9, December 2016
The violence that was served to residents of Bamenda on Thursday, December 9, 2016, following demonstrations in the North West regional capital should not be part of the country’s history if the culture of dialogue and tolerance had been sown in the collective psyche. The negotiating table was also designed for Cameroonians and the country’s government should be promoting this culture that has served other people and stood the test of time. The demonstrations that were started by lawyers were designed to be peaceful until the forces of law and order came to sow disorder. Many lawyers were brutalized and this has drawn the ire and flak of many Anglophones who now hold that the government is not interested in addressing their issues in a peaceful manner. Yesterday’s killings in Bamenda constitute irrefutable proof of the government’s arrogance and determination to push the country into the abyss of violent conflict.
While ordinary, armless and peaceful Anglophones are simply calling for their leaders to listen to them, the government which is supposed to be leading from the front seems to be looking for an excuse to mow down its own citizens and Bamenda did serve yesterday as a training ground for the military to put into practice its own killing skills. Such violence does not create proper room for meaningful dialogue. Taking down your own citizens only makes matters worse. Violence, regardless of the form, only begets violence. If demonstrations by Anglophones are not considered legal, what could have justified the CPDM march that was supposed to take place in Bamenda? Just a few days ago, SDF parliamentarians were blocked in a hotel in Buea just because they wanted to demonstrate their support for the striking Anglophone Cameroonians. If the SDF march in support of angry Anglophone teachers and lawyers was not right, why did CPDM stalwarts think their own march in Bamenda would be considered right and appropriate by a people who feel frustrated and marginalized? Does this not look like a double standard? Why should there be different strokes for different folks? When will the government and ruling party understand that tricks of the past cannot really produce the same results in a new era?
In a genuine democracy, it is normal for frustrated citizens to make their angst known to their leaders without resorting to violence. But when government officials seem to live in an Ivory tower, it becomes challenging for dialogue to actually take place. When will Cameroon government officials come down from their pseudo pedestal of superiority to have frank and meaningful discussions with the people they government? This is not the attitude to develop when running a country with different linguistic blocs and multiple tribes. It is preposterous to hold that unity and peace will always prevail and that weapons will always intimidate the people. Differences of opinion will always exist in such societies, but it is incumbent upon the government to play its role as a stabilizing force. Cameroonians, especially those of Anglophone extraction, sincerely think that there is no true and reliable partner on the other side for them to have real discussions on those issues that have made the union feel and smell like a very bad marriage. In their view, it is hard to achieve anything in their country without taking to the streets. They point to the creation of more universities in 1993 in the country and this only happened after long and painful demonstrations wherein some of their compatriots were killed by the people who weresupposed to protect. Multiparty politics was birthed in bloodshed in Cameroon and the memories of the past are still very fresh. The country is still littered with victims of this period. The psychological and physical scars are still there and the people, especially North-westerners, will surely not forget those bad and ugly days. Such examples only come to strengthen the argument that citizens of this country cannot achieve anything without bloodshed. Some even assert that even the government comes to the negotiating table, it ends up speaking from both sides of its mouth. Isn’t it time for the government to clean up its own act?
Like their Francophone counterparts, Anglophones simply want the government to lend an ear to their cry. They are slowly running out of tears and blood seems to be replacing tears. The need for dialogue is not new in Cameroon. Even in the days of the country’s first president, Anglophones always called for dialogue, although the cries fell on deaf ears and their marginalization and assimilation gathered full momentum when the country’s first president yielded power to the current president.
In a letter to President Ahmadou Ahidjo in 1964, Prof. Bernard Fonlon said that “A traveler on the road stops from time to time to look back and see the ground he has covered; merchants close shops at intervals to take stock; users of machines are bound to service and overhaul them now and again. Thus it is the most natural of things for the people engaged in an enterprise such as this to halt, once in a while, to see how much ground has been covered, to draw up their balance sheet, to service or overhaul, if need be, the machinery of the State.” This implies that both Anglophones and Francophones should come to the table to assess the state of their union. It also implies that Anglophones have been crying for a very long time and the government be it the current or the past one has been totally indifferent to their sorry plight.
Prof. Fonlon like current Anglophones had called for genuine dialogue. He summed up the Anglophone spirit of dialogue in the following words, calling on the government not to view an assessment of the union as a challenge. “We shall call upon you, therefore, brothers and co-builders, to hear us with sympathetic understanding. As I have said, again and again, we are not making this appeal in a fault finding spirit. We are making it because of our love for this country, because of our faith in its destiny, because of our concern for this welfare and prestige. We make it because we are mindful of the solemn words of practical wisdom addressed to all builders in the Sermon on the Mount.”
Cameroon political authorities should lend an ear to their people. Dialogue is the answer. Violence has never addressed any issues. Violence only begets violence. Government authorities can spare this beautiful nation the scourge of war if they embrace dialogue and peaceful resolution of conflicts. Provocations, regardless of the form, only cause problems to escalate.
Dr Joachim Arrey
Cameroon Concord News Group