The Cameroon government has played all its jokers to seek a solution to the Anglophone conflict that has been raging on in the North West and South West regions. But it is worsening daily.
If it had listened to the counsel of independent personalities and institutions like The Guardian Post and the African Commission, the country would not have been at the nadir of spilling blood and decomposed corpses it finds itself in today.
Way back before the teachers and lawyers even took to the streets protesting against imposition of the Public Law system on the English-speaking regions and sending French-speaking teachers to teach in the language the students did not understand, we had warned in this very column that the “marginalisation of Anglophones was a time bomb waiting to be ignited”.
Our warning was spurned by those in power. Then, the Southern Cameroons National Council, SCNC, which at the time championed the Anglophone cause, took the government to the African Commission which lacked the power to “restore the independence of Southern Cameroons” and which is today known as North West and South West regions. It, however, recognised the Anglophones as a “people”, not a tribe, not a clan.
It advised the Cameroon government to dialogue with the SCNC, which the government later proscribed. The commission went beyond just advising to offer its services, if the government needed it, to resolve the problem of marginalisation which some government officials cynically pretended it did not exist.
The ‘time bomb’ The Guardian Post predicted was ignited by teachers and Common Law lawyers. It exploded with a spontaneous mass demonstration throughout every nook and cranny of the two regions akin to a peaceful revolution. It turned violent and fatal, sprawling and rambling to the ferocious asymmetric war the country is today trapped in.
Even before it got to this horrid stage, where humans are being burnt alive, pregnant women, babies and children mercilessly killed, others beheaded and entire villages, hospitals and schools burnt or destroyed, the government did not lack problem-solving advice.
One personality who was very consistent, a patriot to the core, was peace crusader Ntumfor Barrister Nico Halle. He had toured the two belligerent zones at his peril and expense, talking and communing with the people. Drawing from his experience in solving conflicts among traditional rulers, journalists, lawyers, Christians etc, articulate observers saw in him the mantra to resolve the conflict through mediation.
Ntumfor Nico Halle had in public statements outlined the framework of such settlement to include an apology from the head of state to the nation since everyone has erred. He prayed for the president to proceed to give amnesty and clemency to all those implicated in the conflict.
Further to the recommendations, President Biya should then order an inventory of the properties damaged for eventual compensation and reconstruction with the icing on the cake being the creation of a peace and reconciliation commission after a national dialogue in which all issues would be placed on the table for frank debate.
His suggestions to end the problem were ignored and curiously he was not even invited to attend the Major National Dialogue, the only absentee Anglophone among some six in the Commission for the Promotion of Bilingualism and Multiculturalism! Is it because a disciple is not recognised in its own home or the truth is bitter for those who glory in lies and hypocrisy?
Another personality who has made an objective advice telling truth to the government is Dieudonne Essomba. His recommendation has been circulating in the social media titled “beware of this Anglophone secession”. He writes that the people who began asking for a federation “no longer want a unitary state. They really don’t want it anymore, no matter what reforms you can make. The unitary state reminds them of all that is devious, violent, brutal and dishonest.
It is the word “unitary” itself that fuels the war and must be noted. We do not know exactly what the government gains by maintaining this word despite the blood flows”.
He had advised the government to return the country to a federal system the Anglophones agitators initially asked for and expressed regret that those who shared the view were “unfortunately…, fought on emotional and ideological bases. Furthermore, we have been accused of being anti-patriots, pro-Ambazonians, traitors, etc.”
The president must, reading the revolting situation on the ground, now understand that those advising him on the issue have failed. Psychologically it takes personalities of mettle, principled and magnanimity to tell their bosses the bad news – that the war is escalating daily and the military no matter how ‘professional’, cannot solve a political problem.
The mass killings in Ndu that has stunned humanity and which the president has ordered an investigation, is illustrative of the truth of a conflict getting from bad to worst. It is on that horrific background that we reiterate that those briefing the commander in chief about the situation in the two regions have not done so with honesty.
The proof is that the government has given all concessions such as: Major National Dialogue, Commission for the Promotion of Bilingualism and Multiculturalism, special recruitment of Anglophone magistrates, creation of an English bench at the Supreme Court, special status, committee for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration etc but the war continues unabated.
The separatists, as Essomba writes, have given no concession and are not willing to lay down their arms despite numerous appeals from President Biya and his top officials.
“These are people who started a rebellion with bare hands and spears, then small arms and now they have more sophisticated weapons: are these the people who are going to give up? ….. These are people whose fall was predicted in less than two weeks. It was then believed that a small squad of gendarmes would end the movement. But four years later, the situation got worse and it is they who impose the ghost Cities, the school boycotts and the ghost elections with success, despite the government’s desperate efforts……
We were told this is an internal problem and that there will be no interference. But there is growing support from foreign countries and the international community, and in most cases, sympathy is on their side. Rather, it is the government that is hard pressed, trying to justify itself with difficulty. Do you see people like that giving up arms?” The question answers itself.
The government spurned or ignored such internal counsel from institutions and personalities of mettle. Today, calls for international intervention are becoming louder.
The Guardian Post believes we as Cameroonians, not necessarily in government, can still resolve our “internal affairs” by ourselves before intermediaries like the ICC and other international organisations come in more for their economic and diplomatic egoistic rivalry for global supremacy than our interest.
If only the government had listened to the voices of selfless apolitical patriots imbued with the spirit of nationalism like the Nico Halles, Essombas and The Guardian Post, the nation would not have been in this reprehensible mire of blood and putrid human flesh. But it is never too late, ‘better late than never’, to pick up the broken pieces.
Can Unity Palace do that now?