21, September 2020
For close to a decade, Cameroon has been going through many crises and for many Cameroonians, it is almost impossible to flush out the corrupt Yaounde government led by its old and sick president, Paul Biya, who has been in power for 38 years with no results to justify such a long stay.
Corruption has become the regime’s hallmark and it has sent millions of Cameroonians to an early grave. The country’s economy has collapsed, and unemployment is at its highest level as the senile president has been switched off by ill-health and incompetence.
For years, East Cameroonians who constitute the majority felt that real democratic change would come through the ballot box and this has pushed them into the type of indifference and docility which have made the government to make intimidation a national policy and a tool of choice when it comes to dealing with issues that are blighting the people’s lives.
Each time the people expressed disagreement with a government policy or questioned a government decision and wanted to make their disagreement known even through peaceful means, the government simply rolled out its military equipment and deployed its military across the country as if there was an external aggressor threatening to invade the country.
This strategy has worked for more than three decades, but it has failed to produce the fear that is it is intended to generate in Southern Cameroons where the country’s English-speaking minority has brought down the fake wall of fear that the government had erected.
Following peaceful demonstrations in October 2016 by English-speaking lawyers and teachers against systemic and institutionalized marginalization and discrimination, the Yaounde government rolled out its armada with the objective of intimidating the English-speaking minority. The violence that ensued turned out to be counter-productive, as the people of Southern Cameroons came out with their clubs and hunting rifles to defend themselves against government brutality.
Today, the government understands that it could be challenged and that the wall of fear is gone for good. The challenge has come today from a different source. The country’s opposition parties have made common cause and they want to dig Mr. Biya and his useless government out of their hiding places. Their incompetence and corruption have hurt so many Cameroonians and the country’s citizens know that they can no longer wait for the ballot box to change their fate.
The current government is unreliable and will stop at nothing to change the verdict of the ballot boxes in the event of an election. The government cannot be trusted. It has transformed the country’s treasury into the ruling party’s ATM. Jobs only get given to those who are loyal to the party and public contracts only get awarded to supporters of the president’s party.
This is very revolting and the country’s opposition parties are tapping into this frustration and bitterness to take Mr. Biya out. This is not a coup d’état. The sovereign people of Cameroon can bring whoever they want to power and can also recall such a person in the event of incompetence or corruption. It is the prerogative of the people of Cameroon to change their minds when things are not working. Mr. Biya and his government have triggered that change of mind after more than three decades of incompetence and corruption. The people are not ready to wait. In their view, the wait is over. It is time to for them to act and now is the time.
The Biya regime has been rattled ever since the opposition leader, Prof. Maurice Kamto, called on East Cameroonians to take to the streets on September 22, 2020, to demonstrate against the government with the long-term objective of ousting the corrupt Biya regime.
The population seems to be prepared for the show and the government is struggling to preempt such an event. People power revolutions seem to be working in Africa and many African dictators have been either chased out of the country or sent to jail as the people take control of things. The collapsing Biya regime is aware of this phenomenon and it is not taking any chances.
More brutal dictators have been brought down by such means and tomorrow’s demonstrations could mark the end of a regime that entirely relies on the military which has also called on the people to come out to challenge the status quo. Egypt, Tunisia, Burkina Faso, Sudan and Mali have all chased their dictators through people power revolutions and this spirit seems to be spreading across the continent like wildfire.
Currently, the Yaounde government is vulnerable. The government is clearly fighting a war on many fronts. The English-speaking minority has left the regime with a sticky situation and the Southern Cameroonian crisis has left the government with a bloodshot eye.
The government is out of money and the military which has spent the better part of the last four years battling an insurgency in Southern Cameroons is tired and is reluctant to engage in another battle with the majority Francophone. The disaster that Boko Haram, the deadly religious sect, has unleashed in the country’s far north region is robbing the regime of much-needed financial resources. These conflicts have become permanent nightmares to the regime. The mere thought of having to take on another fight is leaving regime supporters with a bitter taste in their mouths.
While Southern Cameroonians are in support of the tragicomedy that is about to play out in East Cameroon, they have however clearly indicated that they will not be involved in the internal affairs of their neighbors. For now, their concern is to get the army of occupation out of their territory as independence from East Cameroon is their objective.
September 22, 2020 is therefore an important day in Cameroon. It will either see Biya out of the national palace he has occupied for 38 years or demonstrate that French-speaking Cameroonians are not courageous enough to take care of business. The Francophone Cameroonian must step out of his comfort zone to change his destiny.
Those living abroad have been protesting for a long time and they have been calling on those back home to join the fray. What should be obvious is that the military that is all over the country will not kill everybody just because it wants to keep Biya in power. If all Cameroonians come out, the military will stop protecting Mr. Biya who has failed to meet the glorious expectations of his people. The time has come, and the Francophone Cameroonian must act now. The ball is in his court!
By Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai