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Chronicles of the “Anglophone Problem”: The Slow-motion Drift Toward the Cliffs



The Diaspora Gave Biya The Exact Opposite Of What He Wanted


One of the most pessimistic analyses of the Anglophone Problem (defined simply as the equal status and standing of Anglophones in Cameroon) was published in Le Monde, the famous French newspaper of record, today, August 14, 201. In the piece, Yann Gwet, a francophone, Cameroonian, wrote:

« Mais la résolution du problème de fond est entre les seules mains des citoyens camerounais… Plutôt que d’attendre d’hypothétiques interventions extérieures, n’est-il pas temps pour la société civile camerounaise de prendre ses responsabilités ? Le débat sur la nature du « projet Cameroun » doit avoir lieu. Sans un effort de cette nature, le prochain rapport d’ICG pourrait bien constater la mort du Cameroun. »


“But the answer to the root cause of the [Anglophone] problem is in the hands of Cameroonians alone. Rather than wait for hypothetical external interventions, isn’t it time for the Cameroonian civil society to do its duty? The debate on the nature of the “Cameroon project” must take place… Without an effort of this nature, the next ICG (International Crisis Group) report could well announce the death of Cameroon.”

This doom and gloom scenario has undoubtedly been triggered by one of the most disastrous weeks in the history of the Biya regime and of Cameroon. In an inexplicably stupid and incompetent move, President Biya dispatched delegations to Brussels, Belgium, Washington D.C. and the UN in New York, Ottawa, Canada, Johannesburg, South Africa, and London, the United Kingdom, to explain to the Cameroonian diaspora and the United Nations, how his regime has essentially “solved” the Anglophone problem. The head of these “explanatory missions” was super Minister of Justice, Laurent Esso, assisted by Foreign Minister, Mbella Mbella Lejeune, and Minister Delegate in charge of relations with the Commonwealth, Joseph Dion Ngute. The rest of the delegations consisted of Anglophone bit players and minnows in the Biya Regime.

The irony is that Laurent Esso is the prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner of Anglophone political prisoners. He has for decades, presided over the rotten system of law, corruption and disorder that passes for a justice system. The fact that Biya could send Laurent Esso to explain how well things were going when his jails are full of Anglophone political prisoners shows how out of touch Biya is. The man was trying to apply mid 20th century solutions to the 21st century.

Biya was soon faced with the law of unintended consequences. The missions amounted to a total unmitigated catastrophe, to say the least! In the United States, the delegation led by Paul Ghogomu got a polite hearing from the handful of Cameroonians who cared to show up on a working day. At the United Nations, the Deputy Secretary General lectured the delegation. It them to respect human rights, and that those responsible for the administration of justice would be held to a higher standard than they held themselves. She asked them to go back to Cameroon and solve the “root causes” the Anglophone, which they were cunningly sweeping under the carpet.

Things were explosive in Belgium. Laurent Esso, Mbella Mbella Lejeune, and Cameroon ambassadors and embassy officials from Paris, Brussels and other European countries were confronted, booed and shamed by an angry army of Anglophone protesters of all political persuasions. A Cameroon security official who tried to intervene ended up unconscious on the floor. It was very humiliating.

Dion Ngute’s mission to South Africa turned out to be a painful and pitiful joke at his expense and that of the Cameron government. The man felt the anger of the hand-picked audience and struggled to find words to explain what he had been sent to say in South Africa. The discussion was rudely, or rather mercifully, ended when the mob of Cameroonians broke down the embassy gate, disrupted the shouting match, and over-turned the food tables prepared for a post-meeting reception. The South African police belatedly dispersed the crowd with teargas.

The next stop in the humiliation of the Biya regime was Ottawa, Canada. There too, Anglophones took over the proceedings, carried a symbolic coffin to the front of the embassy, took down the Cameroon flag, burnt it and replaced it on the flagpole with the blue Southern Cameroons/Ambazonian flag. By the time the Canadian Royal Mounted police arrived the scene, the damage had been done. Laurent Esso and his delegation fled. The meeting did not take place. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) featured the drama at the Cameroon embassy in its evening news. The same familiar drama unfolded in front of the Cameroon embassy in London, which had cancelled the explanatory mission, fearing a repeat of the disasters of Brussels, South Africa, and Ottawa. In London, a well-prepared and professional British police prevented the large crowd of Anglophone protesters from taking over the closed and deserted Cameroon embassy.

The explanation missions turned out to be a colossal fiasco, a public relations disaster of the highest magnitude for the Cameroon government and its sycophants. More than that, it essentially revived the Anglophone demonstrations that were beginning to die down. That is wat is called the law of unintended consequences. Biya achieved the exact opposite of what he had hoped for. The question is whether Paul Biya will learn from the fiasco and humiliations of his August 2017 explanatory missions. Any right-thinking person would pause, step back, think twice and change strategy. Not Paul Biya. Like the Biblical Pharaoh of old, the headstrong man will order “full steam ahead,” towards the cliffs, not know that the Anglophone problem poses two major dangers: It could lead to the end of Cameroon as we know it today, and the end of the Biya regime. For now, Biya is like a political gymnast who has been pretending to perform on the political balance beam. The rules of athletics and of nature require that he dismount. He does not know how to dismount. The question is whether he will do a back flip and land on his two feet like a seasoned gymnast, or collapse on the balance beam and land either face down or with his buttocks on the floor. Either way will be very painful for Biya personally, and for Cameroon as a country.

By Lyombe Eko

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