17, May 2017
Writing about the collapse of the democratic republic in answer to the challenges and perceived injustices of globalisation that gave rise to Fascism, Nazism, Communism and Tyranny, Professor Timothy Snyder in his book ON TYRANNY: TWENTY LESSONS FROM THE TWENTIETH CENTURY” The Bodley Head London 2017 asserts that “history does not repeat itself, it instructs”.
The relevant lessons I have chosen from the 21 lessons that the twentieth century must instruct and inspire our resolve to confront the tyranny that has held our people under bondage and state of slavery for the past fifty-six years are:
1) Do not obey in advance. Most of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead of what a more repressive government will want, and then offer themselves without being asked. A citizen who adapts in this way is teaching power what it can do. The learned author states that anticipatory obedience is a political tragedy. History records that anticipatory obedience produced Adolf Hitler. Anticipatory obedience produced both Babatoura Ahidjo and Paul Biya. Lately some traditional rulers and political gamblers are known for providing the anticipatory obedience which have encouraged President Biya to pursue the policy of systemic repression and criminality that has been ongoing in the Southern Cameroons for the past fifty-six years.
2) The defence of institutions. Do not speak of our institutions unless you make them yours by acting on their behalf. Institutions do not protect themselves. They fall one after another unless each is defended from the beginning. “Some German Jews voted as the Nazi leaders wanted them in the hope that the gesture of loyalty will bind the new system to them. That was a vain hope”. Are some of our people different from this category of German Jews who supported and sustained their own genocide?
3) Beware the one-party state. The parties that remade states and suppressed rivals were not omnipotent from the start. They exploited a historic moment to make political life impossible for their opponents.
4) Take responsibility for the face of the world. The symbols of today enable the reality of tomorrow. Notice the Swastika and the other signs of hate. Do not look away and do not get used to them. Remove them yourself and set an example for others to do so.
5) Remember Professional ethics. When political leaders set a negative example, professional commitments to just practice become more important. It is hard to subvert a rule-of-law without lawyers, or to hold show trials without judges. Authoritarians need obedient civil servants, and concentration camps directors and businessmen interested in cheap labour.
6) Be wary of paramilitaries. When the men with guns who have always claimed to be against the system start wearing uniforms and marching with torches and pictures of a leader, the end is nigh. When the pro-leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the end has come. When a purported government opponent and former political prisoner becomes the mouth piece for genocide apology against Southern Cameroonians, and this includes open appeals for the formation of purported vigilantes that have preceded cases of arson, disappearances and other forms of criminality on the watch of marauding police and army, there is need for profound worry.
7) Be reflective if you are armed. But say no to orders to shoot and kill people you swore to protect. The tyrant may already have deployed you to rape, maim and kill. Be sure that doing so has consequences.
8) Believe in the truth: To abandon facts is to abandon freedom.
9) Contribute to good causes: Be active in organizations, political or not that express your own view of life.
10) Learn from peers in other countries.
11) Be calm when the unthinkable arrives: Modern tyranny is terror management. When a terrorist attack occurs, the tyrant exploits it to consolidate power. At times the tyrant organizes the terrorist attack to justify violence and criminality.
12) Be as courageous as you. You must conquer fear and know that victory belongs to the just.
By Chief Charles A. Taku