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Southern Cameroons Question: Tolerance Holds the Key to Unity, Success

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Southern Cameroons Question: Tolerance Holds the Key to Unity, Success

The Cambridge University Dictionary defines tolerance as the “willingness to accept behaviour and beliefs that are different from your own, although you might not agree with or approve of them”. In other words, it means accepting that others can hold opinions, beliefs and positions different from yours without necessarily becoming your enemies whatsoever. Other authors however add flesh to this understanding, such as Catherine Pulsifer who notes that; “Tolerance is the ability to forgive those who tend to speak before thinking”, and Robert Green Ingersoll who thinks; “Tolerance is giving to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself”.

As the people of Southern Cameroons wherever they may be continue to ponder on what the future holds for them, it is important to inculcate the idea that the territory is made up of several ethnic groups and thus a lot of cultures and ways of reasoning. This means the people of the grass field will definitely think and behave differently from the people of the forest zone, same thing with those of the coastal areas. Some may be smart and quick to action, while others are slow and take a lot of time to get reasoning and then deciding whether to take action or not. At the same time, you will have people who are generally fearful of everything and like to keep things as they are, while there are courageous and brave people willing to take risks to ensure that things get to where they ought to or at least somewhere nearer to it. Of course, there are those who will want things to go all the way, whatever it takes. All these different ways of reasoning must be accommodated as all are useful and the only way to make these divergent views beneficial is through tolerance.

Differences in thoughts and ways of looking at things have left so many people involved in the Southern Cameroons resistance restless, angry, dispirited and overly discouraged. It has pushed a lot others to believe that the struggle is being confiscated by a few, while flames of discord such as the North West and South West divide occasionally rear their ugly heads mainly because people tend to be unwilling to recognize that diversity makes sense only where there is compromise. Hear Robert Alan Silverstein; “The human family is very diverse, with many different beliefs and cultures and ways of life. Many conflicts in our world are caused when people are intolerant of the ways that others see the world. Learning tolerance is an important cornerstone to creating a better world”.

There is a current which has too often been anxious to say the people of the South West are less committed, that is when some do not outright tag them sellouts or pretenders, while at the same time those from the North West are accused of appropriating for themselves all the front-line positions, possibly standing where they shall be able to tap every gain when the time comes, whereas the struggle should be fought equitably, and all facets represented in an egalitarian manner at all levels. There shall never be any mathematical formula to solve such a problem apart from the introduction of the spirit of tolerance which is rooted in reason. That is why George Eliot says; “The responsibility of tolerance lies with those who have the wider vision”, a pattern corroborated by Malcolm X when he says; “Don’t be in a hurry to condemn because he doesn’t do what you do or think as you think or as fast. There was a time when you didn’t know what you know today”.

The other day I listened to an audio in which the author raised hell that activists from the North West were diabolizing those from the South West and making them look like the devil while at the same time giving the impression those from the highlands were saints. He painted a picture of releases and articles which according to him would only sour the pudding. This means if anyone commits acts that stand on the way of progress, they should not be condemned because any moves to discredit the acts could be looked at through ethnic or tribal lenses- we are one and must without mincing words denounce wrongdoings in a constructive manner without fear or fervour, otherwise we would not have Innocent Chia taking it on Tassang Wilfred because they both are from up country. Reacting to criticisms through the ethnic prism shall only breed unnecessary suspicions to the glory of the enemy and lead to the weakening of the struggle. That is why Annabelle Higgins says; “By standing on top of your reactions you will be able to develop patience and tolerance; two distinct traits required for achieving long term success”. This line of thought is also bought by Brian Cagneey who opines that; “In order to achieve great things, you must stretch your beliefs, your efforts and your tolerance. You will have to face new situations with an open mind, eager to reach your destiny”. This is why I like and subscribe to Bill Maher’s stance when he quips that; “Don’t get so tolerant that you tolerate intolerance”, we must remain focused and set the same standards for everyone regardless of where they come from.

Another sticky point in this struggle is the gulf that exists between federalists and those who stand for restoration of the statehood of the Southern Cameroons. Here dissention is almost seen as treachery and nowadays being a federalist is very easily a crime, just like being independentist and the battle line is quite visible. Federalists call restoration diehards war mongers, armchair generals, android sellers of illusions and much more, accusing them of treading a path can never be realistic and wishing to break family ties knotted over years between citizens of La République du Cameroun and those of Southern Cameroons through marriage bonds as if the mere fact of Cameroonians marrying Europeans or partners from other parts of the world means the nations must become bound together to keep the unions alive. In all this, Yaounde has yet to take a position and so again tolerance will warrant that we borrow a leaf from one-time US President Franklin D. Roosevelt when he says; “If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships, the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world at peace”.

Wisdom requires that we take time to acknowledge the fact that if a profound gulf separates my neighbour’s belief from mine, there is always the golden bridge of tolerance to bring us back to the table of reason. This struggle concerns the lives and wellbeing of some 7 million people and those involved have beliefs and aspirations they hold close their hearts. To forge ahead from our diverse backgrounds, we must therefore congregate in the light of John F. Kennedy’s thought that; “Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others”. Timothy Keller clarifies Kennedy’s point further by adding that; “Tolerance isn’t about not having beliefs. It’s about how your beliefs lead you to treat who disagree with you”.

Yaounde has disagreed with a lot of us how the State can be re-organized to accommodate everyone with their sets of beliefs and traditions as well as cultural backgrounds. In disagreement and disapproval, Yaounde has unleashed terror and not counter arguments, using the law to create fear, panic and confusion which finally turned into resistance and complicated the situation. Had the authorities listened to Albert Einstein’s view that; “Laws alone cannot secure freedom of expression; in order that every man present his views without penalty, there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population”, they would have favoured healthy debates and brought their entire armada to present convincing views to woo rather than terrorize people. Today, those involved in this struggle run the risk of emulating government if they continue imagining in their heads and minds that they alone hold the monopoly of knowhow and that if an idea did not come from them it is bad.

Let us embrace the doctrine of the Dalai Lama that; “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them”. We have to help each other in multifarious ways to realize the dream of the people of Southern Cameroons; if you can’t do it by yourself, by all means assist those with the will and determination to do it for the benefit of all. Let us thus go home with this enunciation by Paulo Coelho; “Tolerance and compassion are qualities of fearless people”. Let us endeavor to give our people the best without destroying each other and without breaking hearts and homes unnecessarily with unfounded and aimless accusations.

By John Mbah Akuroh

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