An Open Letter to Cameroon: Dear Cameroon, we need to talk!

Sona Jobarteh, Africa’s first female Kora virtuoso, who hails from the Gambia, categorically speaks about her unparalleled Kora musical instrument: “symbolically speaking, the Kora has the ability to facilitate communication between cultures.’’  This draws attention to the essence of communication, and why, at all, it needs to be facilitated. The answer is grafted in the last word of her avowal; Culture. The differences in our belief patterns beautifully depict our roots, our kin, heritage. But what is beauty, if it is not understood? And understanding in the vacancy of learning? Yet, what is learning in the awol of disposition?  Disposition to listen, to intermix. It is perhaps for this reason, that the crafters of our Nation’s hymnal deemed it fitting to name it, ‘The Rallying song.’ O Cameroon! Would you rally on the premise of your foundations, so we can talk! Bernard Nsoseka Fonlon, writer of the English lyrics of our canticle, together with his French speaking counterpart, Moise Nyatte Nko’o had foretold the dreams and aspirations of Cameroon and its people, in a somewhat prophetic melody. In recent times, we have been faced with rivalry, hate, abuse, bloodshed, enormous deaths. Our people have died. Our dreams have also feebly died with them. These are without doubt masking the real issues; the clash of our beliefs, the dichotomy of our ideas. It is true that we have toiled to fetch valuable solutions to the issues that plague us. But, have we been struggling to evict the shadow which chases us, without admitting to the object that begets it? Or without accepting that the shadow has taken advantage of the darkness we have passively allowed to dwell within?  May we confine our scope within these questions as we take a walk into the so far, in quest of the where next. I implore us to clean our lenses as we objectively seek timeless solutions. As French novelist, Marcel Proust would say, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

  • THROW BACK

Car consultants will agree without blinking, that the best way to check whether your wing mirror is rightly placed is if you are able to see the rear of the car when you are in the driver’s seat.  It will therefore be repugnant to attempt driving Cameroon into the future, without checking its rear: the so far.  Cameroon’s English speaking minority had murmured to the government for decades about their marginalization. However, in the dusk of 2016, the beans spilled with street protests. By 2017, it had matured in all aspects of the word and earned a suitable name – The Anglophone Crisis. The months following were marked with violence, chaos, killings, destruction of property, displacements, imprisonments, and in one word: terror. We invariably learned of a movement of Southern Cameroonians called Separatists, fighting for a split. Fast track to 2019, our government which had before blind-spotted the magnitude of the crisis, confessed to the reality of the struggle, and convened a so-called Major National dialogue to address our concerns

‘’Dialogue will take place within the context of the constitution’’ were the words of the Head of State at the announcement on September 10, 2019. The reactions were copious; supported by some parties, seen as one of the many ‘untrusted’ government arbitration schemes by others.  There were the objective ones, who submitted their proposals, and suggestions – call for a neutral moderator, release of separatist fighters for a more inclusive dialogue, and worthy of note, was Cardinal Christian Tumi’s statement, that the Ambazonian independence should not be ruled out from the on-set of the dialogue. The President’s absence and his delegation of the Prime Minister as chair of the dialogue did not come home without a critical eye from Cameroonians.  The five-day event however kicked off on September 30, Cameroonians anxiously observing nation-wide.

Eight committees were formed comprising Multiculturalism and Bilingualism, Educational system, Judicial System, Question of Refugees, Reconstruction, Disarmament, Diaspora and Decentralization. The creation of these committees in itself was a clear message that the government was ready to evade the very reason for the convening of this dialogue. No commission was set to examine secession or separation, or laser focused on the Anglophone crisis. On October 4, the resolutions read explained a special status for Anglophone regions, intensive rehabilitation of surrendered separatists, construction of an airport and seaport in Anglophone regions, the renaming of the country to ‘United Republic of Cameroon.’ 

