In an open letter to our Francophones brothers, Tassang Wilfred, Vice Chairman Southern Cameroons Ambazonia Governing Council, in Exile gives a vivid but concret explanation on how the Anglophone crisis began. From failed meetings to laxity of government officials to handle matters arising. Read below;
It never occurred to me that one day I will need a visa to go see my brother, Foukou, in Dschang or my uncle, Mbida, in Djoum or my school mates, Sengue and Kegne in Mbalmayo. Let me start with a succinct summary.
At the invitation of the governor of the Northwest Region, Lélé l’Afrique Tchoffo, my comrades and I, leaders of trade unions, we visited the governor’s office on October 4, 2016. The entourage of the governor was composed of the heads of the armed forces and the police, as well as the regional delegates in charge of education. The agenda which was communicated to us indicated that preparations for the World Teacher’s Day to to be celebrated the next day, October 5, 2016 was to be reviewed. The governor was angry about my invitation of the Chairman of the SCNC (but couldn’t express his anger in words), to the festivities marking the twentieth anniversary of the Cameroon Teachers’ Trade Union, (CATTU), our teachers’ union, ceremony presided over by the Governor. I explained to him that it was appropriate to invite him, because the programme provided for a religious service for the consolidation of national unity. He did not seem convinced. This gave me the opportunity to raise for discussion, a question that seemed taboo; the SCNC. In front of my trembling colleagues, I put on the table a plan to neutralize the SCNC. To do this, I explained to the Governor that this movement and the English-speaking teacher trade unions had the same demands but differed only in their methods and goals. To neutralise the SCNC therefore, it was necessary for the local administration and the political elite of the CPDM in the region to carry to President Paul Biya the demands of the northwestern and southwestern aboriginals, commonly called anglophones. And I went on to indicate that should Paul Biya solve the problems presented by the Anglophones, it would give him legitimacy and political capital like no other. And logically, the SCNC would no longer have a reason to exist.
Unfortunately, the Governor and his entourage found my presentation rather comical. From the top of their citadel, they believed they had the situation under control, and that the authority of the state was above all, even if a part of the people should be treated as slaves. I told them that we were not far from a general strike if the problems of the English system of education were not solved. Wasted energy. I would like to add a few details to support our efforts to avoid the implosion that was on the horizon.
On December 23, 2015, thanks to the governor, we were able to meet at 11 pm, Professor Jacques Fame Ndongo, Minister of Higher Education, Chancellor of Academic Orders and his delegation, at the AYABA Hotel. They were in the Northwest to commission into office, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Bamenda. In the presence of the governor, we mentioned the marginalization, then the assimilation that had passed to the higher degree of annihilation of the Anglophobe educational subsystem. The minister had a ready answer from Yaounde. He declared that Cameroon was a bilingual country and that every teacher was free to use the language he wanted, throughout the national triangle. From the top of his regal duties, he asked whether the Anglophone teachers’ unions wanted to change the constitution of Cameroon. He had no remorse for the fact that French-speaking students, holders of the Baccalaureate, and “Licence” were being trained to teach English speaking learners all subjects in a language that the poor teachers did not even understand. He was shocked to hear us question the quality of the diplomas awarded to these academic assassins. We could not hide our anger, and our bitterness. It was at the end of this audience that we decided to launch a strike. The aim was to block the teaching practice of French-speaking student teachers from Bambili’s Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS), the ENSET Bambili and Kumba. Second Cycle students from these institutions were about to commit two months of genocide on the hills of First Cycle students in the First Term. The annihilation of the Anglophone education subsystem was all together programmed. For the record, the overwhelming majority of these student teachers are francophones and their language is either French or an indescribable gibberish, understood only by Martians.
On December 31, 2015, the Governor of the Northwest Province summoned an emergency meeting. Present were the usual entourage of the governor, the heads of unions, some former national education workers, (parents) and civil society leaders. After eight hours of fruitless debates, the meeting was adjourned for the 2nd of January 2016. The meeting of January 2 was also fruitless because despite the presence this time of the Vice Chancellor and the directors of the ENS and ENSET of Bambili, all declared themselves incompetent to reorientate the student teachers of ” French background to practise teaching on French speaking learners.
