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Fonlon-Nichols Award Website of the Literary Award established to honor the memory of BERNARD FONLON, the great Cameroonian teacher, writer, poet, and philosopher, who passionately defended human rights in an often oppressive political atmosphere.
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When Southern Cameroonians resident in the diaspora learned of the strike organized by Southern Cameroonian Common Law advocates followed by yet another strike spearheaded by the Teachers' Union(TAC) we nodded in approval and started brainstorming ways and means to contribute materially in a bid to lend support to both movements. Right now we in the US are in the process of contributing dollars to send to Southern Cameroons.
The question I would like for the lawyers and teachers to answer at this juncture is the following: What went wrong with the uprising in Southern Cameroons? When the rank and file (okada guys, park boys, wheelcart pushers, and more) rose to the occasion, namely the strike organized by Common Law advocates and the Teachers Union, we in the diaspora rubbed our hands in glee because we thought that the intellectuals that they are, were going to give perspicacious direction and leadership to the disorganized uprising that we all saw in the streets thanks to social media. Sadly enough, that did not happen and the result is history.Why did the lawyers and teachers back off? What suddenly paralyzed them all? We are now saddled with a DECAPITATED REVOLUTION with no leadership in sight. What went wrong? What did we learn from the Ghost Towns Operations of 1990s? What did we learn from the 2008 uprising in Yaounde, Douala and other major Cameroonian cities? I do not ask these questions in a bid to sound supercilious or disrespectful of the strides these two groups have made thus far. In fact, I applaud their courage in taking the bull by the horns. But I just want to know what held the lawyers and teachers (intellectuals) back and prevented them from lending needed organizational support to the young Southern Cameroonians that joined their strike in the mistaken belief that they were throwing their weight behind a sustainable movement? What went wrong?
Fellow Southern Cameroonians, I am sad to say that once again we have squandered yet another golden opportunity through paranoia, internal strife, lack of foresight and strategic planning, and by this very token, have emboldened our oppressors, Mr. Biya and his cohort of vampires hibernating in Yaounde. Worse still, we have caused our brothers' and sisters' blood to be spilled with no tangible results to justify the bloodshed. I have said in many of my write-ups that the ANGLOPHONE PROBLEM will never be resolved through dialogue with nationals of LA REPUBLIQUE DU CAMEROUN or with foreign bodies such as the UN, Commonwealth, British and French embassies etc. These toothless bulldogs couldn't care less about the survival of Southern Cameroonians. What they do care about is whether or not their bread baskets in Africa remain intact. Read my write-up on this subject matter: http://www.postnewsline.com/2016/11/-time-for-the-demilitarization-of-british-southern-cameroons.html
They are too conceited and short-sighted to see the need for dialogue with ENGLISH-SPEAKING underdogs crying out for justice in Southern Cameroons.
Finally, I want to state unequivocally that strategic planning is the key ingredient in defeating an enemy,regardless of how dreadful that enemy might be. Last but not least, we cannot face Paul Biya's military empty-handed or by mounting catapults as we watched the youngsters do in Bamenda lately. We have seen in the past couple of days just how blood-thirsty and sexually starved these military bastards are. We need an armed wing of the SCNC movement if success is our utlimate goal. Please read SPEAR OF THE NATION; UmKONTO We SizWe (2012) by Janet Cherry. Sadly enough, on account of all that I have stated above, the uprising that we just witnessed in Southern Cameroons has proved to be an ORPHANED REVOLUTION. What happened?
The Land of our ancestors under siege by strangers. Courage!
We shall overcome and be freed from bondage. Fear Not!
God is not lying low ! Let the pharaohs harden their hearts.
The time will come when the walls of injustice and oppression will fall down.
Why the Southern Cameroon International Think Thank(SCITT) will be indispensable
I greet you all! I appreciate your insights, foresights and recommendations from all and sundry. However, I also will like to chip in my own contribution with the hope that we find common grounds in order to work together under the same platform as a united people with one voice and one action plan. Right now there are too many divisions and contradictory actions.
It is not enough to send a petition to UNO.I signed it and passed it on. It is commendable but the way it is done is not going to yield results. So, while encouraging and supporting one another I wanted to make my own able propositions toward a robust plan of action. This is only my personal opinion but it is laced with acquired training, knowledge and experience.
