Monday, 13 March 2017

Cameroon - Philemon Yang’s North West Tour of Shame

Paul Biya last weekend dispatched his prime minister and titular ‘head of government,’ Philemon Yang to his (Yang’s) native North West region in a last, desperate attempt to try and persuade his fellow North-Westerners to call off their intransigent demands for self-determination.

Yang’s mission, which began on Monday, has not been going well. He quickly found out that, once again, Biya had put him in a tough spot, between a rock and a hard place.

In a meeting with representatives of the region’s most influential personalities, including Fons, political leaders, trade unionists, as well as clergy men and women, Yang alternated between threats and entreaties, or promises and intimidation. His audience remained unmoved and unimpressed.

At some point, he was booed. He was finally left in no doubt that the days of cheering crowds lining the streets to receive a native son prime minister or applauding his every utterance were long past.
Felix Namukong, the SDF parliamentarian from Bafut, told Yang to his face that schools would remain closed and the ghost towns will continue until all those West Cameroonians arrested and incarcerated in Yaounde were released and the Internet blackout was lifted. MP’s brief but punchy speech was met with thunderous applause, a clear indication that he was expressing what was on most people’s minds in the hall.
Subsequent meetings in the other six divisions of the region went just as badly for the head of government. Yang often resorted to what the government considers its most persuasive argument, that the future of the children is being jeopardized by depriving them of their right to education.

This line of argument has been met with anger by people in the region who wonder what kind of education the government is talking about.
One of the principal reasons for the action taken by West Cameroonian teachers and parents was the increasingly dubious quality of the education their children were receiving. Not only was their hitherto excellent education system being undermined by francophonization due to poor quality francophone teachers posted to government schools, West Cameroonian children were also being priced out of local confessional schools by francophone students whose parents could afford to pay school fees for several years in advance with money looted from the public treasury.

Yang should know that no other part of the country places as much of a premium on education as does the North West. This is a region with no industry to speak of, where parents depend on a good education to equip their children with the tools necessary to get ahead in a competitive world. That is why such institutions as Sacred Heart College, Mankon, CPC Bali (Yang’s alma mater), St. Augustine’s in Kumbo, and JMBC in Nkambe among many others, remained at the top of the education charts for years. That was why poor farmers struggled mightily, scrimping and saving, to send their children south to such high-end institutions like St. Joseph’s College Sasse and Saker Baptist College in Victoria.

West Cameroon is a Francophone Jobs Opportunity

Ever since Biya unilaterally declared his La Republique in 1984, West Cameroon became an opportunity to reduce unemployment among francophones. West Cameroon suddenly became too important to be run by West Cameroonians. The entire area was suddenly turned into a francophone jobs project, with governors, SDOs, DOs, gendarmes, police and soldiers flooding in to run it with no knowledge of, nor the slightest interest in the learning the English language of the people they were going to rule over. And our people, especially the so-called elite, threw themselves into the effort of learning the French language to accommodate their new masters. French became a compulsory subject in secondary schools.
Cameroon - Philemon Yang’s North West Tour of Shame
More than three decades later, nothing much in this situation has changed, except for that there are a lot more francophones, right down into our villages. It is now an everyday occurrence to run into a squad of gendarmes in the remotest hamlet, barking at market women and motorcycle riders in French and demanding money for one supposed misdemeanor or another.

The current practice among the police and gendarmes, of arresting West Cameroonians for agitating for federalism or independence, and holding them until their families pay a ransom to get them released is not new. Their governors and SDOs have been doing it for years, using similar or slightly less crude tactics such as veiled threats and intimidation, and growing very rich in the process.

I doubt very much that Biya assigned a helicopter to ferry Yang around the rugged North West, since Biya does not want Yang to start entertaining any ambitions to higher office. So, if Yang and his usually extensive entourage are plying our shambolic, pot-holed tracks called roads in their luxurious SUVs, and if their minds are not completely closed to reality, they should have no difficulty understanding the outrage fueling the current unrest in West Cameroon. Maybe they do understand and it’s only the fear of losing the perks that Yaounde offers them that makes them close their eyes and ears and pretend to ignore the choking dust and the bumps from the potholes.

However the current situation shall end, either in an epic bloodbath that the regime has the capacity and the will to inflict on our people, or in some brokered agreement that sees our incarcerated leaders and activists released and brought back home, West Cameroon shall never return to the status quo ante, simply because:

• West Cameroonians shall never again tolerate the overbearing, incompetent francophone teachers, magistrates and state prosecutors who have infested and poisoned our system for so many years

• The beast of self-determination has been awoken in us and we shall not rest until stooges selected from our midst and called elite are no longer lording it over us. That beast shall not go back to sleep until we can have our own elected local governments, from the regional to the village level; governments that are directly accountable to us, and whom we can also fire at any time for poor performance.

• We have finally realized that there is more that unites us as West Cameroonians than divides us and this rediscovery of our common ideals and purpose is a joy to behold. It a discovery that is terrifying to the Yaounde government and its Anglophone lackeys, who have tried mightily over the past half century to sell us the fiction of ‘national unity’ in an unending effort to rob us of our identity
We shall not dishonor the blood that has been shed and allow the torture of our Consortium leaders to have been in vain. We shall not go back to the way things were.
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