Calm returned somewhat when I informed the participants that earlier that same day, we (trade union leaders) were invited to meet the Minister of Higher Education in Yaounde on January 4th.
At the insistence of the trade unions, the meeting of 4 January 2016 would be co-chaired by MINESEC, and MINESUP. After four hours of lively and sometimes heated debates, MINESUP adjourned. The trade unions, we thought, were returning with some short- and long-term “achievements”, namely: an immediate end to the problematic teaching practice by francophone student teachers in the English speaking subsystem of education, the redeployment of French-speaking teachers, already in colleges of the English subsystem. The least minister, I meant to say the Prime Minister, Mr. Philemon Yang, would take long-term decisions. In vain, we waited for the ministerial note implementing the resolutions of the meeting of January 4. The Tripartite Commission, which was to be set up by the Prime Minister on instructions and not on a proposal from MINESUP, had become a chimera, notwithstanding our insistence and reminders. The transfers and postings of August and September 2016, instead of respecting the spirit of the resolutions of the meeting of January 4, rather came to make matters worse for the English subsystem. Not only were the francophone teachers already in place maintained, many more were added in the English subsystem, as if to say; “what are you going to do?”. It was this drop of water that caused the vase to overflow. As a result, Anglophone teacher trade unions and that of the Buea University announced the indefinite strike action. True to their nature, Yaoundé took us for jokers. What did they do? Some window dressing meetings here, some brown envelopes slipped here and there, they thought, would settle the matter. It didn’t work this time. We remained bonded as one.
On October 5, 2016, under the amused gaze of the Northwest Governor, we launched the unlimited strike action in the Northwestern and Southwestern regions, now Southern Cameroons. Until November 21 Yaounde which believed they mastered the situation remained indifferent. It is then that a second group of actors came into play. In the streets of Buea, during a peaceful march, our respectable lawyers, the Common Law lawyers, were humiliated, beaten, dragged in the mud …. The humiliation of the people of Southern Cameroons was at its height!
Should I pass over in silence, the events at the University of Buea, where poor students with bare hands, sometimes sitting on the ground, were beaten, humiliated, raped, tortured, dragged into sewage by the forces of disorder of the Republic of Cameroun? Do you want me to pass over in silence the massacre in Bamenda of people demonstrating peacefully on December 8, 2016 wherein bloodthirsty soldiers of the Republic of Cameroun fired live ammunitions on civilians, recording several deaths? And these were broadcast live on several national television channels. And at that same time the president of the Republic of Cameroun, Paul Biya was having fun with “titis”, I mean, the lionesses! Unbelievable !
Do you want me to close my eyes on the ongoing arbitrary arrests or the incarceration conditions of our Southern Cameroons compatriots? Some are locked up for long months in underground bunkers without any ray of light. In other words, even those condemned to death are treated better than they … Yes, we have understood that the blood flowing in our veins has no value in your eyes and that the chimpanzee can never be the brother of the gorilla! For the history of this country, I refer you to Mr. Abouem a Tchoyi in Bafia. Or, enter his name in the Google search engine and you will be edified. He is the most honest French-speaking Cameroonian.
I would like to ask you a few questions;
If you were in our place:
Would you fold your arms and watch your children become slaves in “their country”? It is true that we are a tolerant people, but we will never accept that systemic injustice, should crush us. We expressed our love to you to the point of electing John Ngu Foncha of the Menoua division (La Republique), Prime Minister of Southern Cameroons. One of the Secretaries-General of the Prime Minister’s Office was a native of Douala … And then, and in addition, you remember, we welcomed your brothers and sisters (those whose children are rebelling against us today) when they were chased out by Ahidjo and the French because they wanted the independence of their country.
What did we receive in return for our love for you?