It is abundantly clear that over the years many scholars, activists and advocates have made the case for our freedom and Independence. I have spoken to many people and learned with my deepest condolence about individuals who have died fighting for Southern Cameroon statehood. Some died on exile and as we speak many Southern Cameroonians are languishing in jail following the 2008 murder and arbitrary arrest of protesters. I am sure it will continue. We risk being extinct as it seems if we are not FOCUSED. We are distracted by the likes of Nji Paul Atanga etc. Please, let us think of the risk involved and the many lives being sacrificed every now and then.
There are paradigm shifts and dynamics but the problem is not shifting at all. I have read all the correspondences and particularly the memorandum of SCNC Chairman, Dr. Nfor Nfor Ngalla. It is a fine document in its own right. It has some technical issues that require correction. It is obvious some people are sitting on fence or acting neutral in this struggle because some people expect La republique to hand over the Presidency to an Anglophone in order to calm the Southern Cameroon people.
This is the kind of mentality that keeps us perpetually enslaved because we still don’t realize that once we become independent we will elect a President and Vice President and Speaker of the House under a three arms of government that will lead to self-government. So, why are we some people always acting desperate? I have also added my voice to this struggle like many others. Last week I argued that rather than malign those who are still attached to the regime, we should ask them to come back home! I am glad to know veteran warrior Dr. Nfor Nfor share the same sentiments.
There is no doubt that Southern Cameroonians are not united and an appearance of unity is misleading to the extent, which if anyone believes in an international conspiracy, then he or she should think about the conspiracy orchestrated by la republique to ensnare you. If we cannot handle the conspiracy of the CPDM regime, then how can we handle the one at the level of the international community if that is the case of Dr. Nfor Nfor? It is obvious to me that many different people have approached the problems of Cameroon from different angles! No matter how one looks at Cameroon, one will arrive at the same conclusion and the best word to use is ANGER. However, we must be careful how we proceed in terms of strategy.
I will object to the language used by Dr. Nfor about “International Conspiracy”. This is not a diplomatic language and is ambiguous when you intend to rely on the international Community to help resolve the issue. Even if we know that it does exist, we should never use such a language because it will scare people from becoming willing participants. This phrase alone is enough to sabotage any endeavor no matter how noble. You see I have been listening and also talking at my own corner.
I have studied the plight of Southern Cameroon also known as West Cameroon and Anglophone problem. Lately, I have read circulars from certain quarters within the struggle arguing that Francophones claim to be Anglophones, too due to the fact that many of them are sponsoring their kids in the so called Anglo-Saxon Educational system. That means it weakens the argument that we have an Anglophone as a unique problem. In this light they resolved vehemently that the name Southern Cameroon be adopted henceforth to define the struggle.
Now what is not clear to many people is the notion about West Cameroon? Where does this fit into the struggle? The next issue to clarify is the notion of Ambazonia ! These are some of the issues to clarify because in a struggle like this you do not want to narrow it down to yourselves and amongst yourselves as if you own the struggle inside .Many of us are not responsible for these problems and have only being trying hard to understand and be part of the solution. You must remember that we are a minority already and any further divisions amongst ourselves will only help the oppressor in Yaounde. If a minority is reduced into minority, then how can we succeed?
If you approach this struggle from the momentous and spontaneous action of the Common Lawyers, who revamped the struggle, then as it stands, we owe it to the people to lead them. It seems to me that many people have spent way too long into endless legal arguments and debates which serve as a weakness as opposed to a strength. In the true sense of a noble cause, lack of a solution –oriented mind set is a recipe for failure. Nobody within the cycle of the La republique cares about our plight. In fact if they are agents and participants in our problems, then why should anyone think that they should dialogue with us without a 3rd participant? So, logically if you accuse the International Community of a conspiracy, then how can you turn to them again to listen and partner with us? We must be diplomatic because we also need a diplomatic solution to this problem.
In my own humble view, I objected from the onset to any meeting with the CPDM regime whether represented by PM or any Minister/Governors etc. This came under the heels of Nico Halle’s publicity on the eve of their meeting with the Minister of Justice in Yaoundé. Apparently he and his delegation attended the meeting and failed. Then the Lawyers and teachers have also met with the PM and nothing good came out of these meetings.
