Most presidential speeches are unpredictable. Not so, speeches by Paul Biya, the President of “La Republique du Cameroun”. Last Saturday was the president’s 35th end-of-year address and it proved, anew, that Mr. Biya’s newest problem is an old one. His every outing is stubbornly true to form and style. Boring. Predictable. Fact free. Power drunk. Sickening. Removed from reality. Overloaded with empty promises. Full of spin and half truths… Even outright lies.
Those, including some members of the Movement for the Restoration of the Independence of Southern Cameroons (MoRISC), who had hoped that Mr. Biya could use the speech to demonstrate that he is, indeed, the president of the two Cameroons say they were stunned by it. Mr. Biya could have been speaking to the inhabitants of Mars as an actor in some “Alice in Wonderland” movie; oblivious of any reality. With so much at stake, Mr. Biya blew another golden opportunity to make history… to be presidential.
The speech came on the heels of the most violent and tragic government crackdown of peaceful street protests by Southern Cameroonians. Like Pharaoh in Egypt, Mr. Biya sounded God has “hardened his heart”. The time devoted to this issue very early in the speech, betrayed how much the regime has been rattled by ongoing strikes by lawyers and teachers as well as by the wave of street protests across the world and campaigns involving the Diaspora calling, among others, for the restoration of self-rule for Southern Cameroons.
It would have been laughable were it not so tragic. The same Mr. Biya who, by presidential fiat destroyed the “Union of the Cameroons” in February 1984 when he unilaterally reverted to the name of “La Republique du Cameroun”, claimed that he is walking in the footsteps of the founding fathers. Ahmadou Ahidjo, Um Nyobe, Ernest Ouandie, John Ngu Foncha, E. M. L. Endeley and Augustine Ngom Jua must be turning in their graves. The “best pupil” of a certain French president would “eat the earth” (swear) that imposing the worst form of colonial rule on Southern Cameroons creates a “ONE and INDIVISIBLE” country than the two-state federation set up by the founders. Not true!
What is true is the following: only divided families and countries afflicted with divisions would find the need to issue loud sounding declarations about being “ONE and INDIVISIBLE”. Gabon is not proclaiming that it is “ONE and INDIVISIBLE”. Mr. Biya found it important to do so twice in the same speech. Very telling of the gravity of the profound divisions that he knows must exist yet must pretend they don’t exist. A believer in the “argument of force”, the abusive spouse (“La Republique du Cameroun”) in the “union of the Cameroons” wants divorce denied simply because the couple is “ONE and INDIVISIBLE”.
After disseminating a December 15, 2016 “Diplomatic Note” in which it distorts facts and tells outright lies about the events unfolding across Southern Cameroons, Mr. Biya claims in the speech to be “deeply concerned” by these events. A power hungry regime whose secret motto must be “in Machiavelli we trust” slams “The Coffin Revolution” as “a group of manipulated and exploited extremist rioters”. Amazing, right?
Like every abusive spouse, Mr. Biya misidentifies and belittles the problems of the couple. He dismisses the problems raised by the abused spouse as unimportant compared to other ideals and values of the marriage: the sanctity of the matrimonial bed (such as the flag and Constitution) or what Mr. Biya calls the very “foundations of our togetherness”. The president argues that the couple is still “standing on its feet”; that the abused spouse seeking divorce “can rightfully opine on any aspect of national life, including through duly declared peaceful strike action”.
Did anyone warn the regime to be careful what it wishes for? Too late now! MoRISC has already evoked this “inalienable” right… the “fundamental civil right… enshrined in the Constitution” to declare (see our Roadmap at www.morisc.org/roadmap) that Southern Cameroonians, with effect from this first day of January 2017, have “duly declared” an indefinite “peaceful strike” against the colonial “La Republique du Cameroun” until self-rule is restored to the former British Southern Cameroons.
Threat of divorce has a way of reminding abusive spouses of the need to woo their partners as before, charming them with care, love, gifts and flowers. Our first love (Ahidjo) wooed Southern Cameroons on the constitutional promise not to violate the sanctity of the federation of two equal states. In the hope of convincing the abused spouse to stay on in the union, Mr. Biya offered a bribe. He wishes to “personally supervise” (?) the building of a dam on the Menchum River, not far from the site of another project (The Ring Road) whose construction he also pledged to supervised only months into his now 35-year reign. The big problem with telling lies is that the teller has to remember them.
The regime reminds the abused spouse that the “marriage certificate” was based not just on democracy – pure and simple – but “in the model of democracy which I (the abusive spouse) have proposed”. Go figure what this “model of democracy” means! Is it about upholding only those parts of the Constitution that serve the dictatorship? Why has Mr. Biya’s regime not implement the current Constitution, 20 years since it was adopted in 1996? “La Republique du Cameroun” has notably failed to hold a dialogue envisaged in the hope of saving the union of the Cameroons under a 2009 ruling by a court accredited to the African Union. The regime is so abusive it won’t even abide by the court orders to hold a dialogue with the abused spouse within 180 days.
Mr. Biya lacks credibility to point an accusing finger at Southern Cameroonians. Why is it okay for the president to resurrect “La Republique” dead and buried on 1 October 1961 and not okay for the spouse to raise from the death Southern Cameroons?
Truth be told. President Biya – not Southern Cameroonians – is the hostage of a few, manipulated regime and party extremists. Their only job over the past 35 years has consisted of shielding the “absentee tenant of Etoudi Palace” from coming face-to-face with the ugly reality of misery, poverty, hopelessness and despair that nearly four decades of his misrule has visited on the peoples of the Cameroons. The extremists include Prof. Fame Ndongo, who has never stopped undermining the Anglo-Saxon system of education. Extremists like Paul Atanga Nji who deny the existence of any problem. Extremists and “agents provocateurs” like Premier Yang, who descended on Buea and Bamenda, looking for a crowd to rent to “Dimabola” for the regime. The extremists include those who violated students, “disappeared” and killed demonstrators. Extremists like those who chased leaders of teachers’ and lawyers’ trade unions in the closing days of 2016 in the hope of signing a deal lifting their strikes. Unable to reach a deal, the regime’s extremists simply “cooked” one up.
What else could it be called but playing desperado? Plain. Simple.
Mr. Biya was defiant, warning no doubt that his regime will not retreat into a hole. However, the regime dropped a heavy hint that it could be waving the white flag. At his discretion, Mr. Biya says he may convene discussions on the same problems extremists within claim do not exist.
The dust in Southern Cameroons won’t settle until a deal is reached. Southern Cameroonians are only getting started. They won’t stop mobilizing until they win self-rule. The regime can work for a bargain or it can play ostrich, hiding behind empty slogans like “ONE and INDIVISIBLE”. History is full of the story of countries that once claimed exactly the same bull yet could not prevent the birth of new nations. The people of Southern Cameroons are a different people from those of “La Republique du Cameroun”. They have a right to self-determination that cannot be denied by Yaounde. The march to freedom and self-rule can’t be stopped. Certainly, “La Republique du Cameroun” is “ONE and INDIVISIBLE”. But so, too, Southern Cameroons is “ONE and INDIVISIBLE”.
By Ntumfoyn Herbert Boh (Yindo Toh)