the welfare of others. ”
That said, the position by some members of the Cameroon National Assembly was published on February 22, 2021, in response to a petition from the United States Congress sent on February 17, 2021 by some 40 members of the United States Congress to the Biden administration. This petition was asking the administration to suspend the repatriation of Cameroonians from the United States to Cameroon because conditions in Cameroon continue to worsen as violence continues and the pandemic continues to take its public health and economic toll…
In matters of parliamentary diplomacy, the position of a parliament is usually entertained by the opposing parliament concerned, providing a response to the position in question except in cases of escalation. It was therefore within our remit, as representatives of the people, to provide a weighted response and seek further methods through which to best engage with these concerned members of the American Congress.
In response therefore, a position was taken on behalf of the Cameroonian Parliament and which can be summarized in its conclusion by the following words, “As legislators, we welcome the genuine expression of concern and support for the well-being of the vast majority of Cameroonians. We urge members of the United States Congress to engage more vigorously to ensure compliance with the international conventions against transnational crime and criminality to which the United States is a signatory and to ensure that their country is not a safe haven for perpetrators and funders of acts of extreme violence and terrorism on the people of Cameroon”.
This response, for those who have taken the time to read it, is both diplomatically correct and courteous. As an unusual first, this document provided a medium of exchange from the Cameroon Parliament with foreign counterparts on a topic that has been the major concern for every Cameroonian, an opportunity I personally welcomed. The document in itself evoked several aspects, which make it foolhardy to read it in a singular context. It is necessary to unpack both statements and answer some questions, while pondering the proposal of “…suspending repatriation flights back to Cameroon…” for the various reasons provided, which include but are not limited to the war in the English-speaking regions.
These questions are:
Firstly, does this de-escalate the ongoing crisis in the country? The answer is a resounding NO!
Should we be encouraging and celebrating more and more Cameroonians who are forced away from the responsibility of building this nation, the comfort of their homes in the hope of seeking asylum in the United States of America? Again, the resounding answer is NO!
Does America provide safe harbour and anchor for the financiers, propagandists and sponsors of the war? Resounding YES!
Have those who have been repatriated so far been subject to any severe treatment besides the psychological, physical and economic cost of their journey, which would have been all but avoided had we the right government in place? Once again, a resounding NO!
Do I feel for such Cameroonians who have been through such unbearable conditions, forced away from home in search of better? Absolutely YES.
Do I feel there is another way we can solicit the support of the Biden Administration to ending the crisis and ensuring that Cameroonians feel welcomed and safe in their very homes? Absolutely YES.
Those are some key questions every patriotic Cameroonian must be asking and to which we must provide true answers. My political goal is not to look for the best means by which to portray the weaknesses of the country, but rather to the best way to resolve its imminent challenges. That is the responsibility I have as a representative of the people and a duty I must uphold.
I am therefore baffled by the various negative reactions that I have received from this petition. Not that I am surprised by them, but rather by some of the authors of the criticism levied against me. Some have questioned the audacity to question or seem unyielding to a document regarding the state of affairs in Cameroon from the United States.
Some have questioned why I appended my signature to a ‘CPDM initiated document’ as a member of the opposition and finally some political parasites once again are hoping to gain relevance in the face of the buzz this newsworthy action is making.
When we consider the questions above, our actual challenge becomes evident. We can see how a genuine problem became hostage to the fantasies of some virtual leaders and gun wielding miscreants. From the onset, the Anglophone problem, which enjoyed the full support of every meaningful Cameroonian and to which we formulated the problem question adequately and had a clear roadmap for its resolution, was side-tracked by a group. They hijacked the “struggle” by peddling the idea of an independent country.
Driven by frustrations and misgivings with the system and the vices we have condemned over such a long period, the idea of an independent country where they could reset and restart afresh was very appealing to several young men and women. They greeted this false believe with so much enthusiasm after giving up all hope and trust in the system. We must not forget the effect of this narrative on the escalation of this crisis. From the moment they embarked on this method, any other position or any other leader was dealt all sorts of derogatory terms.
Several well-meaning Cameroonians were forced out of this debate because of its toxicity. For those who rightly evoke the absence since the start of this terrible war in the North-West and South-West of a real debate on the issue in the Cameroonian parliament, I would like to begin to reassure them that I am offended as much as they are by this inexplicable incongruity maintained by the CPDM majority. In their short-sightedness, they never imagined the impact the SDF debate on the crisis would have brought about. We petitioned and revolted on the floor of parliament and today they see the need to take action. By this therefore, we would call for more discussions on the floor of parliament on the crisis.
The SDF to which I belong is for a strong Cameroon, united in its diversity through a federal system set up with a broad consensus and which gives pride of place to local development and the enhancement of the specificities of its components in a participatory and inclusive democracy.
We are for a true inclusive dialogue to resolve the crisis in the North West and South West. Our social democratic and progressive values are for peace all over the country and we carry values which dictate to us that there can be no real and lasting peace without justice and this justice knows no borders. The SDF has given its all to try to bring peace to the North West and South West regions for the past five years in a deadly conflict in which we are not a party but for which we are paying an immeasurable price. This, however, will not deter us from sticking to our democratic fundamentals enshrined in our internal constitution.
Party members should therefore not be drawn into this sentimental expressions and futile debates fanned by political lackeys. To do politics is to have political ideas, a political program, a clear vision of the economic and social mix that you want for your country. Political life is the confrontation of these ideas and these programs. Let’s talk and debate about ideas.
Let us be focused and reflect together on the fundamental problems of our society and propose to the electorate a program based on socio-democratic and progressive values to solve them. This is what the SDF should be for the days and weeks to come. This is my vision.
Conserving old positions divides, adopting change unites. I live my political struggle as a divine blessing. Being misunderstood, stigmatized, or just fought is an inseparable part of this fight. I am for the unity of all the political forces of the left, of all the progressives. I am for a strong and united SDF. Only the struggle liberates and together we win.
Hon. Joshua N. Osih
Member of Parliament