Southern Cameroons Crisis: Eric Chinje-Can he be the new Muna? 0

“…We are not indebted to the Reason of man for any of the great achievements which are the hallmarks of human action and human progress. It is not Reason that besieged Troy; it was not reason that sent forth the Saracen from the Desert to conquer the world; that inspired the Crusades; that instituted the Monastic orders; it is not Reason that produced the Jesuits; above all, it was not Reason that created the French Revolution. Man is only truly great when he acts from passions; never irresistible but when he appeals to the imagination…”

Benjamin Disraeli- Coningsby.

Eric Chinje, is a household name in Cameroon’s political and media landscape, who has burnished his bona fides, with stints at the World Bank, African Development Bank and the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, in London. With his current position as CEO of Africa Media Initiative, he has a conspicuous soapbox that could be used as a stepping stone into Cameroon’s evolving political landscape.

Those who have known the flamboyant and high-flying journalist cum international civil servant, are convinced that by championing the cause of “middleman” in the present “David versus Goliath” struggle, between Southern Cameroonians and the Biya dictatorship, he is doing exactly that: staking his claim a problem solver.  Mr. Chinje’s political instincts tell him that a political crisis is a terrible thing to waste, and that this is a good opportunity for him to soar. But he is grossly mistaken.


                Unlike Muna, who outsmarted Foncha, with a breakaway Cameroon Union Congress (CUC) by joined Ahidjo’s Union Camerounaise (UC), leaving  Foncha’s KNDP,  in the cold, Eric Chinje, has no such political constituency. He is banking on his “popularity” with the Francophone elite, who are convinced that he is a valuable interlocutor, with a huge following in the younger generation of Southern Cameroonians. His most fervent admirers and detractors agree, that he lacks the depth of though and clairvoyance, that is the stock in trade of great men who chart the course of history.  We have seen the plight of those we thought were visionaries in the 1970, like Ndiva Kofelle Kalle who lauded the ill-fated union as a new experiment in nation-building in Africa. Today, he is licking his wounds at the footstool of an egocentric Fru Ndi, and forced to be the advocated of a disreputable Marafa Amidou Yaya, while watching the ruins of his nation-building experiment crumble into chaos.

                The dirty little secret that Mr. Chinje is hiding is that his ambition to become Minister in the Biya government, have been thwarted again and again.  Notwithstanding  the fact that  during the launching of the Social Democratic Front (SDF) in 1990, when six students were gunned down, it was  Eric Chinje and Zacharie Nginman, who read out Fame Ndongo’s diabolical claim, that the students had been stampeded to death!

                As Editor-in –Chief at CRTV, Mr. Chinje, at the apogee of his professional career, had the rare opportunity, for an Anglophone,  to conduct a televised exclusive interview with Paul Biya during which, he flattered the dictator by telling him that, when Cameroonians look at him they see a “transparent” man. Biya retorted in his Machiavellian style, by telling Mr. Chinje, that he could just shake his head, and Mr. Chinje would cease to be Editor-in –Chief!  Mr. Chinje does not seem to have gotten the message, that cowering and cringing before dictatorship is an exercise in futility. Like most Anglophone elite, he suffers from the Stalin-and-the plucked –chicken –syndrome, where he is forced to return to his tormentor to pick up the crumbs, for his sustenance- a political iteration of the Stockholm syndrome!


As Eric Hoffer puts it, one of the surprising privileges of intellectuals,  is that they are free to be scandalously asinine without harming their reputation. The intellectuals, who idolized Stalin while he was purging millions and stifling the least stirring of freedom, have not been discredited.  But as Mr. Chinje will find out, wisdom required self-discipline and an understanding of the realities of the world, including the limitations of one’s own experience and of reason itself.

