The Colbert Factor
Of 2 Cubes of Sugar, 2000 Deaths, Special Status, and 2020 Elections
This reflection is inspired by the fact that it had to take Biya’s outing during the Parish Peace Forum to the effect that but for the strong linguistic and cultural specificities of the Anglophones, the majority francophones would have long swallowed them up, for many to come to understanding Hon. Wirba’s disclosure that a francophone minister had challenged him to his face that Anglophones were just two cubes of sugar that could as well melt in the francophone ocean. From that Minister’s revelations to President Paul Biya’s repentant hint in France recently, one can only draw the conclusion that a sustained policy of assimilation was put in place by Yaounde and French authorities since the reunification of the two Cameroons.
It is the more informed by the fact that despite such abundant evidence to such a coordinated and sustained policy of assimilation of a people who had gained independence in 1961 by joining LA Repubique du Cameroon, it had to take over 2000 deaths, over half a million internally displaced and about that same number fleeing to neighboring Nigeria as refugees, for a special status for such a people to be contemplated and floated.
It is also inspired by the fact that for the Special Status that the current extra ordinary session of Parliament is called upon to debate and adopt to have any relevance, it must be seen not only to have given the Northwest and the South West Regions legislative powers and an entire non sovereign government, but must be accompanied by an urgent amendment of the present constitution to address the renaming of the country, the office of the president and it’s pre-1972 rotatory nature and limitation of mandates, and above all, the re-starring of the flag to reflect the specificity of the status. Failure to consider these key aspects that were already muted at the major national dialogue with a lot of insistence, would be like throwing water on a duke’s back.
Truth be told : Those who know the workings and mentality of this government must be honest enough to admit that coming up with what we have now as content of the much awaited Special Status must have been a feat. For one thing, and but for the lack of detail, the special status as proposed to the Northwest west and Southwest Regions have virtually all the elements of Special Statuses elsewhere. For another, it shows a regime that is seeing the last window of opportunity closing up on it, and this gives anglophones a privileged opportunity to push for a rewriting of the proposed special status so as to give it a complete and palatable content.
Specifically, the three areas of improvement for the special status to appeal to both the fighters in the bush and a majority of activists abroad would be in the domain of giving the Regional Assemblies full local legislative powers, the mobilize resources without having to follow the dictates of the Directorate of taxes, and intrusive Presidential texts of applications on issues of Common Law practice. For the rest, the text is already very suggestive of the fact that Governors, SDOs, and DOs who have been at the forefront of every social, economic and cultural aspects of life in the two Regions would be relegated to the background as their functions would be taken over by the Regional Executive Presidents and Mayors.
As I indicated earlier, and as other well meaning Cameroonians have also suggested, the content of the proposed special status lacks in the detail. And as we all know in the Anglo Saxon culture , the difference is always in the detail. In an earlier The Colbert Factor entitled: ‘Of Special Status and Self Determination’, I was categorical that since the granting of a special status to a people who have suffered structural injustices for decades was not just a primary but a remedial right, it behooved on government to deliver on the special status if they want Cameroon to continue to remain one and indivisible and that something was only one because it has not been divided, not that it cannot be divided. I also took pains to present researched evidence to the three existing forms of Special Statuses around the world; one being in the former of federated states as obtains with Quebec in Canada, the other being a semi- federated state as obtains with Catalina in Spain, and the last being a devolution of power as obtains with Scotland and Hong Kong.
The specificities of devolution of power in the case of a special status is the existence of a non-sovereign government in that region. What we mean here is that the Region under special status has everything and aspect of government that a sovereign state has but for the fact that it is not sovereign, and that foreign affairs, defense and finance are managed by the mainland sovereign government. If one thinks that’s not the model for the two English speaking Regions of Cameroon, formerly West Cameroon, then the one needs to explain why the 1996 constitution and even the proposed special status make reference to devolution of powers. When the protests in the Northwest and Southwest started, virtually all the activists were clamouring for a federation as a form of special status that would continue to guarantee the specificities of the two Regions. Government continuously looked elsewhere until most of the activists moved away from being federalists to being independentists. Today that the reality is steering at the Yaounde regime, they have no option than to go the full length of complete devolution of power as obtains in Scotland and Hong Kong, or to say the least, Catalina.
The one sticky point on the code under review is that although Regions in the Democratic Republic of Congo do not have the kind of specificities the Northwest and the South West has, their Regional Assemblies have legislative powers on local issues, but the special status for Cameroon does not offer the two Regions legislative powers of legislate on common law issues. Although the Offices of Commissioners proposed in the special status maybe the equivalent of Commissioners in local governments in Nigeria, they do not wield the same powers as there would be an overwhelming presence of Secretaries General appointed by Presidential decree.
My humble suggestion : Rather than rush to pass this proposed Special Status during the current extra ordinary session, government, if it is really interested in putting an end to the Anglophone conflict and dosing off the flames of independence, should allow enough time for reflection within the Anglophone community and it’s Diaspora on the right content of the special status. Now that Cameroonians already understand government’s idea of a special status, this month of December could be allowed for deep reflection on how to improve on the content proposed so as to make it palatable to even extreme voices. Explanatory teams could rather be sent to the field and abroad this December so that an extra ordinary session be rather called in January 2020 to adopt it, just in time for the 2020 twin elections to hold in calm and serenity.
The Muteff Boy’s Take