The truth is, even as some people seem well spoken, some of us have not seen any mark difference in the way most people perceive this problem. While it is important to educate ourselves, I am also concern about lack thereof of self-discipline and loyalty to the struggle. The tendency of many of us rushing to meet with Yaoundé is a big problem. No independence and in fact given the complexity of this matter, can be solved in a single year. So, perhaps it is important for us to realize that we still have a long way to go . I have my own thoughts, ideas and in spite of the concerns, I am still very optimistic. Yet we must proceed speedily to unite all the factions within the struggle. The best way to unite all these factions is to establish a Southern Cameroon International Think Tank. Earlier on I proposed Cameroon Anglophone Think Tank (CATT).
Lastly, I just want to say that an independence of a people is never won in the court of law . It is not a force of argument based on the law because whatever law existed at the time and now is responsible for our plight. I have to be honest with many of you who are too legalistic that there are many dimensions to every struggle. You cannot make it absolutely a legal matter because clearly, the argument for legality is not embraced. So, why do you keep relying on the International courts who created the problem at some point to begin with ? While I admire the legal component of all these , please, it is about time that we begin to consider the over all big picture and be open to appreciate other ideas, perception and approach to bring about the results we are seeking collectively.
To begin with what happened to the law when in 2010 dictator Paul Biya intentionally changed the Constitution to abolish the two terms of 7 years limit to the Presidency? Part 11 Chapter 1 Article 5 (1) and (2) states that “ He shall ensure respect for the Constitution.” Yet people of the law profession did not challenge this in any court of law. The Cameroon opposition leaders who were also Presidential candidates collected 30 million frs CFA from Paul Biya claiming it was state money to participate in lies. Many of us here did oppose what happened in 2010 and 2011 but the MPS as the legislative branch of government were silent over this.
The dictator is definitely scared right now because he has already been preparing to run again in 2018. I am sure he has some money to spend again . This new period stretching from 2017 to 2018 is very timely. He has a lot of money to spare(corrupt) the opposition and MPs AND CO. Who is going to sell their conscience again? We must frame this debate from the fact that we cannot be part of a system of one man rule who has the absolute power to change the Constitution at will. The people of Southern Cameroon believe in the rule of law and good governance.
Having said this, SCITT serving as the power house and moral clarity of the struggle will establish a consistent message, an organization, leadership, vision and action plan to involve a grand fund –raising from a strategic point of view. It will embody leaders or representatives of all the different factions, professionals, scholars, leaders, opinion leaders, religious leaders and activists to come together and brainstorm against which backdrop we will then agree on a plan of action. Every protest counts. Every life count. Every effort past and present is appreciated. However, we must not think that the solution will come from without if we are not united and properly organized, and wisely led.
We have a good case but we lack organization, leadership, a message, vision and plan of action. Instead of overbelabouring the points, which I believe most people know already, we should lead. We must remember that our people are hungry for leadership. They want to follow and we should not wait . We should not be imagining things. If the someone asks you, Ok, what do you want from the UNO , what will you say? How do you want it? When ? Who ? Why? I have things to say but I am looking forward to the SCITT where one can act with integrity and consistency.
When the Lawyers strike erupted like a volcano everyone identified with them. Yet, the CPDM regime has succeeded to manipulate many people to accept the narrative that this is a lawyer’s problem. So, too is the teacher’s problem. Unfortunately, many people initially bought into that narrative until later when they realized that it was dangerous to go alone. I am afraid that we seem to allow ourselves to be told what steps we ought to take to solve our problems. The problem could because we are still to own this struggle. We must correct the idea that “ The UNO should come and solve the problem” .
We must also correct the notion that “ Yaounde should dialogue or solve our problems”. None of these will ever happen. We must take our problem to the UNO. We are to wait for UNO to come. In order to take our problem, we must have a strategy and plan of action. We must know that UNO has representatives inside Cameroon. I am referring to The Cameroon ambassador to UNO, the various members of the International Community like US embassy, British embassy, French and German embassy who have veto powers at the Security Council except Cameroon.
