In the Cameroon of today, there are many blanket terms which are wrongly applied to justify power abuse. The recent massacre of children in Nkambe ( Ngarbuh, Donga Mantung Division, NW) is telling. In the name of “One and Indivisible”, you kill with impunity. Sincerely, do you want to be “One and Indivisible” with the dead?
In the name of living together, you are on an extermination mission. Do you mean that if all the people in the former British Southern Cameroon picked up guns today, you will be ready to ‘neutralize’ all of them to defend what you call One and Indivisible Cameroon instead of seeking a solution through a genuine dialogue without pre-conditions or mediation (as it was at the re-unification)? Do you want to live together with their land and resources, with the people all gone or they are indeed Biafrans as some of you claimed in the initial stages of this conflict and you just do not care about foreigners in ‘your land’? Do you want to divide the people of the country because of the territorial integrity of the country you claim to be defending against zero external aggression? Le “Vivre essemble” indeed!
From the Oxford dictionary, “A nation is a large body of people united by common descent, history, culture, or language, inhabiting a particular country or territory” – in this definition of a nation, the people come first before the land; a land on its own without people cannot make a nation. Why kill people bearing Cameroonian ID Cards while claiming to be defending the nation? Are you not decimating the nation and depriving it of its youthful manpower because of your greed for power and heavy-handed approach to governance? It is hard to understand the motive for the continuous burning of houses and entire communities. Are you indeed still defending the nation by carrying out such crimes on civilian targets? Worse still, you are using the taxpayers’ money to fund the war and to kill the taxpayer and the dreams of thousands. Gross abuse of power and crimes against humanity and against the nation – treasonable offenses! You do no justice to a country by flagrantly abusing the federation terms which brought the two parts together and by refusing to humble yourself (as leaders who are there to serve the people) into acknowledging the mistakes and forging a new path which truly takes into account the identities, interests, and aspirations of both parties.
Wikipedia says even more here on how highly ranked the people are in what makes a nation, not the land – “A nation is a stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, history, ethnicity, or psychological make-up manifested in a common culture. … It is a cultural-political community that has become conscious of its autonomy, unity, and particular interests.”
Hence, when you kill the youth, the men, unarmed women and children who are the future of the nation and claim that you are defending the nation, then it is unfortunate that as an authority in power, you only apply a partial understanding of what a nation is, which to you, excludes its very vital human capital. In your own understanding, if a nation is basically land, then why are you burning several houses down?
Some of the young soldiers spearheading the killings and the burnings are yet to raise a child of their own or construct a house. Without the consciousness of the huge effort it takes to get all of these together in a lifetime and with a partial definition of what a nation is, they are trigger-happy and in high spirits to unleash Armageddon on the people, as the head of the nation has given them a blank cheque and they can do and undo as the regime continues to release fake reports and hold press conferences where they characteristically serve the audience with serial and endemic lies of the great work their valiant soldiers are doing protecting life and property, while the AU and the UN watch in complacent silence as genocide unfolds. The principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of states assumes that independent states are responsible enough to run their own affairs and seek solutions to internal issues through the power of democracy (which involves strong institutions with checks and balances and holding power to account), without committing crimes against humanity, as well as abiding by the Humanitarian Charter in conflict situations. But when power-drunk dictators are involved in a system that is over-centralized and too much power vested in one man for almost four decades, abuse of the people who are at the mercy of such an individual with absolute power, is inevitable – and this is partly a failure of the international system, as dictators continue to have their way to this day against a defenseless people. In the opinion of Lord Acton, “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely”. This is an observation that a person’s sense of morality lessens as his or her power increases and it is a very risky venture for a nation to have vested so much power in an individual who, right now only cares about consolidating more power as the nation disintegrates. Proof of this desperate move to consolidate more power is seen in the last municipal and parliamentary elections where the regime used the barrel of the gun and its characteristic roguery to gain more councils and more seats in parliament, even when the ‘elected’ officials know they are not out to represent their people but to advance the agenda of the dictator in their communities – “Submit or get excluded in development efforts or maybe even get eliminated” is the so-called “Peace Message” they preach around, and make Cameroon seems like one hell of a lucky nation benefiting from the largesse of one divine-ordained authority we all must bow to. “When government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.” – Thomas Jefferson.
To quote one socio-political blogger, Georges Munang, “You kill people anyhow and still call them nôtre frères et sœurs du #NoSo. No to Extrajudicial killings”.
A terrorist in some context (like Nelson Mandela was initially classified) is someone who has been pushed to the wall or facing extermination and has only two choices – act or die; that is why the kicks of a dying horse are very dangerous, as well as the bite of a snake that is facing life-threatening aggression. Before someone resorts to being a terrorist, he might have tolerated way too much; he might have been terrorized 99% and he/she decides to fight it back for the survival of the soul or die. This is not asserting that anyone is a terrorist but that the use of this term is meaningless in the context of Cameroon, as the real terrorists are those within the corridors of power who rig elections, bend the rules and have defrauded the nation of its heritage and got us where we are today.
Oppression radicalizes. War is addictive. No one has the monopoly of violence. “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” – Martin Luther King.
This is a call to your consciences. The nation does not need authorities in power who would say elections must hold even in a war situation, making a joke of everything – rather, the nation needs ethical leaders. War is not the solution. Fakery is not the solution. Re-evaluate your strategy which has only aggravated the crisis. A new approach that leads to peace is possible today!
By Akaba James
Formerly a scholar at the United States Institute of Peace, DC