No, Cardinal Tumi, Amba Boys Should not, Cannot Lay Down their Arms
By John Mbah Akuroh
The Book of books does not say pamper the devil and he shall flee from you. It says; “Resist the devil and he shall flee from thee”
The news media has been awash in recent days with a declaration by Cameroon’s highest Catholic authority, Christian Cardinal Tumi, urging the self-defense forces in Southern Cameroons (Ambazonia) to lay down their arms to enable him secure an end to the military brutality that has become the daily lot of the naturally peaceful people formerly colonized by the British as a league of Nations, and later a UN trust territory. The venerated Preacher of the Word made this declaration not long after the Paul Biya-led government blocked him and other allies from holding what they termed an Anglophone General Conference in the city of Buea. In the wake of that call, there have been divergent opinions and I feel obliged, as one of the early proponents of non-violent approaches to achieving our self-determination, but who with time has observed that President Biya knows only the language of violence, to respond to what I consider an ill-timed piece of advice.
Let me begin by quoting one-time US President, Thomas Jefferson who said; “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance”, to explain why I see the call to dropping arms as ill-advised. From 1961 when our people moved blindly into a union with people, they thought shared the same love as them, every other day witnessed the erosion of our being as humans, as citizens deserving of the same rights enjoyed by all others across the River Mungo. First, the Police Force which we carried into the union was taken away from us and no one remembers when anyone from Southern Cameroons ever held the reigns of command in that force after 1961. From taking away the police force from us, they gradually, but steadily took away the National Produce Marketing Board, Cameroon Bank, drained PWD of all equipment, shutdown POWERCAM, WADA and others with little or no resistance; all because we lost vigilance. Southern Cameroons had failed to keep even the least force that could help ensure that the balance of power between the two nations merging to form one was always maintained and this left us vulnerable.
Dear Cardinal Tumi, at least, I am sure you remember the wise saying that; “when a man is penalized for honesty, he learns to lie”. The people of Southern Cameroons got into the union with La Republique du Cameroun as little angels full of virtues; they never knew how to lie, they feared playing around with the public good, they feared to see blood spilled anyhow (of course they never needed to pass through that like it was the case with the UPC uprising in East Cameroon), but with time, we have learned to survive. You must go home with the notion that whatever you see in us today was acquired out of necessity in a country where virtue is a crime, and one of those lessons we learnt over time is owning a gun, especially when it is common knowledge that the fear of the gendarme is the beginning of wisdom!
A Christian and authority on the Word of your standing definitely understands that it will be unwise to ask a blind man to drop his walking stick without restoring his sight, just like it will be suicidal to cause a lame person to throw away their clutches with no measures put in place to guarantee he can walk upright. This recalls a touching thought by Dan Inosanto, Bruce Lee’s student and renowned authority on martial arts that; “Love is the highest art. In ancient times you trained so hard, not for the sake of killing people, but for the love of your family: for the love of your father, your mother, your children, your tribe, and your body. It is the love of life. That’s why we train so hard, to preserve life. These boys are holding arms not because they like to carry them, but because they must preserve lives. They never declared war on anyone, President Biya did on the 30th of November 2017 and so conventional wisdom requires that he declares a ceasefire and withdraws his troops before any other actor follows suit.
It is important to note that even some renowned authorities in the area of civil uprisings without recourse to arms like Mahatma Gandhi also consider self-defense important in the face of blatant onslaughts. Gandhi says; “Self-defense…is the only honourable course where there is unreadiness for self-immolation”, a recognition of the fact that refusing to defend yourself when you need to, is next to suicide. Alexander Hamilton pushes the thought even further when he says; “When a government betrays the people by amassing too much power and becoming tyrannical, the people have no choice but to exercise their original right of self-defense- to fight the government”.
Dear Cardinal Tumi, the lives of the people of Southern Cameroons matter, we are human beings and we deserve to live. That is what self-defense in this circumstance is all about, to preserve the lives of the vulnerable ones among us. This is also why Rorion Gracie holds that; “Self-defense is not a set of techniques; it’s a state of mind, and it begins with the belief that you are worth defending”. This thought is completely summed up by former US President, James Monroe in his own personal belief that; “The right of self-defense never ceases. It is among the most sacred, and alike necessary to nations and individuals”.
Just so that our suffering, sometimes less informed and desperate masses do not get misled by their trust in you and go ahead to commit suicide by dropping their weapons sheepishly, let us share this thought by Kevin B. Shearer; “When it comes to self-defense, it is better to have the power and not need it, than to need it and not have it”.