Paul Biya of Cameroon Misses the Mark Once Again: What a shame!
By Lambert Mbom.
It is no mere coincidence that since 2016, the Octogenarian President of the banana Republic of Cameroon addressed the nation on the single issue of the crisis raging in the North West and South West regions of Cameroon. Clearly this was not an address for the people of Ambazonia It is an address meant for the International community ahead of the 74th United Nations General Assembly meeting scheduled to kick off next Tuesday September 17th It is clearly an indication that Emperor Biya capitulated to international pressure and seeks to save face to get some more loans, buy some more time and continue his genocidal agenda. Unfortunately, he failed to acknowledge that the war he launched is unwinnable and the tenacity of the people of Ambazonia has been spectacular.
The speech focused on Dialogue, the one word which appeared ten times in the entire speech and the only one which featured more than any other word. There is no doubt that the call for national dialogue is the main theme for the presidential outing. There is something amiss when a man who rules by presidential fiats decides to address the nation. The greatest paradox of the speech is that President Biya delivered the speech in 30 minutes and completely in French. Never mind that he has been president of Cameroon for 37 years and has never bothered to learn English and has never cared to address the nation in English so it could also be translated into French. Sad enough, he made a lame attempt at debunking the marginalization claim and yet epitomized it. Not a single word in English and yet he claims to be president of a bilingual country. He touted the bilingualism commission he formed and displayed the breadth and depth of presidential foolishness.
The citizens of the North West and South West regions are English speaking citizens and if this speech was meant for them the least that would have been done is to address them in a language they understand. This fundamental miss gets to the heart of the problem: denial, falsehood and poor diagnosis. There has been the reactivation of the country Southern Cameroons now known as Ambazonia. This is the worst nightmare Biya and the world must deal with. Biya’s understanding of the crisis is a complete misunderstanding and deliberate misreading of the issues at stake or rather a deliberate attempt at deception and/or outright denial. One is reminded of the biblical image of decorated sepulchers: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth.” (Matthew 23:27) We are dealing with a misdiagnosis of the crisis and no doubt the treatment proposed is not working. In medicine, this is medical malpractice!
He characterized the problem as “triggered by corporate demands made by lawyers and teachers This is quite a sad episode. Any doubt why the crisis continues to deepen and escalate? The continuous and deliberate attempt at wishing the problem away and postponing its resolution once and for all is a recipe for disaster. Peace shall return to Cameroon only when the authorities acknowledge the real issues and seek lasting solutions. The cosmetic attempts at whitewash only exacerbate the problem. The laundry list of solutions offered and tried out have not worked and will not work given that these are tackling the wrong problems.
Unless Biya and his cronies seek to identify the real problem plaguing the country, the current spate of violence will spike, and the crisis will only deepen. Let it be clear to all and sundry that the problem in Cameroon is not merely that of marginalization. More fundamentally, it is the question of the form of the state. It is the question of the botched decolonization of the UN trustee territory of British Southern Cameroons. The root cause of the problem lies in the fact that the vision of one and indivisible Cameroon is a lie. The question of the restoration of the independence of former British Southern Cameroons is not that of “if” but rather of “when” Biya can be sure of one thing: There is no retreat no surrender! And the new suggestion of a national dialogue is another instance of dead on arrival solution. Biya was on point when he stated that: “Since the outbreak of the crisis in the North-West and South-West Regions, the term dialogue has never been so much talked about, used and even misused.” Even Biya himself misuses the term. Like with elections in Cameroon, where he is player and referee at the same time, he has decided what the dialogue will be about and who will be part. This is an aberration.
Let Biya be reminded that you can fool some of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” Biya needs to be reminded that in 1961, a constitutional conference convened in Foumban and turned out to be a sham. Then President Ahidjo with the complicity of the French played a fast one on former British Southern Cameroons that led to the current disaster. Never Again! We have learnt that the problem with history is that it keeps repeating itself. Not this time around. In 1966, Dr. Bernard Fonlon penned a secret memo to Ahidjo recommending the need for a permanent dialogue. The title of that memo was quite instructive: “The time is now” and has turned out to be quite prophetic. Of course, those words fell on deaf ears and Biya has turned out to be a “fool who built his house on sand and the rain fell, and the floods came and the winds blew and beat upon that house and it fell and great was the fall thereof.” The train has left the station and the much parroted “one and indivisible Cameroon” is a mere shadow of itself.
When Biya put the last nail on the coffin in 1984 when with a mere stroke of the pen he changed the name of the country from United Republic of Cameroon to the Republic of Cameroon the name East Cameroon had at the time of its independence in 1960. A great moment for dialogue came when Fon Gorji Dinka sued the government of La Republique. But again, Biya and co engaged in brinksmanship and progressive policy of deterrence by wanton arrests and detentions. Then when the tensions in the 1990s boiled over and true to form they called for a tripartite conference that watered down the aspirations of the people and provided a diluted solution that has never seen the light of day. Again, the government successfully skirted the problem and dribbled the people.
Enough of this charade called dialogue. A national dialogue is not the solution to the problem and rather is an attempt to solve a different problem. The genie is out of the bottle and is not by commanding it back to the bottle through speech that will make it go away. Only a negotiated settlement is going to resolve the problem. This lame duck attempt at forcing a false union and continue the false narrative that the issue is merely an internal issue clearly indicates the ineptitude of Biya and his gang of thieves. It is time for the international community to demonstrate their commitment to the Swiss-led process. The United Nations, the European Union, the United States of America, Canada and all those who came out and supported the process must now give teeth to those words or be forced to return to their vomit. The National Dialogue is dead on arrival and is 33 years late.
Biya’s speech yesterday reminded me of the poignant words of former U.S Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power when addressing the Security Council in December 2016: “Are you truly incapable of shame? Is there literally nothing that can shame you? Is there no act of barbarism against civilians, no execution of a child that gets under your skin? That just creeps you a little bit? Is there nothing you will not lie about or justify?”