November 23rd, 2016.
In the past few weeks, I have watched with utter dismay, anguish and sadness developments in North West and South West Cameroon: notably, the demonstration by Common Law lawyers in Bamenda in October and on November 8; the demonstration by Common Law lawyers in Buea on November 10; and the teachers’ strike that began on November 22, and is affecting institutions of academic learning from primary through secondary and higher education in both regions of the country. These events endanger the rule of law and education, which are two very sensitive pillars of our national fabric and human development. They also bring to the fore grievances that demonstrate the disaffection of a sizable segment of our population with the manner in which the Biya government approaches governance in these critical sectors.
These very unfortunate events have also exposed to the entire Cameroonian population as well as the international community the inability of the authorities to listen to the voices of citizens and to provide appropriate platforms for meaningful discourse and exchanges that must take place in every democratic society between citizens and those that govern. Democratic governance in the 21st century entails constant engagement with citizens, providing opportunities for their grievances to be addressed, and taking concrete measures to ensure that fellow compatriots feel a sense of belonging and ownership of resulting reforms. This is the only way to restore their dignity and foster responsible citizenship. By failing to address these grievances, the government has exposed its inability to govern in an inclusive and responsive manner.
As I have said in the past, the issues raised by Common Law lawyers and now teachers and parents in these two regions of the country deserve proper attention at he highest level of the State. These issues speak to the core values that enabled the establishment of the Fatherland to which we all belong. We cannot allow for that national fabric to be undermined by the government of the day. Sadly enough, these events also mirror recent strikes in Yaoundé and threats by the Union of francophone teachers to demonstrate in coming days. There is no doubt in my mind that a general malaise overshadows the current political environment in our country.
I therefore call on President Paul Biya to speak directly to the nation to calm fears and to take concrete steps to address the expressed grievances in the most just, equitable and timely manner. I also call on the government not to use force against innocent unarmed citizens who peacefully advocate for their rights.
The government should set up a special, broad based commission to attend to the grievances raised with regards to the educational sector. It is noteworthy that these issues raised by teachers, students and parents surpass the jurisdictions of the four cabinet ministries that now oversee educational matters in Cameroon – Ministry of Higher Education, Ministry of Secondary Education, Ministry of Basic Education and Ministry of Labor and Professional Training – none of which is headed by anyone educated in the Anglo-Saxon tradition. For a country that prides itself of adopting and strengthening its bicultural tradition, such a political set up does not lend itself to a proper understanding of the values that Anglophone teachers, student and parents seek to preserve.
At the same time, I call on lawyers, teachers, students and parents in the North West and South West regions to be patient and to remain open to dialogue, knowing that the vast majority of Cameroonians appreciate highly the values of fairness, justice and integrity that they seek to defend. It is only on the basis of these shared values that Cameroon will stay strong and united.
Dr. Christopher Fomunyoh
The Fomunyoh Foundation
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