3, February 2017
It was with great displeasure that I watched pictures of the meeting that was called and chaired by former Prime Minister, Peter Mafany Musonge, in the Southwest regional capital of Buea. I acknowledge that as a region we have to work together and be vigilant so as to preserve whatever little assets we have. However, yesterday’s meeting was baseless and it clearly demonstrated that those who claim to represent us are out of touch with reality. The current situation in West Cameroon has nothing to do with the famous southwest-northwest divide that you, the so-called southwest elites, have been promoting for years for your own parochial and personal interest.
The people of West Cameroon have been victims of marginalization for many decades and they are expressing their disappointment with a system that has reduced them to sorry spectators of events in a country that is supposed to be theirs. I hold that instead of seeking to fan the embers of division – which is your favorite sport – it will be smart of you to carry the people’s complaints to the appropriate quarters for a speedy resolution. The people of the southwest region are not on the same wavelength with you the so-called elites. You have been living an alternative reality that is at variance with what the people have been experiencing. While you have access to the state treasury which has given you and your children a beautiful and privileged life, the overwhelming majority of South-westerners have been languishing in abject poverty which has robbed them of their dignity and happiness. If you think you represent these people, you should be listening to them with a view to understanding the challenges blighting their lives. On the contrary, you seem to have lodged yourselves in an imaginary ivory tower wherein you require these same people to come and bow to you just like angels do to God. The people are sick and tired of this unpalatable drama which clearly belongs to another epoch and they want to put an end to a political and an economic dispensation that has turned out to be an earthly paradise for a few.
The contemptuous indifference and deafening silence of the hard-working and intelligent people of the southwest region should clearly inform you that the resolutions of your hastily organized meeting do not cut any ice with them. They don’t reflect their thoughts and they will never identify with such a comedy of helplessness. They need new and innovative ideas that can create wealth and opportunities for them and their children. They need leaders with sterling qualities; leaders who understand their pain; leaders who are capable of skillfully articulating their ideas in the corridors of power; indeed leaders who will make their problems and the development of their region key priorities. You don’t seem to understand this and that is why the people are walking away from you.
The people of the Southwest region are an educated people. Many are soundly schooled. Isn’t it preposterous to always think that they can be easily manipulated by you for your selfish interest? Why would you always give the impression that these people cannot figure out things for themselves. Why do you think North-westerners are always to blame any time south-westerners want to express their frustrations? Have you ever sought to have alternative ideas when you sit in those your meetings? Claiming that North-westerners are the prime suspects in this matter sounds like all of us, regardless of our sound education, are good for nothing. If you stop laying claim to the monopoly of wisdom, you will be able to find sound and sustainable solutions to some of the issues facing our region.
One of the many things shocking many south-westerners is your indifference to the arrests of some of our children during the peaceful strikes that took place in the University of Buea. Today, you want the university to resume while many of those kids are still in jail for peacefully asking for dialogue with the vice chancellor of the university. In which world are you living in? That our daughters get raped and all what is important to you is your political career? I guess you have seen the videos which clearly portray how our children were made to sleep and roll in raw sewage. Some were even made to drink this dirty water. You have never condemned this irresponsible behavior and no commission of inquiry has been set up to investigate such an important case of power abuse. These are the issues you should be dealing with and not seeking to deceive the people into thinking that they are being manipulated by external forces. If you show your people respect, they will reciprocate, but when you treat them with disdain and contempt, they will seek to find alternatives that can address their problems.
If the southwest has to seek its own way, then there must be unity and clear objectives. You cannot only talk about unity when it suits you. There are many cases that could have enabled us display our unity of purpose, but when such moments come, you sink into indifference and behave as if nothing is happening. What have you folks done so far to secure the release of Ayah Paul, a Supreme Court judge and an eminent son of the south-west region, who was arrested in a manner that was far from being fair and democratic? We can only work together if you stop thinking of manipulating others and giving the impression that your personal interests are above the interest of the region. You should be using your positions – if they are even respected by the government – to solve real problems instead of chasing shadows. Your people have rejected you. You must acknowledge that and then seek ways to rebuild that relationship. This is not a tough job. It can be done if only you change your mindset. We all want our kids to go back to school, but not in circumstances that will perpetuate their status as second-class citizens.
Our people are suffering. They are unemployed. They need jobs so as to put food on the table. They want to raise their children in dignity. You folks have never really been there for them. You have fallen short of their glory. Even when there are opportunities in the southwest, you prefer to let other people take those opportunities. What happened to SONARA? While being a national asset, this oil refinery has not really served the south-westerner and this is one issue that is bothering our people. If Cameroon is one and indivisible, how come we do not have a fair share of the benefits SONARA is spinning? Most of the jobs are given to people from other regions, especially to Francophones while our people watch helplessly from a distance. Are North-westerners to blame for all of this? Are North-westerners to blame for Ndian Division, where our oil deposits are located, not having tarred roads? Is securing jobs for our people not what a so-called elite should be doing? I think you people are fighting the wrong fight. You have to be strategic when fighting. Our people need lucrative opportunities like those offered by SONARA. That should be one area you should be focusing on.
I look forward to a change in mentality so that we can work together as a strong and united people. Consider this letter as wake up call. You have been sleeping on your brains for too long. We don’t have to wash our dirty linen in public, but if you fail to create the right forum for us to talk and understand each other, then we will have to bring that dirty linen to the public. Your effort to divide the people by pitting south-westerners against north-westerners will not work this time around. It’s time to change strategy. The people are sadder but wiser now.
About the Author: The author of this letter 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.