We have to think and act strategically. There is a lot to say but for the sake of strategy, we must wait for the appropriate forum where we can be very direct about what we all know is required for this to be successful. If anyone is expecting a solution from Yaounde, well, then they are lost. If anyone accepts appointments from Yaounde effective immediately often designed to sabotage then greed is still a moral problem. We must learn to reject any appointments no matter how prestigious they may come because that is a dead trap to us and of course those appointments have not solved our problems since 1961.
Much has been written and said about the Southern Cameroons problem in Cameroon. On the one hand, proponents of the Southern Cameroons problem hold steadfast to the argument that Southern Cameroons lacks a constitutional status and is, therefore, taken for a ride. On the other hand, opponents of the Southern Cameroons problem believe Southern Cameroons enjoys the same status with East Cameroon. Some others believe that over the years, Southern Cameroons has received preferential treatment from the authorities. It suffices to throw more light on the issue.
Most often, those who delve into arguments for or against the existence of the Anglophone problem fail to define who an Anglophone is. Failure to define this key term nurses confusion and difficulties in pushing an argument through. We can observe that most proponents and opponents base their arguments on other people’s arguments propagated through social media and televised debates. Though these could be sources of information for verification and learning, some in-depth reflection is mandatory to aptly understand the Southern Cameroons problem.
That said, before we delve into some substance, it is important to know whom an Anglophone is. Let us look at the notion of an Anglophone from a cultural perspective. Basically, an Anglophone is an English speaker. By this token, all those who speak the English language are considered Anglophone. However, understanding the concept and use of language clarifies doubts as to the notion of an Anglophone. Language is the bond that unites a given society because language enables interactions in society, facilitating communication, business, worship, administration, administration, politics etc. According to Tatjana Ponorac, there is an unequivocal tendency of identifying language and culture. In order to identify culturing of language, one often encounters expressions such as: “language and culture are inseparable”; “language and culture are intimately connected”; “language is culture and culture is language.” Language reflects and conveys culture and cultural connections. This short extract demonstrates that language and culture are inseparable. Basing on this, it is convenient to state that an Anglophone is he who speaks English and practices a particular culture unique to English practices. In this context, Anglophones in present day Cameroon are descendants of the regions known as North West and South West. That is, the British Southern Cameroons. Culture is transmitted through diverse methods including family set up.
Now, the constitution recognizes both English and French as the official languages of Cameroon. It will be premature and absurd to limit the understanding of official languages on linguistic lines. First, Cameroon’s history instructs us that both languages are colonial legacies. French was inherited from France and English from the United Kingdom during colonial days. Colonial administrations had their beliefs, laws, educational systems, management systems; administrative and political setups etc. I agree with Hantrais’ (1989) idea that ‘culture is the beliefs and practices governing the life of a society for which a particular language is the vehicle of expression’. Adopting English and French as the official languages of Cameroon translates to accepting the beliefs and practices and noting that these beliefs and practices are only communicated through language. If follows that English is only a vehicle through which the practice of Common Law and the Anglo-Saxon system of education are communicated. The fundamentals or foundation of a cultural system are not in the language but in the practices. Before dismissing the Common Law or the Anglo-Saxon system of education as a threat to national unity and stability, it is important to understand that language in itself is empty. Adopting English as one of the official languages of Cameroon was adopting the beliefs and practices of the Southern Cameroons culture, specifically, Common Law and Anglo-Saxon education because language only transmits or communicates something intangible. On the administrative front, the British Cameroons inherited the culture of self-rule. The British administered the British Southern Cameroons through the indirect rule system whereby the citizens of British Southern Cameroons administered themselves with minimal interference from the Colonial administration.
Per the historical introduction above, Cameroon as a nation was constituted on 1st October 1961 as a federal state, though some argue there was no treaty formalizing this union as mandated by international law. Southern Cameroons was a British protectorate administered under Anglo-Saxon culture, practiced the Common Law and promoted the Anglo-Saxon system of education. Whereas, East Cameroon was a French protectorate administered under French culture, practiced Napoleonic laws and a French type system of education. Language is, therefore, an element of these heritages (culture) acquired from colonial masters. Hence, it is manifestly impossible to separate culture from language, law from education and administration from politics. The term Southern Cameroons shall be used in this article to mean Anglophone, British Southern Cameroon and Southern Cameroons.
