22, March 2018
The policy of burning commercial bikes in villages and banning same in towns and enclave communities is clearly a very primitive and hopeless approach to restore peace and security. For one thing, it provokes anger and a thirst for vengeance in young people in restive areas in Southern Cameroons. By stopping the circulation commercial bikes and setting dozens of such bikes ablaze, the government has put out of business, tens of thousands of young people, many of them university graduates who depend on motor bikes popularly known as “Bend Skin” or “Okadas” as their only means of livelihood. Their families and dependants cannot have good meals and will not be able to pay various bills because their only providers have been artificially incapacitated.
While Divisional Officers (DO), Senior Divisional Officers (SDO) and regional governors west of the Mongo had repeatedly banned motorbikes and ordered night time curfews, the problems they have attempted to solve have not gone away. Rather, their actions have unfortunately created more difficulties and untold hardship for the populations. These actions have also gone a long way in radicalizing even the most moderate minds and pushed young people to invent other ways of hurting the government they so much detest. While, the population and critics have been vocal against the slash and burn strategy of the authorities, the new minister of territorial administration, Paul Atanga Nji, has not made things any better for the restive populations and communities. His first stamp as minister of interior on his own people was the banning of bikes in the main commercial towns of Kumba, Muyuka and other localities in the South West Region.
How insensitive could the new MINAT boss be? How could he place a complete ban on such a huge population and expect the sprawling and volatile city of Kumba to respect the rather punitive order? How could the minister go so low as to ignore the governors, SDO and DOs to ban bikes? What then is the role of the local administrators? His decision has been counterproductive in Kumba and this is having a huge impact on his reputation and authority. Could he risk a mass protest and the chain effect it could have if the “K” Town Boys descend on the streets to protest against any eventual enforcement of the ban? Paul Atanga’s style is reminiscent of the vicious and pitiless reign of terror that Cameroonians knew under Forchive, the then secret police boss of Bamoun extraction (under Amadou Ahijo and Paul Biya, ) who Cameroonians hate to remember. Forchive’s extremely repressive tactics of caging dissidents is a monolithic hang over which Paul Atanga Nji appears unable to shake off. By compelling governors and other administrators to feed him with security reports twice a day, it smacks of a police state of the past whereby innocent citizens were victimized, just to satisfy the bosses and prove that they were working hard to weed out enemies of the state or terrorists and preserve the security of the state.
Apart from the disgrace inflicted on MINAT by the daring Kumba bike riders, the overwhelming use of force to control movements has given birth to yet another extreme weapon against the government. A campaign to stop state-owned vehicles from plying the roads of Southern Cameroons is now being fanned. This is a first volley the Southern Cameroons pro-restoration campaigners have fired against the Atanga Nji rule. French language daily, Le Messager, vividly captured it well when it said that the Atanga Nji Paul formula could be greatly problematic.
Look back into East Cameroun history and you can easily see how francophone, especially in the Bamileke and Bassa areas, suffered the same atrocities that some Southern Cameroonian villages are currently experiencing. At the time, French soldiers led a bloody campaign against UPC nationalists who were branded as Terrorists or Marquisards. Villages were razed and heads were chopped off and displayed at road junctions to scare people and deter them from joining the revolution against the brutal French rule. Apparently, those ruling this country have forgotten their Cameroon history lessons and are bent on pursuing their “slash and burn” policy to the end. We say it is wrong. It is a wrong strategy to start eating up your own children. The ego of those in power cannot be too big to let go peace and justice. Dialogue, genuine dialogue is the right way to go. Various relevant organizations have echoed this as the right formula to restore lasting peace in the country. They include the UN, Commonwealth, AU, Amnesty International, International Crisis Group etc. But despite this crucial advice, President Paul Biya has remained faithful to his initial position that there will be no discussion on the form of the state. Those championing the crusade for good governance and autonomous rule for Southern Cameroons have been branded as terrorists. They are being hunted down, chased into exile and moderates are being pushed into extremism by the high handedness of administrative and military officials.
It has not been long since President Paul Biya declared war in his country. In effect, this is war on his people. The war is claiming lives and draining the country’s resources, and the end is not in sight. How the government intends to win such a war without the support if the population is what history is waiting to record as the world’s first. The same world history has shown repeatedly that after all the fighting, hatred, killings and excesses would have taken place, the warring parties will inevitably end up at the negotiating table. So why not just go to the negotiating table now and talk instead of the crazy decisions that are being taken on a daily basis?
By Sesekou Ashu Isong