The vice national chairman of the Social Democratic Front, SDF, who doubles as Questor at the National Assembly, Hon Osih Joshua, has in an interview granted Jeune Afrique, boasted that if given the opportunity, he will sign another petition to the US Congress. He says he signed the controversial petition concerning the repatriation of US-based Cameroonian asylum seekers as a Member of Parliament who is ready to defend the interest of the nation. Excerpts
Was it necessary for SDF parliamentarians to sign the petition to the US Congress concerning the repatriation of Cameroonian asylum seekers?
This petition was initiated by the National Assembly, under the coordination of one of its vice presidents, Hon Hilarion Etong. He is the one who mobilised parliamentarians who were present in Yaounde during the recess period. The petition was necessary because, for the past four years, we have been questioning the American administration on the fact that there are so many people who, from the United States, are fueling the war in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon, be it through funding or through propaganda activities.
US MPs should do all they can to convince the Biden administration to stop these individuals from fueling extreme violence in the two English-speaking regions of Cameroon. We reminded them that the United States has a duty to respect the international texts that govern the fight against cross-border crime and to which they are signatories. These instruments must help bring the war in the North West and South West regions to an end. As a parliamentarian representing the Cameroonian nation, it goes without saying that I support this approach.
The Cameroon Renaissance Movement, MRC, sees this petition as a “betrayal of the people”. Within the SDF, Hon Jean-Michel Nintcheu feels that your approach was motivated by “personal, egoistic and egocentric interests to the detriment of the population”. What have you to say?
One does not use an instrument of parliamentary diplomacy to solve problems within a party. Ill-intentioned individuals wanted to believe that the signature of SDF MPs on a document approved by those of the CPDM was a betrayal. It is not. This petition defends the Republic of Cameroon. Parliament defends the Republic. The SDF defends the Republic. I belong to that SDF. Those who want to make people believe the other way round, those who assimilate the regime of Paul Biya to the Fatherland, have mistaken their opponent.
Given the controversy surrounding the issue, do you regret signing the petition?
If another petition to the US Congress on the same subject matter is brought to me tomorrow, I’ll sign it again. Those who play with people’s lives by fueling the conflict in the North West and South West regions for political ends must be stopped.
The petition you signed does not mention the detention conditions of these asylum seekers, which are considered very worrying by several NGOs?
We are not a sounding board for NGOs, but the legitimate and legal representatives of the Cameroonian people. And it is in this capacity that we want elected officials in the United States to push the Biden administration to realise that the United States is home to people who are fueling war.
Some supporters within your party are pushing for a return to a more frontal SDF to challenge the Biya regime. Are you for or against?
We cannot be more frontal than we are today. We must understand that most of those who voted at the 1992 presidential election are now on retirement. Some of those who are now eligible to vote weren’t even born in the early 90s. We have an ideological and political line, which was defined at a congress, and we must stick to it. It does not help us to try to make people believe that it is the radicalisation of our party that will change Cameroon. Do they want us to go against the laws of our land or rebel against state institutions? This is not the option chosen by the Founding Fathers of the SDF.
We must present candidates at all elections, or at least whenever possible. If we did not participate at the regional elections, it was because they were called before the end of the municipal elections. But this is the only poll we did not take part in. We have to move forward and take part in the political game to bring about the change, so that we can one day rule this country and correct the last sixty years. Cameroonians must have the country they deserve.
Would you say that this involves collaboration with the CPDM?
Never. The SDF does not collaborate with the regime of Paul Biya. We are not in government, we are only in the institutions, just like the CPDM. When we have municipal councillors in a council area which is managed by the CPDM, we ask them to work for the population. We have been doing this since 1996 and it has given us a lot of progress. This is what is expected of our supporters and our officials, be they on the front lines of political battles, they are the expected to meet the aspirations of Cameroonians. We have to stop this war of personal interests. I am in favour of our party getting ready to govern. We must demonstrate to Cameroonians that, tomorrow, when we come to power, we will be fit. Let us stop making our fellow citizens believe that we must destroy everything in order to rebuild.
Would you like to succeed John Fru Ndi at the head of the party?
We still have two years before the next elective congress of the SDF. There is a lot of work to be done until then. Those who want to bring us into these quarrels are mistaken about the time and the functioning of the SDF. God alone knows if we will still be here in two years to claim anything. Cameroonians are waiting for us elsewhere than in the rag-pickers wars. It is not by fighting that we will be stronger. Those who think so are wrong.