He may be dead but the words of the legendary Bate Besong, the Obasinjom warrior still have their urgency today. Herewith an excerpt of his Keynote address at the first of its kind, “Workshop on Anglophone Cameroon Writing” held in Yaoundé, 1993.
“..…We are in the season of harrowing self-analysis. We are the products of an age of profound discontent. We are an embattled people under the cancerous embrace of “national integration”, fighting against titanic odds. We are the biblical children of Ham, profoundly affected by cataclysmic changes and traumas which seem to toss us about like an Eliotian rag doll, hollow men, without speech…And, yet there was a time when people had faith, implicit faith-in this union-without making investigations. But I ask you, where is that faith now? It has vanished. So utterly!
…The agony of the Anglophone Cameroon question is compounded by the endless uncertainty as to whether there would ever be an end to it. Writers are inspired by the adversity of their day. So must we. Far be it from us to advocate any kind of post-1992 one-party national assembly kind of literature; far be it from us to advocate a solution by means of a few key-note-decrees which in the end would become as grotesque and laughable as the itinerant prophet who, having found the alchemist stone of literature, prescribed new nostrums for the immortality of national unity – By Decree!… Don’t laugh …
No one can speak for us. Only those who daily live through the humiliations, the third-class citizenship, in the abattoir of servitude, only we can fully comprehend and explore these contradictions in a society undergoing such rapid and confusing transition.
…The Anglophone Cameroonian writer must never forget his origins. His writing must depict the conditions of his people, expressing their spontaneous feelings of betrayal, protest and anger.
It must challenge. It must indict head on. His writing must open up the Chinse Wall of Opportunity, closed to his people for over three decades.Our literature must convey with remarkable force the moods of the Anglophone Cameroonian caught in the assimilation-nightmare of sisyphian existence.
That literature must be inspired by an historical myth-informed consciousness. It must embody in bold relief the specific historical features of the entire Cameroonian reality. We must not evade the issues raised by economic, social and political change. We will be criticized, of course, for our attempt to be honest in treating these questions and in recognizing the frustration and agony of a people held as a hostage minority. But we must insist on the truth of what we write.
The Anglophone Cameroonian writer at home and in the diaspora must tell the outside world the story of his tragic land from the point of view of its hostage minority.
And, such literature, fellow writers, can only be written by you: Anglophone Cameroonian writers, in the Anglophone Cameroonian language and on Anglophone Cameroonian subjects…”
REST IN PEACE BATE BESONG