The Colbert Factor:
20 5 21
What to a marginalized, suffering and homeless Anglophone is the meaning of May 20
This reflection is inspired by the fact that Cameroonians are this week commemorating national unity day. While others are simply calling for deeper reflection following the escalation of violent extremism in the two English regions of Cameroon that threaten the very foundation of national unity, others seem so insensitive to the point where they are just interested in celebration, COVID19 restrictions permitting; that is, wining and dining in the pure sense of it.
This, on grounds that what unites Cameroonians is more than what divides them, and also that there’s nothing wrong with Cameroon that cannot be corrected with what is right with it.
It is the more informed by the fact that only five years ago, Anglophone activists and opinion leaders were simply insisting that Cameroon should and must celebrate its diversity, the government in Youande and its apologists were insisting, and on top of their voices, that Cameroon had since become a homogeneous society, no Anglophone, no Francophone.
It is also inspired by the fact that although government since moved from denialism to acceptance of the existence of the Anglophone problem, the denial and reluctance to accept genuine dialogue addressing the form of state as the root cause of the problem since led to violent extremism and consequently, killings on both sides with no end in sight.
Such escalations in violence which has resulted in many maimed and others fleeing their homes defeat the very purpose and significance of May 20.
As a kid, I looked forward to every May 20 with anxiety and excitement. For me, it was all about campfire, the eating of ‘benye’ or puffballs, sugarcane and assorted sweeties. For me, May 20 was all about travelling from my native Muteff village to Fundong, Divisional headquarters, marching past infront of top administrative authorities and thereafter, meeting friends. I was so unreflective of the meaning of this national day as anyone then could possibly be.
Consequently, just as I can remember where I was when I learned of the resignation of Amadou Ahidjo, Cameroon’s first President and the eventual swearing in of his constitutional successor, incumbent President Paul Biya, so too do I remember where I was and what I was doing when the first opposition party, SDF was launched with the primary objective of righting the wrongs of the Yaounde regime on Cameroonians in general and Anglophones in particular.
Now I have come of age. I have heard and read about the happenings on May 20, 1972. Since that reading, I have never thought of May 20 in the same light.
To me, this national holiday is more a day of deep reflection on what went wrong with the more accommodating and foresighted federal arrangement in 1972 than a day of commemoration or celebration as in fact, there is nothing to commemorate or celebrate.
It should be a day of reflection on how far we as a country and a people have come, as well as the road we must take if we must remain a one and indivisible country.
The cracks on the wall are many and visible.
I need not enter into the events that led to the putting in place of May 20 as national day in 1972. Many of you readers understand them better than I do. You could instruct me in that regard. Suffice to say that the causes which led to the controversy in Foumban in 1972 that brought about May 20 as our national day, have never lacked for a tongue. They have all been taught in school, from basic through secondary to university. They have been narrated on your firesides, unfolded from street protests, and thundered on newspaper rooms and newsstands. They are as familiar to you reading me as household words. They form the staple of our national poetry and eloquence.
So, what to a marginalized, suffering and homeless Anglophone is the meaning of May 20?
May 20 to many an Anglophone is the day they lost their identity as a people and have been struggling tooth and nail since 2016 to reassert it.
It is the day their claim to a federated state was lost.
To a marginalized Anglophone, May 20 is the day Anglophones in Cameroon were abused, marginalized and their cultural identity erased.
Ayah Paul Abine, while arguing that since no people are stateless, and since Anglophones have no option at the moment, they should continue commemorating May 20 as national day. But that the greater Cameroon should not see in Anglophones commemorating May 20 the fact that Southern Cameroons was not raped, for as he once put it, the fact that someone reaches estacy or organism during rape does not obliterate the act of rape.
Nwachang Thomas, dissident researcher and historian argues that May 20,1972 was an invention by La Republic du Cameroun to replace the treaty which they did not sign with Britain over Southern Cameroons, just like Britain signed with China over Hong Kong. To Nwachang, when Yaounde authorities painfully discovered that without a treaty, the Union with Southern Cameroons was illegal, they improvised a referendum to justify that in spite of no treaty, Southern Cameroons voted in a referandum to join La Republique.
The dissident researcher and historian concludes that the inescapable challenge for Yaounde authorities is to explain whether it was 1st October, 1961 that was independence and reunification day or May 20, 1972, that was referendum and reunification day, or both.
He wondered how after years of indoctrinating our children in primary and secondary school with such history, government still went ahead in 2013, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of reunification in Buea, where President Biya recognized Buea as once the capital of both Southern Cameroons and German Kamerun.
To an Anglophone Cameroonian therefore, May 20 can only mean marginalization, suffering, extra judicial killings, pain, poor infrastructural development, economic, social and political subjugation.
The Muteff Boy’s take.