A SON OF THE SOIL

Yaoundé, 

February 24, 2021 

Republic of Cameroon. 

Dear Cameroon, 

A LETTER OF HOPE FOR BETTER DAYS 

I here perambulate this letter to you harbouring an amalgam of polar feelings; pride and  shame, joy and sorrow, admiration, yet some disappointment. Through your creative  literacy, poetic genius, unwearable culture, heritage and values, you, Motherland deserve  hail and praise. So beautiful and tender, rich and generous, yet, alas, so prone to internal  loath, humiliation and self-flagellation. Ever since October 2016, the North West and South  West regions experienced an upsurge of violence in a gangrene-like rampant conflict. Its  reverberations scorched to your deepest foundations, affecting all aspects of your life and  your son’s lives equally, questioning the main roots of your existence and threatening to  shred you apart. This letter I address to you is a prayer, not in the ecclesiastic frame but  rather as a hopeful wish to see the upgrowing generations free of conflicts plaguing these times. It therefore proposes first of all an analysis of the so-called “Anglophone crisis”  based on historical grounds, then proceeds to providing an ébauche of forward motion. A  concrete means to perceive light beyond the penumbra, consolidate the pages of history  our fathers signed with their blood. In no way do I claim to be irrefutably objective, still, as  a son and aspiring physician, my hope is to diagnose and contribute to curing you, Motherland, in the humblest way.

Cameroon, you once were merely a land of about 136 identifiable ethnic groups in  Republic of Cameroon (Paris, 1954) and about 65 similar groups in British Cameroon  (London H.M.S.O., 1951), beautiful and rich, a myriad of potential “spouse” desired your  favours. And so was your first colonial “wedding” sealed on the 14/07/1884 in the  Germano-Duala treaty. “Kamerun-stadt” was born, so did you become a protectorate and  all erudite sons of yours were Germanophones. Yet as the glaive of war severed the world,  so were you on the 04/03/1916 as the condominium came to an end. Shared across 4/5  of your being to the French and 1/5 to the British, slicing open a deep wound along the  picot line. Wounds heal with time, but scars do not, so is the painful lesson we still were  to learn then. Broken and divided, your new “masters” baptized you once more, a new  birth “Cameroun” and “Cameroon”. You still today can remember the fear of being  controlled by them, the humiliation of being trapped in a bird cage. Years passed by and  a Second World War came to be, your germanophilic feelings wavered by the III Reich,  the weltschmerz of past days shattered. You witnessed your once semi-god masters in  terror and fear, Fallen France, still you fought for its freedom. Afterwards, never would you  again be bowed, bent or broken by them. In chains but undoubtedly to me, it was then  you truly were freed. In the mist of your servitude, a song of hope was born –Song to be  your Anthem-, in the chains of colonialism, your sons signed one of the noblest pages of  your history with their own blood. 01/01/1960 and 01/10/1961 you finally were once more  FREE. Yet your unicity had taken a blow. Once one, now two under federalism, President  Ahmadou Ahidjo, however in 1972 after the Foumban conference altered the structure of  the union and created the “United Republic of Cameroon”. Again in the very term “united”,  the stigma of division could be read. President Paul Biya, as a remedy changed the name  to “The Republic of Cameroon”. This change misinterpreted by some Anglo-Saxon western elites caused resentment and a feeling of marginalization to arise –the new name  was ironically the former name of Eastern Cameroon-. As generations went by, the feeling  only amplified itself leading ineluctably to 2016 events. What was merely a legitimate  lawyer request mutated into a devastating civil war. Casting the light of history upon this  crisis, one question tickles every mind? How do brothers of the same womb, bound in  chains to different rulers, at first Germanophones, come to acknowledge themselves today  as “Francophone” and “Anglophone”, to the extent of attempting to tear apart the fabric  which their fathers weaved and glued in their sweat and blood? Turns out the “picot scar”  still runs in each and every Cameroonian heart, as if all were struck of Stockholm’s  syndrome. I am neither “Anglophone” nor “Francophone”, merely a Cameroonian, son of  this native soil and so are we all your sons.

