Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Cameroon - President Paul Biya’s Painful Choices After Yang’s Failed Tour

The Binary Choice facing Biya:You might not have heard that Francophone teachers in East Cameroon are threatening to go on strike on March 27. 

Sure, their working conditions are terrible; School buildings falling apart, outdated didactic materials, morally depraved and unruly students, extremely corrupt school administrators, and even more corrupt bureaucratic officials in their ministry. These are all excellent causes for teachers to walk off the job. 

But do you think any of these circumstances are mentioned in the reasons for the threatened strike? Not even one. The Francophone teachers are simply asking for more money in salaries and other allowances.

All of us are painfully aware that Anglophone teachers have been on strike since November, a large minority of them without pay. Their working conditions are not much better than those of their Francophone colleagues but for the fact that their students are better behaved. But their strike was motivated by moral and ethical principles, not father pay packets.

It’s not that Anglophone teachers would not welcome a few more francs in their pockets. But faced with the tide of francophonization that has been threatening to overwhelm and ultimately eradicate the Anglo-Saxon system of education, Anglophone teachers chose to act in a cause greater than their own personal well-being. They chose to defend our system of education whose comparative excellence was drawing an ever-increasing horde of undisciplined, badly brought up Francophone children fleeing the failing East Cameroonian model. Our teachers chose to protect our children from the contagion of the corrupt, ineffective Francophone model of education at the expense of their own financial interests, their freedom (their leaders locked up in Yaoundé) and even their lives.

I’ve stopped myself from feeling sorry for Francophone parents who are flooding even our village schools with their ungovernable children. If they had stood up to the corruption of their authorities and tried to emulate what was going on in West Cameroon, instead of mocking us as an inferior species of humans, they would not now be subjecting themselves to the humiliating spectacle of sending their children to schools in Fru Kangkang and other such exotic places in West Cameroon. They soiled themselves and thought they could get away from the stink by running to join us, succeeding only to make all of us smell bad.

Remember that the teachers joined an ongoing lawyers’ strike that was based on the same general principles: francophonization of our legal and judicial system, French-only legal texts, incompetent and highly corrupt Francophone magistrates and prosecutors flooding our courts and administering ‘justice’ in the language of our oppressors.

Both strikes remain in full force, schools are shuttered and the people of West Cameroon show their support for, and solidarity with the strikers by staying home every Monday, or however many days a week as directed by the strike leaders from their jail cells.

Biya’s Unappealing Choices: Paul Biya faces some stark choices, none of which is particularly appetizing. His latest attempt to disrupt the strikes by dispatching his prime minister Philemon Yang back to the North West region was a humiliating exercise for both men. Observers were scratching their heads, wondering what Biya and Yang thought they could accomplish, since Yang brought the same bag of tricks that the government had used over and over without any success. The same threats, the same attempts at bribery, the same cajoleries. It was like that definition of insanity, which says it is when you do the same thing over and over and expect different results.

That Yang will lose his job in the coming weeks is no longer a matter for debate. But Biya should know by now that West Cameroonians are no longer interested in the occasional games of ministerial musical chairs he plays with his corrupt cronies in Yaoundé. We’ve stopped caring about who is prime minister, minister or general. All we care about now is the right to govern ourselves and to decide, through free and fair elections, who governs us.

So Biya must make a painful choice in the next few weeks. He will either mount such a campaign of repression in West Cameroon that it would instantly be recognized as a bloodbath, because nothing short of that will return us to business as formally usual; he might have to destroy us to rule us!

But with the international community beginning to ride him hard, this might be difficult to pull off (he had a less than cordial meeting with the British high commissioner in Yaoundé last week). Also, the days when such atrocities could be carried out in secret are long gone. West Cameroon is crawling with the likes of Collins Nji, the 17-year-old Bamenda youngster who in January became the first African to win the global Google Code-in contest, whose prowess on all things digital will ensure that nothing Biya does will remain hidden or go unreported.

The other equally painful choice for Biya will be to climb down shamefully from his perch and negotiate directly with those Consortium leaders with whom he initially negotiated and, when they would not give in to his threats, had them locked up.
As for Biya’s view of Anglophones? This is where the octogenarian dictator would be likely to paraphrase Winston Churchill’s description of the Russia as “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” Never has been Biya or any other dictator been confronted with the phenomenon of a population destabilizing his regime by simply …. staying home. No demonstrators marching with placards, no rioters or looters presenting easy targets for the military or police to shoot and kill. Just the empty streets of Kumba and Kumbo, Mbengwi and Menji, Buea and Babungo. 
Cameroon - President Paul Biya’s Painful Choices After Yang’s Failed Tour  

Just peaceful silence. Biya be afraid, be very very afraid.
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