Destruction of our Civil Engineering Park- PWD, the destruction of our banks; Cameroon Bank was one of the largest banks in West Africa in the 1960s. (Ask the Bamileke businessmen). The destruction of our national electricity company – POWERCAM, the destruction of our national lottery, the destruction of our road network; only a few weeks ago, to get to Buea from Bamenda, we had to go through the Littoral and West regions … The dismantling of our port infrastructure, the destruction of our airports and the Cameroon Air Transport company operated by the CDC … The destruction of the Marketing Board, WADA, Santa coffee, Ekona research … The programmed ruining of our businessmen – Nangah Company, for example, built the Bafoussam party house at a lower cost compared to French companies. The plundering of our natural resources. Almost everyone is francophone at the SONARA though located in Limbe. Where does SONARA pay its taxes? Certainly not in Limbe, but in Douala, but in Yaoundé … In short, you destroyed all our economic fabric to emasculate us. Like a wooden snake that has crushed its prey, the time has come for us to be swallowed. That is why you want to take the last thing we have left; our educational system. NO, WE WILL RESIST TO THE LAST, AND THE LAST WILL RESIST UNTIL THE LAST DROP OF HIS BLOOD !!! 57 years of bondage is too much! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH !!! How do you want us to live in a society where a judge of the Supreme Court is treated as a terrorist, arrested and imprisoned in defiance of the law?
How can one live in a society in which, injustice has been erected into virtue? How can we live in a society where basic rights, such as freedom to protest, are crimes punishable with the death penalty? How can we live in a country where the constitution is treated like toilet tissue by politicians? Remember that the 1961 Constitution that enshrined the reunification of the Republic of Cameroon into the East Cameroon and the Southern Cameroons become the West Cameroon stipulated that the federal character of the country would be immutable. AND IN NO EVENT SHOULD THE FEDERAL STRUCTURE BE CHANGED! AND THAT THE TWO STATES WHICH COMPOSE THIS FEDERATION HAD THE SAME STATUS. This constitution went even further to affirm that none of the federated states should use its power or anything else to subjugate the other! Where are we today? The constitution of 1961 was flouted by the fraud organized on May 20, 1972, because of the discovery of oil reserves in West Cameroon. And the icing on the cake was done by Paul Biya in 1984, when he reverted to the original name of French Cameroun: the REPUBLIC OF CAMEROUN and by this, announced the complete absorption of the Southern Cameroons!
How do you live in a country where even what is willingly enshrined in its constitution is not respected. For 21 years we have been talking about decentralization, why is it not effective? We are talking about the declaration of property, has President Paul Biya declared his property until today?
How can we live in a country where you are considered foreigners? You are labelled with all manner of names: “biafrais”, “enemy in the house” … I can still give tons and tons of facts …
The naive Anglophone people mistakenly thought that their francophone “brothers” would join them in the fight against tyranny. No. The Francophone has either accepted injustice as a way of life, or is drawing dividends from this kleptocratic and corrupt regime. How can I understand that your flag imposed on us, with one star, is more important to you than the fate of eight million native Southern Cameroonians? You went so far as to organize a counter-demonstration in the country of Uncle Sam! By dint of pulling a cable, it ends up breaking! Yes, the moment of rupture has arrived. What is happening in the Southern Cameroons is the revolt of the slave! If you accept this diet, we don’t. Keep your Pharaoh. As for us, we have already crossed the red sea. Beware of the occult regime of Yaounde with its BIRs; you will all be swallowed up by the red sea.
I would like to thank a part of the fracophone intelligentsia who have graciuosly spoken in our favour, matters little that even your pleas have fallen on deaf ears in Etoudi.
These my poor brothers though, still think that federalism is possible while Yaoundé is incapable of implementing decentralization. In the eyes of Etoudi’s dinosaur, both are the same. My brothers, do I have the right to hold you accountable for the comatose situation in which Cameroon is plunged?
When you make up your mind to pick up your courage with both hands, I will be standing by to lend a hand.