The Colbert Factor :
Anglophone conflict : Dividers, stop unifying us; unifiers, stop dividing us
The one-month-long sit-home call by separatists fighting to create an independant state for minority Anglophones in Cameroon (which they call Ambazonia), might have been averted at the last minute, but its negative effects are far-reaching as more people than one already relocated from the two English-speaking regions in the run-up to the announced lockdown. This other lockdown that was to begin on Tuesday August 2, 2022, was coming on the heels of yet another that went from July 25-27, ostensibly to discredit the visit of the French Head of State to Yaounde, Emmanuel Macron, on the invitation of Cameroon’s President, Paul Biya.
Coming barely a month to the beginning of the 2022/2023 academic year, the renewed archaic strategy of lockdowns is a reminder to many a parent who had since brought back their children to the regions after the long years of school boycott campaigns ; that the school calendar in the restive regions may afterall, not still be manageable, if we are still going to experience long periods of lockdown. Recall the announced lockdown was merely called off, not cancelled. Since 2016, (when schools in the two English-speaking regions were shutdown), and up to today, many more Anglophones (and unwillingly), have relocated to the French-speaking regions than obtained since independence and reunification in 1961.
When the Muteff community in Fundong Subdivision of Boyo Division, North West of Cameroon withdrew the children from Abuh CBC school as part of their independence strategy, it was just a matter of time for them to set up their own community school. It might have taken the withdrewn Muteff children a one-year stay back home, but that was just the time it took for the community to convince Fundong Catholic authorities to consider creating a Catholic school in Muteff, as an arm of the already established RCM Mboh. Even as such negotiations went on, and even as the independence struggle raged on, Muteff on their own ran a community school. This was to ensure no child whiled away to school in another adjacent community or dropped out permanently from school.
With my father, bobe Jude Thaddeus Fulai-Biyong, as Paymaster General of that Muteff community school initiative, villagers were obliged to comb neighborhood by neighborhood, rooftop by rooftop and household to household, to ensure no child was left at home when he/she was supposed to be in school.
Imagine what illiterate parents, who had never seen the four walls of a classroom in the 70s, could do. Ensuring no child was left behind. Now, contrast it with what obtains today; where well-literated (educated) individuals pride themselves in obstructing children from going to school, ostensibly as an independence struggle strategy. And since many parents in the two English-speaking regions are determined that the education of their children can no longer wait, they have no choice than to move them over to the francophone regions of the country.
Added to the over 50000 forced or voluntery IDPs who, because of either persistent lockdowns, kidnappings for ransom or rampant combatants’ brutality have taken up shelter in the other eighth francophone regions. Some settling permanently and, others falling in love and getting married to the francophones.
Dividers, don’t unify us:
Interestingly, and since 2016, those fighting to create an independent Ambazonian state by dividing up Cameroon, have rather been helping to unify the country by driving droves of bona fide native West Cameroonians to francophone regions. This, by what they have done or failed to do. It is estimated that an additional 5000 people left the North West Region alone last week, in an attempt to escape the harsh realities of the announced one-month lockdown. It is not known how many may finally return, but from jurisprudential evidence, over 25% never return to the region after temporal relocation.
They are forced to integrate into the francophone system that the conflict sort to distance Anglophones from, in the first place. As more and more Anglophone children go to school in the francophone regions, they pick up the very nauseating attitudes the conflict sort to address in the first place. Granted that many more have left the two English-speaking regions to the francophone regions or sort refuge in neighboring Nigeria because of the scorched-earth activities of the Cameroon military, yet separatist fighters and activists abroad have not fared better in helping to reverse the situation.
A better and winning strategy for Anglophone activists at home and abroad would be to copy the Muteff example of yore; and beginning next academic year, resolve to make sure no child in communities where they operate in stay at home. They could give real meaning to their ‘rooftop by rooftop, neighborhood by neighborhood and household by household’ strategy, by combing communities to make no child of school-going age stays back home rather than go to school. Why not take parents to task whose children have been relocated to other regions for schooling.
Unifiers, don’t divide us:
Although the visiting French President, (and before him, other visiting dignitories and well-meaning Cameroonians), had recommended renewed political dialogue addressing the root cause of the Anglophone problem; with Emmanuel Macron going an extra mile of recommending regionalism (which in other spheres bears the hallmarks of federalism or confederalism); authorities in Yaounde who are always ready to rehearse the oneness and indivisibility of Cameroon (as if there is a country on earth that wants to be one and divisible), are doing just the contrary.
They continue to insist on going ahead with the implementation of resolutions of the 2019 Major National Dialogue, MND, as evidenced by preparations at the level of the Prime Minister’s office to host activities marking the third anniversary of the event. They remain impervious to the genuine worries of well-meaning Anglophones that what has been written into the Special Status for the North West and South West Regions, is nothing to write home about.
Their actions, (in and out of season), continue to divide rather than unite Cameroon. Even though Yaounde authorities claim patriotism and in the process, decree that anybody questioning the articles of association binding Cameroonians together is unpatriotic, their deeds each day ontinue to push Cameroon down the path of Mogadishu with a saddening stopover in the Kigali of 1994.
Point is, supposedly unifiers (starting with President Paul Biya-their Editor-in-chief), are actively doing everything humanly possible to divide Cameroon and Cameroonians; while supposedly dividers (running the gamut of separatist fighters and activists abroad and home), are rather unifying Cameroon and Cameroonians. Both continue to take their same paths to achieving their objectives; in flagrant violation of the biblical wisdom contained in the story of the three wisemen from the East, who, on their way to visit Jesus immediately after his birth passed by to pay homage to the King; and although he admonished them to stop-by on their way back, and report to him how the new-born-king was faring, so he could also go and pay homage, their strategic security thinking informed them to take the opposite and more secure path, not the same old one.
Worth noting is the fact that this singular biblical wisdom of the three wisemen from the East, continue to inform all strategic security planning around the world. Don’t we notice it when President Paul Biya gets to the Grandstand in a different limousine and takes off in a different one? Or gets to visit a place by land and takes off by air?
When lengendary African musical icon, Miriam Makeba, alias Mama Africa, sang in one of her hit songs: ‘Unifiers, don’t divide us’, she might have been thinking of the situation in South Africa. Today, the song speaks to the situation in Cameroon since 2016, than to anything else.
So, unifiers, stop dividing us; and dividers, stop unifying us.
*Colbert Gwain is a public intellectual, digital rights advocate, author, radio host and content creator @TheColbertFactor
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