“Cameroon political system is more of gossiping and intimidation” Dr Joachim Arrey 0

As 2023 fades into history and 2024 looms large on the horizon, the Cameroon Concord News Group deems it necessary to talk to a keen observer of the Cameroonian political and economic landscape who will present the past to our readers and walk them into the New Year with relative ease. In this regard, the Group Chairman, Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai, talked to Dr. Joachim Arrey, the Executive Director of the Global Think Tank for Africa, a not-for-profit organization delivering humanitarian help to needy pupils, who is always willing to share his perspectives on key issues facing Cameroon, and he had this to say.

Cameroon Concord News: Good day! It’s been a long time since you shared your perspective on what is happening in Cameroon. Are you still interested in what is happening in your homeland?

Dr. Joachim Arrey: Thank you Mr. Chairman for reaching out to me. It has indeed been a long time since we shared perspectives on key political issues in Cameroon, but this is in no way my disengagement from our country’s political landscape. The older I get the more interest I develop in our country’s politics which leaves much to be desired. It is even a misnomer for us to characterize what is happening in Cameroon as politics. Our political system is more of gossiping and intimidation than the healthy politics we all clamoured for in the early 90s. Our fellow citizens have been put on a forceful diet of stress and starvation and many of them are losing weight against their will. Times are hard and a hungry stomach can easily be intimidated. Also remember that a hungry, ignorant and gullible people are easy prey for those with malicious and wicked political schemes. With our people yielding to the intimidation, our so-called advanced democracy has morphed into a full-blown dictatorship. However, it should be underscored that in politics, nobody intimidates you without your own approval. After more than forty years of humiliating and grinding poverty under a regime that is on a diet of power, our fellow citizens should understand Victor Hugo’s wise saying: “where dictatorship is a fact, revolution becomes a right.” Silence may be golden, but in a situation of excruciating financial pain and suffering, silence will not deliver the bread-and-butter Cameroonians have been looking forward to for more than four decades.

Cameroon Concord News: You have always been anti-violence and you hold that real political alternation and change can only be a reality in Cameroon if the electoral code is changed; making sure that the bodies running elections in the country are totally independent of the government and its auxiliaries in the various regions. Do you see this happening anytime soon?

Dr. Joachim Arrey:  Change has always been a work-in-progress and it requires patience and consistency. Anybody who expects a political miracle in Cameroon is surely not living on this planet. The Cameroon electoral system has been designed to serve an individual who has surrounded himself with hungry and desperate people. Senators, parliamentarians and appointed officials in the country are hungry and desperate and they hold that he who has made it possible for them to climb to the pinnacle of politics in Cameroon is their God. These people are going to use whatever means are available to them to keep things as they are. However, it behooves the population and key opposition players to mount pressure on a regime which is on its last leg for things to change. Strangely, the population has resigned itself to fate, hoping that there would be some divine intervention on its behalf. Unfortunately, miracles only happen to those who manufacture them. The people of Cameroon must start acting in a different way. Heaven helps only those who help themselves. For the political opposition, not many of its members can be relied upon. Many of them are still in the grip of poverty and poverty hardly breeds virtue. They make noise in the hope that those in charge of government affairs can see them and offer them something. The tough financial times the country is going through have emasculated the political opposition and this unfortunate situation plays in favour of a government whose cardinal objective is to stay in power for decades or centuries without posting any admirable political and economic results. Engineering and delivering an independent electoral system in Cameroon are huge possibilities but that is not without significant challenges. The electoral system has been configured to always favour the ruling party, and changing that requires huge opposition to the government. Without a clash – intellectual and even political – such change will be a distant tomorrow affair. Those who are making huge gains from the current system will never deliver such change to the people on a platter of gold.

Cameroon Concord News: There are multiple elections scheduled to take place in Cameroon come 2025. Are you therefore saying that the opposition does not stand a chance giving that the current electoral code will be the one that will be used?

Dr. Joachim Arrey:  The country’s political opposition still has a fighting chance. Though the system has been designed to favour the ruling party, there is still some leeway for the political opposition to erode the ruling party’s undeserved political gains. The political opposition must be strategic in its approach. Based on my personal analysis, there are two opposition parties which can cause ripples in that political ocean – MRC led by Prof. Maurice Kamto and the SDF led by Josua Osih. However, creating those ripples will require more than just political grandstanding. Maturity and flexibility on the part of those opposition parties could bring about the change Cameroonians have been hankering after. Instead of competing against each other, these two parties can get into a strategic alliance which may roll back the ruling party in regions such as the North West, the South West and the West regions. In the Grand North, the SDF and MRC must make the most of the frustration of the people of those regions. They need to let Cameroonians know that the country is on the brink of collapse and there is no point following the ruling party over the cliff like lemmings. With the ruling party’s chairman gradually fading away, the internecine fighting playing out within the ruling party should be good news to the political opposition. Though poverty has a nation-wide impact, it is in the northern regions that this impact is very visible. The northern regions have simply been left to their own devices and Boko Hara is bombing life out of the people while the government watches helplessly. There is a different way of doing things and the country’s political opposition must come up with effective and efficient ways of delivering hope to the people of the north. They are desperate and they really want change. The current regime is at its wit’s end and it has run out of gasoline. It has nothing to offer to the people of Cameroon. If anything, it is death. Many Cameroonians are dying helplessly and those who are supposed to protect them and deliver hope are either busy robbing the system blind or are rejoicing that they have held the people to their balls.

