West Cameroonians: Thanks to you, there is freedom of expression and multiparty politics in Cameroon
Open Letter to West Cameroonians
Dear West Cameroonians,
Let me use this opportunity to congratulate you on your achievements over the last 25 years. While many will be critical of your current efforts, be rest assured that they are aware that without you, your country will not be where it is today. Thanks to you, there is freedom of expression and multiparty politics in your country. Without you, there would not have been an “Office du Baccalaureat” and a GCE Board. The creation of these two bodies came after your parents paid a huge price. New generations of West Cameroonians may not be aware of what happened in the early 90s. Many of them have just been lucky to grow up to see Anglo-Saxon universities in Buea and Bamenda. For those who are fifty years old and up, the thought of attending an Anglo-Saxon university in Cameroon never crossed their minds. Theirs was a one-university state where West Cameroonians were robbed of their confidence. If they did not have the resources to go out to school in Nigeria, Canada, the UK or United States, then theirs was the Kingdom of hard life.
Getting an Anglo-Saxon university just like calling for multiparty politics was an uphill climb. Blood was spilled and many have been scarred for life. Go to Bamenda and you will see the victims of the struggle for multiparty politics in Cameroon. Many were amputated and others defaced. The journey to where you are today has been long and the road on which your parents have traveled has been tarred with the blood of those who have not been lucky to see the achievement of some of these feats. Those achievements should advise that there is strength in unity and that there is power in numbers. No individual, regardless of their position, could have posted such results without the collaboration of others who were also determined to make life better for posterity. Though there is significant progress, it must be underscored that the road ahead is still long and challenging.
This brings me to the current situation that is playing out in Cameroon. The call for federalism has met with ferocious brutality, with many getting arrested and taken to unknown places, while some have lost their lives in a cause they believe will help future generations to live a life that will bring positive experiences to their lives. Today, many kids in West Cameroon are not going to school. Many businesses are not operating because of the disconnection of the Internet. Many journalists have been thrown into jail for telling the truth and the leaders of the consortium are still languishing in jail for peacefully asking for a system they believe will make their country a better place than they met it. This is surely the price to pay for a better life for all. Nobody gets an omelet without breaking eggs. These unfortunate situations speak to the intolerance of the State that is clearly seeking to crush any opposition or contrary view. Faced with such a situation, West Cameroonians must understand that if they have to post any results, they must make common cause and must avoid focusing on the small picture.
In recent times, some cracks have appeared on the Consortium’s wall. These cracks should not dampen your determination to right the wrongs of the past. Disagreement is as old as man. When people disagree, it is not always because they hate each other. In some cases, it is because all those involved simply want things to be done in a new and innovative way.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with disagreeing, but be advised that when you disagree you must not be disagreeable as such an attitude might ruin a golden idea that is expected to lead an entire people to the land of promise. It is therefore important for the Consortium which, in many minds, is an idea and a spirit, to continue operating as it has over the last three months. It will be appropriate for you, West Cameroonians, to focus on the big picture – the achievement of your goal or whatever that may be – rather than focus on your differences. Let the spotlight or fame not be the reason why you will lay to rest an effort that will transform lives and include your name in your country’s history as one of those who used peaceful civil disobedience to post outstanding results.
Allow me to also point out something that has been disturbing to many observers. In recent times, it has been reported that some West Cameroonians have been destroying state property as a means to demonstrate their frustration with the current state of affairs in the country. Be rest assured that your pain is known world-wide and you must also understand that the property you are destroying is your property too. Regardless of the outcome of your effort, you will need this infrastructure to serve your people and children. In Mamfe, the delegation of education was burned down a few weeks ago. The Mayor’s cars were also destroyed in a similar display of anger. In Akwaya, similar destruction has taken place as the inhabitants of this region seek to let the government understand how angry and frustrated they are following the arrest of Barrister Agbor Nkongho Balla and Judge Paul Ayah, both of whom are illustrious sons of Manyu Division.
In Mile 17 near the city of Buea, several stores were destroyed early this month because the shop-owners failed to respect the call for ghost towns. Yesterday, some angry young men attacked a police station in Mutengene following allegations that a police officer had shot and killed a young man. It was later reported that the police building was not destroyed but police equipment was brought out and burned by the angry mob. While it is easy to understand your anger, it is also disturbing to see young men developing the bad habit of taking the law into their hands. It should be understood that when the dust settles, West Cameroonians will still need the police. No matter how irresponsible some policemen may be, West Cameroonians should never consider these men in uniform as their enemies. Some of them just want to do their job, unfortunately, they have to work with some overzealous colleagues.
The people of West Cameroon should be exemplary. They must listen to the recommendations and principles of the Consortium which clearly believes in peaceful civil disobedience as a means to an end. Resorting to violence only gives criminals an opportunity to have a field day. No anger can justify any destruction of your own property. Do not create a lawless environment out of your struggle as you will be the first victim of such lawlessness.
Accept differences of opinion. Not everybody will be part of your struggle, but never consider such people as your enemies. In every issue, you will always have some people on the fence. They prefer to be onlookers instead of actors. They may share your pain, but might simply not be in agreement with your strategy and approach. You have the burden of persuading them that your approach is as justified as your frustration. Shun violence as it will overshadow your legitimate frustrations. Be a victim of injustice instead of a criminal. Always bear in mind that the road ahead will be long. Manage your expectations, if not, you will be more frustrated and your frustration could easily spill over when the expected results take long to come. Be hopeful. Tomorrow could be a better day. Mine is just a piece of advice. It is your duty to make your dream come true through peaceful means.
About the Author: The author of this piece has served as a translator, technical writer, journalist and editor for several international organizations and corporations across the globe. He studied communication at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom and technical writing in George Brown College in Toronto, Canada. He is also a trained translator and holds a Ph.D