Right from the philosophy of Thoreau to Martin Luther King Jr. passing through Mahatma  Ghandi, the world learned the effectiveness of non-violence resistance against injustice.  Far from Niebuhr’s point of view for whom “Pacifism is form of non-resistance to evil,  expressing naïve faith in the power of love”, I would like to adhere to Ghandi’s point of  view, especially in Power of Non-violence by Richard Gregg. Didn’t Gandhi resist to evil  with as much energy and vigour as the violent of this world? He preached and lived that  “True pacifism consists not in bowing down, far from all reality, to evil powers. Contrarily,  it is the courage to oppose the power of love to evil, bearing in mind the certitude that a  man better endure grief and suffer rather than perpetrate it.”. Love, it is necessary to  remind it, stems from three Greek words; “eros” for romantic love, “philia” for love one  bears to his kin and friends, and finally “agapè” for love towards all men as brothers. When  King or Gandhi preaches love for ones enemies, they of course, far from a romantic trail  speak of agapè love. That which binds all mankind. To the Christian I am, Jesus’ voice  screams through ages “Love your enemies”. When black race was humiliated, vilified and  demeaned in Southern USA in the 1960’s, King stood tall against the oppressor, not  seeking revenge but rather justice, not requesting White race humiliation, rather equity for  all men through a series of pacific acts, boycotts and marches. Never disrespecting law,  instead, showing the greatest respect for it by flooding the prisons with black men as they  were arrested. Refusing to bail, hoping through their suffering, they could atone for their  oppressors sins, and save them through salutary love. Gandhi in his fight against Indian  system of Casts and British overlords humiliated them through his frequent fasting and  jailings. When one feels oppressed, love is the best weapon, not only to show to all good  faith, but also as a way to redeem the warden of your pain. Satyagraha (satya = true,  agraha = firmness). 

Cameroon, you might then wonder in what practical way might all this be implemented ? I answer through education! Education to citizenship though Olympic values: Friendship,  Respect, Excellence, Joy in effort, Fair play, Sincerity, Heroic courage, Solidarity and  Beauty. All aforementioned values are promoted in Olympic motion. It would be wrong to  argue that Olympic Spirit is bound to occidental culture. In his paper titled “Olympic Spirit  and Values in Negro-African literature”, Dr F. MODZOM demonstrated the active presence  of these values in African tales and myths. “Not withdrawing in to some cocoon of cultural  isolationism”, he benchmarked negro-African literature and highlighted attitudes and  practices which preceded the encountering of western culture (Iso-olympism). Illustrating  a few of these values, we can see: 

Friendship encourages mutual understanding among individuals and groups, generates  self-esteem, peers esteem, sharing and empathy.

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Respect is giving someone or something consideration, in its Olympic sense, it includes respect for oneself, others, but beyond all respect for the rules and their enforcers. 

Excellence commands us always to give out the best though participation and  improvement beyond pre-existing limits.  

Joy in effort implies one should follow the goals he sets to himself in life, persevering,  flexibility, ductility, adaptability under all circumstances. 

Fair-play conforms one to ethics code through acknowledgement for general interest,  loyalty and integrity. 

At last, tripod equilibrium between body, mind and will under pillars of order; tidy  physical space and psychic order through constant search for harmony, intellectual and  moral upgrowth. 

It is easier to build strong children, than to repair broken men” Frederick Douglas. This  programme of education to Olympic values targets youth to teach them the whereabouts  of a better world, a playful world, a peace haven where each and every one can reach his  full potential. All through games, sport, olympism. Currently, a number of organizations  already endeavour to teach younger generations the meaning of Olympic spirit, its roots  embedded in our culture striving to create a Cameroon where our cultural diversity will  intertwine into holding hands as do the Olympic rings when merging into one another  despite respective colour. The active spread of these values to conflict areas shall  contribute a great deal in building a durable peaceful society in my opinion. 

Coming to the end of my letter, of my prayer to you, Cameroon. I can’t help but mention,  motherland, that you are an angel of beauty; severed wings, broken halo, still I know the  will to fight for you hasn’t desisted your sons eyes yet. Cameroon is strong by its  personality and its values. I know despite the scars of history and the cycle of hatred,  Olympic values found a fertile ground here. Now the rain weeps o’er your hall, but I believe  better days are to be. Yes now the reigns –primordial ethnic groups- weep o’er our halls,  but I know we’ll be our fathers pride someday. Need I recall that the African customs and  traditions call for the respect of established authorities and submission to society? We  your son’s will continue to strive for your better tomorrow. Land of promise, land of glories mother or motherland, both are to be cherished and loved.  

Warm regards, 

Your son,

By Bena Nnang Joseph Yvan

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