February 24, 2021
Republic of 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.
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.
By Bena Nnang Joseph Yvan