While some opponents to the Southern Cameroons problem argue that authorities have reserved preferential treatment to Southern Cameroonians, this argument falls through the cracks. First, history dictates that Southern Cameroons voted to join and form a country in a two state federation with equal status, thereby having a constitutional status and identity. Since the abrogation of the federal system of government in 1972, Southern Cameroons has lost the constitutional status and identity they previously bargained for and enjoyed between 1961 and 1972. It is argued that the abrogation was done in violation of the federal constitution which stated that any amendment of the federal nature of the nation was supposed to win the majority in both houses of parliament. That is, the East Cameroon house of assembly was to vote such a bill in its majority. Likewise, the Southern Cameroon house of assembly had to vote for such bill in the majority too. In a case where both houses did not vote in their majority, the bill proposing the amendment of such a constitutional provision was bound to fail. All arguments on the supposed preferential treatment of Southern Cameroonians lack merit simply because Southern Cameroons lacks constitutional authority in the decision-making machinery of this country. A Southern Cameroonian handpicked by the francophone majority knows he serves the interest of the francophone majority and not the interest of the minority Southern Cameroons. In the years long gone, Southern Cameroons had an assembly as of right, Southern Cameroonian ministers were vetted before confirmed for office in Yaounde through the Southern Cameroons parliament.
Some other opponents to the Southern Cameroons problem advocate for a policy defining a Cameroonian identity. Ideally, this is a wonderful idea but practically, the idea begs for substance. Laws and policies are reformed to address a societal ill and improve on the wellbeing of the community. Seriously speaking, the proponents of the Cameroonian identity still need to educate Southern Cameroonians on the ills that befell the Cameroonian society due to the duality in culture. Granted these are foreign cultures (Anglo-Saxon and French), we cannot delete them from present Cameroon because the current Cameroon was born through the merging of the two cultures. Since the introduction of the unitary state in 1972, Cameroon has regressed year after year. The difficulty to define strengths of the new Cameroonian identity has left their advocacy lame. National unity and integration is an ideal every nation should strive to attain. However, national unity does not translate into deleting one cultural heritage to the advantage of another. Similarly, national unity is feasible and very strong when diversity is upheld through the identification and respect of the two distinct cultures. The feeling of subjugation by the minority is a given when the majority attempts harmonizing the both cultures without due process and consultation. Building a unique Cameroonian culture could make more sense if Southern Cameroonians freely choose representatives to negotiate with their counterparts from French Cameroon. Come to think Cameroon ratified the OHADA treaty whereas its unique language was French per article 42 and of the treaty. This stands in stark contrast to the constitutional provision that English and French are the official languages of Cameroon with equal status. One wonders whether violating the constitution to the credit of one cultural system is building a Cameroonian identity or imposing one culture over another. Justice Ayah Paul corroborated this when he ruled a treaty which is basically French suffers from self-exclusion from the English speaking provinces of Cameroon.
The current strife in the Southern Cameroons is testament to the difficulty and impracticable nature of the unitary state as it is. Lawyers and teachers have grounded their tools because they believe the building of a Cameroonian culture has led to wanton injustice in the Southern Cameroonian part of the country. This is because civil law trained judges and prosecutors appointed to the Common Law jurisdiction do not master the language and practice of common law. Also, it is believed the training and education of Cameroonian youth is becoming irrational with the appointment and placement of teachers who do not master the language and practice of the Anglo-Saxon system of education. Education is a subset of culture and, therefore, culture strongly influences how an individual approaches education, and a society's culture determines how that society educates its citizens. It can therefore be seen that respecting the cultural differences especially in the legal, education and administrative/political dispensations is critical for a peaceful, just and sustainable future. To clearly demonstrate the Anglophone problem, some have advocated for the term Southern Cameroon problem. I tend to lean more towards this definition because it situates the problem within a historical purview cutting across the legal, administrative and educational aspects of the inherited culture. A historical perspective leads us to a sustainable solution through the identification of divergence and respect of this divergence giving birth to a one nation and two systems concept. Southern Cameroons, therefore, is that entity that joined the Cameroon Republic in 1961 through a referendum. An Anglophone, therefore, is someone who originates from the Northwest and South West regions, speaks the English language and practices the culture inherited from colonial administration. Such that people who share solely the second and third are not considered by this understanding as Anglophones. Suffice it, therefore, to say constitutional status recognizing the two entities will facilitate sustainability.