Mr. Chinje seems to be oblivious of the international context, and the changes that are occurring in France’s stranglehold on its sphere of influence in Africa. We are all aware that the tricks of   De Gaulle and Jacques Foccart, cannot be replicated in the Africa of today. The revelations of Pierre Messmer, about the unconscionable union and the Foumban fraud, are not lost on the younger generation of Southern Cameroonians. They are painfully aware that, there is no middle ground in this struggle, and that neutrality is complicity with the oppressor.


                Mr. Chinje fails to understand, that the blood that has been spilled for the liberation of the colonized people of the Southern Cameroons, has created a critical mass in the younger generation that has transformed the struggle. For instance, those who are spearheading the struggle today, are the children who saw the dignity of their parents crushed, during the usurpation of 1972. The sting of the humiliation of those who left the civil service in Buea, and Bamenda, and had to become unrecognizable minions to their arrogant Francophone bosses in Yaoundé, is evergreen in their memories.  Dr. Fontem Neba, for instance, is  a young leader who grew up hearing his father , Shu Fontem, a journalist at Radio Buea, stand up against  the Ahidjo dictatorship, in programs such as “Where are We” ,which was a precursor to the famous “Cameroon Calling” that launched the multi-party movement in the 1990s, sending journalists and university professors to the  Kondengui jail, and triggering a strike in the University of Yaoundé, that lead to the GCE Board, the Buea University, etc.  Yet, these were outgrowths of the mustard seed that was sown by Gorgi Dinka and Albert Mukong, the legendary voices that are still being echoed by the younger generation of leaders all over the world.


As one travels from, Washington, DC, to Dublin in Ireland, to Brussels in Belgium, to Den Hague in Holland, to Paris, London and South Africa, one is blown away, by the breathtaking intellectual power of Southern Cameroons! At the International Criminal Court (ICC), the list of professionals looks like a rolodex of a future Southern Cameroons administration. Why would all these PhDs, and other super-empowered Southern Cameroons, be so devoid of a winning strategy as Mr. Chinje posits?  Of course, there is no mathematic formula for solving the riddle of reclaiming the independence of a colonized and annexed country. Since AAC1 in Buea in 1993, 43 countries have gained their independence, and each one had its own trajectory. Vaclav Havel, secured the Velvet divorce in 1993, and two countries were born without bloodshed.

 Today, leaders like Felix Agbor Balla, have the courage to tell the Cameroonian nation that self-determination is a right guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Right s of 1948.


Since Biya threw the gauntlet with his 1984 decree, Southern Cameroonians have been girding their loins for the ultimate fight for their motherland.  But as we have seen, anyone can start, but only the thoroughbred will finish. Each generation, rises from relative obscurity to fulfill or betray its destiny. These 40 year olds,  seem determined to fulfill, conserve, criticize and create a brighter future for their children,  than the one their parents bequeathed to them.  They are aware that the world hates change, but the only thing that has brought progress is change.

As I admire Mr. Chinje’s grey-bead,   I have learn to listen, to  what the younger generation is telling me :  that –we will never give up so long as we know we are right; we believe that all things will work out for the Southern Cameroons if we have the grit to hang on till the end; we will remain courageous and undismayed in the face of all odds; we will resist all intimidation and offers of bribes intended to deter us from our goal; we will take new faith and resolution from the knowledge that all successful men and women have had to fight,  defeat and adversity; and that they will never surrender to discouragement and despair no matter how daunting the obstacles that we confront.

We live in interesting times. Those without arms are writing with their legs and obtaining degrees. When Orville and Wilbur Wright left Ohio to Kitty Hawk, North Caroline, to observe the flight of birds as they were working on their flying engine, the Nobel Prize winning Physicists in 1903, stated with authority that the idea of a flying machine was against the laws of physics. The Wright brothers, derided as the two bicycle boys were laughing stocks. But today, travel by plane is so obvious that one wonders, why it was such impossibility in the 1903 world. Miracles are still possible, and one is about to happen, my prayer is that I and Mr. Chinje should live to see it happen.

By Larry Eyong

Contributing Editor

Cameroon Concord News Group