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Editorial on the state of affairs in Southern Cameroons

basile-atanganaCulled from Beri Shileyen by Atanga Celestine

In recent days, a wave of hysterical abuse has been raining down on Cameroon’s minister of water and power, Basile Atangana Kouna, for the Beti-heavy list of candidates admitted for training in his ministry as solar power technicians and engineers. The outrage is bipartisan, coming in equal measure from the Beti elite, who are incensed that by publishing this list of Beti-only candidates, he has given more ammunition to the West Cameroon Resistance to attack a regime that’s already on the ropes. Mathias Eric Owona Nguini, a Beti university don, calls it a “list of shame that has shocked all the regions of the country, including the Beti regions.” The newspaper “L’Emergance “ angrily accused the minister of attempting to destabilise the regime.

The list has indeed shocked most Francophones, as it provides further irrefutable evidence to bolster the case West Cameroonians have been making for weeks. Namely, that the entire system has been rigged to favor the tribe in power and the Francophones have supinely accepted it.

The shock and outrage being expressed by the rest of the francophone regions shows that a light bulb has finally gone on in their brains. Biya and his gang realize this and are beginning to panic. Such lists are a common practice in government ministries, even those supposedly run by West Cameroonians who so fear losing their perches and perquisites that they dare not even include the names of their own siblings who might have performed better in the selection examinations.

In an interview with a local paper on Wednesday, Minister Kouna said these candidates were being recruited to work in their regions only (Center and South) and that recruitment in the other regions would follow that model to take account of language, availability and cultural practices. If you believe him, then I have a bridge over the Menchum Falls to sell to you, cheap.

But what he intimated would make eminent sense if only it were true. It would mean that we should have had our own teacher training colleges (or ‘normal schools’ in English*), training local men and women to teach in their towns or villages of origin. You would get true commitment from these teachers and better results from their schools. The same would hold true for the other professions – police, nurses, doctors, etc. In the same vein, we would elect our own local governments (the chimera in the 20 year-old “Decentralization Law”) from governors to village councils. That is actually the old West Cameroon model.

But back to that light bulb that is stealing the sleep from the gilded rooms in Etoudi. There is a growing chorus of ordinary Francophones raising their voices in strident support of our cause. From call-in shows on French radio and television networks to online forums and street demonstrations, the Francophones are following the lead of West Cameroonians. There’s even a demonstration planned for Paris, France – France! – this week to support our cause.

Recent history shows us that it is nothing new for West Cameroonians to show the way in that benighted republic and many Francophones now readily concede that. I still remember back in the late 80s and early 90s when we had to fight with these people to get their children to wear uniforms to school. All their school children used to look like street urchins. They finally succumbed to our logic but resented us for it for years because we were right all along.

In an online video doing the rounds these days, francophone lawyer Jean de Dieu Momo is giving his East Cameroon brethren a tutorial in the leadership West Cameroonians have exhibited since independence. He points out that the ‘office de baccalaureat’ came about thanks to our fight for an independent GCE board (which we have partly lost back thanks to Anglophone government stooges). Momo reminds everyone that the multiparty system, many of whose numerous well-fed leaders now shout about ‘national unity,’ was only achieved when John Fru Ndi and a band of intrepid young West Cameroonians marched from Ntarikon to City Chemist Roundabout and were fired on by francophone gendarmes, killing six of them.

This is the kind of history Biya does not want Francophones to be reminded of, for fear that it could be contagious.

There are signs that the regime has become practically paralyzed by fear, given the very unorthodox methods of the West Cameroonian peaceful resistance movement. That the ruling CPDM party has been effectively banned from Bamenda by popular fiat; that the usually reliable tactic of dividing our two provinces has failed abjectly this time, with Musonge and his jingoistic elite being booed out of Buea; that Philemon Yang and Paul Atanga Nji are basically persona non gratae anywhere in West Cameroon now, was already troubling enough.

But what must be giving the regime true nightmares was the shocking spectacle in Bamenda on Wednesday, February 22. That was when a company of soldiers in military trucks from Yaounde paraded the streets of the city with the newly won African Cup of Nations and basically no one came out to see them. And if you want further proof that CRTV has sunk to the depths of journalistic depravity, you would notice that the newscasts of that Wednesday evening didn’t mention the Cup visit to Bamenda. Because of this alone, you can ignore the photo shopped pictures now making the rounds of the internet, showing adoring crowds welcoming the cup in Bamenda as the fakes they really are.

This is the stuff of waking nightmares for the regime. As we say at home, football is Biya’s ‘final joker,’ the magic bullet, the stuff he has used the most to perpetuate his rule over the years. He uses it as the prime drug, the ‘opium of the people,’ dispensed to the country in large doses during periods of extreme crisis, to keep the population subdued. It has always worked. So to see it fail so spectacularly is stomach churning for the regime.

If they were any wiser they should have seen this coming after Victoria turned its back on the Women’s Cup matches. But they never learn.

They still cannot come to terms with a defiant population that ignores presidential decrees, government edicts, ministerial decisions and governors’ orders. They probably thought they could outwait us or find a balm to salve the wounds of a West Cameroon tired of strikes, ghost towns and unschooled children. The Nations’ Cup, they thought, would begin to break down the resistance. They thought wrong. Maybe now they begin to understand what we mean. We are fed up and we won’t take it anymore. And the people are just, for the most part, peacefully staying in their homes.

By Beri Shileyen: He is a West Cameroonian writer who lives in the United States.

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