Cameroon Concord News: Do you think there will be any real elections in the country’s two English-speaking regions?

Dr. Joachim Arrey: Mr. Group chairman, messaging is key in any initiative which is bound to succeed. Real elections can hold in Southern Cameroons depending on the messages which will be put out there.  While the fight for independence is still playing out in the country’s two English-speaking regions, there is no gainsaying that the fight for an independent Southern Cameroons has lost steam. The struggle has lost its way and it is now in the hands of thugs and criminals who are making the most of the ugly situation. Many Southern Cameroonians now agree that total independence is light years away. Federalism seems to be the attractive golden median and many French-speaking Cameroonians are buying into the federalist narrative. Southern Cameroonian politicians should use the popularity of federalism to convince more of those misguided criminals to come out of the bushes. The federalist rhetoric is peaceful, more meaningful and friendly and this has gained ground even in East Cameroon. If the government of Yaoundé yields to the calls for a federal system in Cameroon, the struggle for independence will die a natural death. The government must learn how to yield some ground if peace must return to Cameroon. Federalism has a way of triggering economic prosperity and policies based on federalism can help unleash our country’s economic potential.  My call to all Southern Cameroonian federalists is that they should form a common platform or political party which I know will make major inroads in the 2025 parliamentary elections given the support federalism is enjoying among Southern Cameroonians. I am therefore urging federalists like Dr Simon Munzu and Barrister Felix Nkongho Agbor Balla to step up to the plate to provide much-needed leadership. Preaching federalism on the streets will not cut it. Federalists must find a way to the country’s parliament to fight from within. When Southern Cameroonians understand that there is a party which wants to take the fight to the parliament on their behalf, they will happily vote for those candidates who they believe will help to incarnate their aspirations and dreams. I know there is the issue of financing, but having spoken with many people out of Cameroon, I know that the Diaspora will put vast resources at the disposal of the federalist political party as many members of the country’s Diaspora have deep faith in federalism. There are many people who want to mobilize resources for such a noble cause.

Cameroon Concord News:  Dr. Joachim Arrey, allow me to take you down the economic lane. Cameroon is in the throes of a biting economic crisis. Do you think the coming year holds any hope for Cameroonians, especially our youths who are desperate and looking outwards for opportunities?

Dr. Joachim Arrey: Each year, we all look forward to the head of state’s speech, hoping that tough and sound economic measures will be announced to douse the economic fire which has reduced Cameroonians to paupers. But every New Year only brings more hardship and disappointment to the people as the government fails woefully to engineer sound economic and financial solutions to the economic crisis. The government has failed to put our children to work and many of them are desperate. Thousands are dying in the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea while struggling to reach Europe, a place many of them think is an El-dorado. Despite these unfortunate situations, the Yaoundé government has pursued the same policies which have delivered excruciating pain to Cameroonians. Many young Cameroonians are willing to walk to North America given that Cameroon is only offering them hardship and premature death. If the government does not take a long and hard look at its policies, the economic and financial fate of its people will change, unfortunately for the worse. I sincerely do not see any hope on the horizon. Our country’s social architects are deeply asleep at the switch. This is taking a huge toll on the country’s economy. Corruption is rippling out like ragweed, delivering pain and death to the poorest who do not know where to turn to. Police officers just like customs officers are making the most of the chaos which is playing out. The system seems to be collapsing and there is a general feeling that there is nobody in charge and this has triggered a wave of looting and corruption. Though the system is collapsing, I still hope that there is no justification for young Cameroonians to undertake such perilous journeys. The future may be bleak, but there are some green shoots. A silver lining is gradually emerging from the dark clouds the government’s incompetence has cast on the country. Entrepreneurship and skills building have come to deliver some hope to our youths. Many of the country’s tertiary institutions are now offering courses which can enable our young men and women to acquire skills and look forward to a brighter future. The lack of skills relevant to the new global economy has left many young Cameroonians unemployed for years. The government should invest more resources into skills development as a means of alleviating the financial hardship which has been stalking young Cameroonians for decades like a stubborn shadow.

Cameroon Concord News: Thank you, Dr. Joachim Arrey, for your time and pearls of wisdom. Any last word for our readers?

Dr. Joachim Arrey: It is always a pleasure sharing my perspectives with you. For your readers, I would encourage them to continue reading the Cameroon Concord News if they must have a balanced perspective of what is happening in Cameroon. Keep informing Cameroonians! Thank you and do extend my regards to your staff.