Adding bewilderment to the already puzzled Cameroonian audience, the Head of state issued a decree, discontinuing court cases of 233 separatists. The aftermath of the dialogue saw futile missions to win popular support, and of course, intensified war and calamities in the two Anglophone regions. Bar. Akere Muna, who, together with Bar. Felix Agbor Balla had declared that the dialogue will be pointless if our form of state was not discussed, puts the essence of the dialogue in a most befitting way which I will implore. “The prescription had nothing to do with the illness.’’

  • LOOKING FORWARD

Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States, remarks, that ‘’if a problem cannot be solved, enlarge it.’’ I implore you to plunge with me into waters known to us from kindergarten. I believe the solutions to our problems were forged in the foundations of our hymnal, the emblems that give us identity. Let us microscopically zoom into these overly familiar waters, and enlarge every molecule till there is no further ability to stretch, hoping that Dwight Eisenhower’s tale proves true. 

Let us briefly dissect some lines of our Rallying Song:

  •  O Cameroon Thou Cradle of our fathers

Fact holds true that it is shameful for a father not to leave an inheritance for his children. However, the Fathers who saw to the forging of our landmark, indeed left us a rich inheritance. It will be eye opening when we recognize that this nation is an inheritance handed down for us to cater for, protect and safely hand down to the generations ahead of us. If we think that these generations are far away, leasing room to waste our resources, then, we probably need a rethink. These generations are already written in the eyes of the one-year-old clinging to its mother’s breasts when we walk down the streets, in the strength of a young mechanic lifting engines at a garage. It is said, that a society becomes great when old men plant trees whose shades they know they will never sit in. ‘Old men’  is of course, an allegory of any upright citizen. Let us guard our inheritance as duty.

  • Their tears and blood and sweat thy soil did water

Every nation is built on sacrifice.  Our predecessors only had the currencies of sweat and blood which they skillfully used to craft our nation. If we are wiser today, then we may understand that strategy may have changed, but the same underlying motivation must remain-Loyalty. Loyalty however comes with a choice. We are often as loyal as our options. The hopelessness which has shadowed the crisis leaves to some, many options, and others, only the hope of living to see another day. Our options are a deciding factor to what will change, and not. Can we choose Cameroon as an option even as a subtle wish?  if we choose this nation, then from our thought patterns to the words we accommodate, and our actions, we can be sure to change the narrative of our tale.

  • Dear Fatherland thy worth no tongue can tell!

We may be tempted to ask ourselves, why at all? Why sacrifice for a depreciating asset? In fact, our nostalgia can stain the lenses through which we see our nation, and cause us not to see a reason to fight for it anymore. This view of a depreciating nation only stands tall when we attribute the worth of a nation only to its material assets. Assets can be lost in a day as we have witnessed in recent times. The bright side is, it can also be built in a day. If we can wipe our lenses, and perceive that the treasures we look for are hidden in the grounds on which we stand. Let every man who has an iota of hope for this nation, choose his grounds. The worth of a nation is in its people.

  • Thy Welfare we will win in toil and love and peace

 This line carries both our promise, and our problem. ‘Toil’ by Cambridge Dictionary means 1. Hard work, especially work which makes you physically tired. 2. To move in a particular direction slowly and with great effort. It goes without saying that a majority of Cameroonians are hard workers. The problem is, we may have been groping the whole time, not moving in any concise direction. It is said that only the focused rays of the sun can burn a bush. We owe it to this nation, not to toil blindly, however slow our effort may want to reward us.  To toil like the farmer who has learned that his harvest is dependent on the peace he has with the soil, and the loving relationship he has nurtured with it. We need to press forward with a well calculated end in mind. Land of Promise, Land of Glory, is an end we may want to anticipate.

  • WRAP

 The words of Marcel Proust still hold true. ‘’The real voyage of discovery, consist not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.’’ Our heels may have been bruised so far, but bruised heels still crush serpents’ heads. Let us revisit the dried-up wells of peace, loyalty and fraternity within, with a disposition to accommodate each other in the beauty of our diversity. If we face the light, the shadows will only have to lurk behind us, never to take advantage of an absent darkness. Cameroon! Put your future in good hands – Your own.

By Dioline Fiyangum Suh.

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