Dear fellow West Cameroonians,
After more than eight months of challenging a government that has hurt us for more than five decades, I deem it necessary to bring this important component of the struggle to your attention. While we may differ on the final objective of the struggle, I would like to underscore that we all agree that we have been victims of a system that has transformed us into second-class citizens and many of us have been robbed of the opportunity to serve a nation we also consider ours. Ours has been a kingdom wherein a few have usurped everything and they hold that it is their birth right to play God. They erroneously think that having a job in our country is an act of benevolence on their part. We disagree with that and strongly insist that birthright citizenship requires that we also aspire to certain positions in the country in which we were born. The pain of robbing us of our birthright is one reason we cannot just sit and watch this long party go on indefinitely.
Allow me to point out that nature has endowed us with a lot of resources, especially in the Southwest Region where our sub-soil is rich. We have oil, gold, timber and other resources, but we remain among the poorest of the poor, with many of our parents living on less than a dollar a day. The Southwest region alone accounts for more than 40% of the country’s foreign earnings, most of which come from oil revenues obtained from the oil deposits in the Rio Del Rey Estuary in the Southwest Region. Similarly, though the country’s lone oil refinery is located in the Southwest region, most of the employees are Francophones whose favorite sport is humiliating our people who only get close to their oil when they go to buy fuel at the pump.
Our people have been reduced to sorry spectators of events in their own country. Our parents and siblings who are stuck in the country are still dying of preventable and curable diseases while a few keep on organizing a never-ending party that has transformed our beloved country into a milking cow. In three decades, the Chinese government has successfully pulled more than 700 million Chinese out of poverty, but ours has remained a kingdom of poverty, diseases and death; a kingdom wherein policy- and decision-makers are bereft of the basic skills that can enable them postpone death for our people. We have continued to watch our fellow brothers live and die in despair and nobody in power has ever expressed any regrets for this preventable loss of lives.
On the contrary, these people who schooled on our parents’ taxes have continued to use their forces of law(lessness) and (dis)order to hunt our people as if they have become game. Images of those University of Buea girls being made to swim in raw sewage are stuck in my mind and they make it hard to forgive Dr. Nalova Lyonga who was the Vice Chancellor of the University at the time. She is gone, but the mentality of violence is still in force. She did not organize this alone. The governor of the Southwest Region was involved. The minister of higher education, Fame Ndongo, was aware of the plan. They too must be dismissed for West Cameroonians to know that justice is taking its course.
While the current struggle must continue until we achieve our goal, we must also understand that next year’s elections do constitute a window of opportunity for us. Whether we are federalists, secessionists or independentists, we can still use next year’s presidential, parliamentary and mayoral elections to make a strong statement of intent. The government might have taken a blow to the liver, but it is still fighting to stay in the boxing ring. It may be down, but not out and it is scheming to reinvent itself.
While we may not like the idea of being part of La République, it is clear for now that we are still part of that country and it is incumbent upon us to exercise our citizenship. In this regard, all West Cameroonians of voting age should go get registered for the upcoming elections. If we don’t get registered, we will surely not vote and the mess will continue right in front of us. Let’s stop those Cameroon Peoples Democratic Movement (CPDM) parliamentarians, who have been serving themselves for too long, from helping to perpetuate a system that has inflicted pain on us. While they call their party Cameroon Peoples Democratic Movement, we the suffering masses know them as “Chop People Dem Money” (CPDM) and they have been crushing our money for more than fifty years while we watch helplessly from a distance.
We can end that by getting registered for the elections that will come up next year. We should understand if we give our votes to one party for that party to defend us in the National Assembly, we will be able to make some inroads. We are capable of reversing a few things if we pool our votes.
Today, we have successfully struck fear in the minds of those who have, for more than thirty years, claimed that they have been representing us. We have made them to feel our anger. We are bitter because they have hurt us. We are angry because they have robbed us of our childhood and happiness. We are frustrated because they have reduced us to second-class citizens. We can put an end to that anger and frustration by registering and voting in next year’s elections where we will have the opportunity to replace the mayors and parliamentarians in West Cameroon who have never bothered to identify with the struggling population. Next year could usher in a lot of change. Let’s not allow that opportunity pass us by.
Make no mistake, we may not yet be in the Promised Land, but we have made significant progress in that direction. Francophones have understood our plight. We have educated them and many of them are on our side today. Even the government knows we are a formidable force. With two million of our brothers out of the country, we have a historic moment to make our voices heard. It is our right. It is our birthright and we must claim it. Next year should be that great moment for us to retire those CPDM parliamentarians who have only served their children and families for years. We should retire them and make them feel the pain we have felt for decades.
When we register, we must understand that the road ahead is still bumpy. We are not dealing with a government that believes in fair-play. We are dealing with a government that is intent on keeping us in poverty for as long as they want. But we have a trump card – our unity of purpose. We may disagree on many issues, but we all agree that our government has not served us and we have an opportunity to replace it through the ballot boxes. We will have to cast our votes and we must wait at the polling station for every vote to be counted. Our votes must count and we must use that vote to determine our destiny. We can no longer put our fate and destiny into old shaky hands that have never been there for us. It is time to be very strategic and every window of opportunity must be used to achieve our goal.
In all of this, the Diaspora has a role to play. Just as every one of you out there called their families to stop the children from going to school, so too should you use the same media to inform your loved ones to get registered for the upcoming elections. Let’s not miss any opportunity available to us to make our voices heard. Let’s punish those parliamentarians and mayors who have not served. Let’s punish them for serving people in Yaounde and not the people they are supposed to serve. The upcoming elections are a great moment. We cannot afford to miss that golden opportunity. Let each and every one of us play their role. We owe it to our children and future generations.
By Joachim Arrey, PhD
About the Author: The author of this piece is a keen observer of Cameroon’s political and economic landscape. He has published extensively on the country’s political and economic development, especially in the early 90s when the wind of change was blowing across the African continent. He 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.