Archive | February, 2014

GOLDEN JUBILEE OF THE CAMEROONS: AN UNCOMPROMISING CRITIQUE

20 Feb

By Nwanatifu Nwaco

In Cameroon, the political history of its becoming is being penned by politicians, the effect being that historical facts and processes are distorted, and re-enacted to suit obnoxious ethnic power and linguistic narratives. My agitation here is on the cultural symbolism of this golden jubilee celebration, which however became another ”development project” on which political elites and laypeople sneaked upon for cheap political punches and milking. 

In the last three years, from the slopes of the tallest mountain in west-central Africa-Mount Fako, Buea the one time capital of German colonial ‘Kamerun’, the dejure and defacto capital of English speaking Cameroon before and after reunification with French speaking Cameroon; Buea (which by design or accident is the only provincial or regional capital among others which is run by a rural council) has undergone infrastructure renewal, not aimed at the inhabitants but rather towards a ”befitting” welcome and stay for the president and his minions.

Not just the choice of date is appalling, According to a rugged but very correct mathematical calculation this should be a 53rd Anniversary celebration not 50th! This just goes to say how much emphasis has been placed more on the material aspect of the anniversary than on the republican aspects. Within this backdrop, it is difficult to exactly point with precision how the ” New Reunification Monument” (the old and more message bearing one is in Yaounde) built at the cost of several millions in Buea for this event transmits the message of the much sung ”Unity and National Integration”.

A patriotic or sarcastic and conspirator look at the monument in the mind of a historically conscious and politically awakened Cameroonian will incite the following questions:

– Could someone ask the authorities in Yaounde why they didn’t celebrate this anniversary on politically historic and credible dates such as on 11th February or 1st October but instead chose to celebrate it afterwards at a date ”decreed” by the president? The answer to this question is that these dates have been misconstrued and given different meanings; 11 February which was the day the UN Trusteeship territory of Southern Cameroon under British administration voted in a 1961 plebiscite to ”achieve their independence by joining” the already independent Republic of ‘Cameroun’, for which they voted ‘Yes’ thereby initiating the process for reunification which became an official reality for many on 1st October 1961, ushering in a federal republic with a bilingual nature.

– Why are there 10 unequal in height pillars? If we’re talking reunification, then it should be just two equal in height pillars. The architectural design of this monument reveals the massive ignorance and denial of history that concerns Anglophone Cameroon within the reasoning of Francophone Cameroun. At the time of unification, there was nothing like 10 regions depicting those 10 pillars in Buea. Within the interpretation of Anglophone marginalization in Cameroon today, let us ask the significance of the two shortest pillars! Don’t they epitomize what is already obtaining for the two English speaking regions vis-a-vis the others? The way I see it, it’s a ‘Bar-Chart’ of the regions. Now that’s some food for thought.

– The disc at the centre of the monument with inscriptions bears evidence to the lack of consultation for opinion and participation of English speaking Cameroonians as is typical with most official texts, sign posts and notice boards, where French comes first and English second with the French text being the authentic. It reads thus ”50th Anniversaries Independence and Reunification of Cameroon”. Such horrible grammar on a national monumentonly It you wonder if the Advance School for Translators and Interpreters or the Department of English Language that are just a stone throw away from the monument at the University of Buea have been closed down. Well that is it for official bilingualism and no one seems ashamed of it.

– Why did they hire artists to design meaningless for the beauty of eyes only caricatures on the wall encircling the monument? Cameroon has got a long list of nation builders of the reunification and independence struggle from both sides of the national divide whose names and portraits could have adorned this mural  but since artists and historians in Cameroon seem not to meddle, there we are, stuck with a great design lacking the immortality of our political history. Where they so out of ideas that they couldn’t even paint a picture of the very significant 1961 Foumban Constitutional Conference just like the painting of Christ’s Last Supper adorns the Vatican’s chapel. Why couldn’t they launch a national competition to review artistic suggestions for it as they did with the logo of the monument?

-Of all patriotic messages that could be conceived by Cameroonian political philosophers, the reunification message unveiled at the monument is an echo of threats to Southern Cameroon emancipation feelings and self determination movements, which has been pronounced severally by Francophone and Anglophone government bigwigs, transcribed and inscribed thus: ”Cameroon is United One and Indivisible”. This pre-served assertion means there can be no dialogue with those questioning the state of the union. This serves as a constant warning and reminder to the people of the town where Justice Ebong and other Southern Cameroon independence activists had declared independence  for the territory in 1999 and hoisted up flags. 

In addition to President Biya tuning and singing the national anthem for the first time audible on national television, for a moment there was a sense of national unity as one could hear people singing along the same anthem in their preferred language, English and French at the same time. The central government definitely planned well celebrate this anniversary without any insecurity challenges, it seems they might have succeeded perfectly well at it to evade the calls to dialogue with aggrieved Anglophone Cameroon interest groups about  reviewing and addressing the challenges that fraught the reunification project, let’s hope for posterity’s sake that the evaded nemesis doesn’t catch up with them. Cameroon is mature enough to move this looming debate on the Southern Cameroon question away from academic space unto the stage of national politics.

NEW REUNIFICATION MONUMENT IN BUEA

NEW REUNIFICATION MONUMENT IN BUEA

 

FURTHER READING: Aborted Statehood and the Cameroons Reunification

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Ethnic Positioning and Power Sharing in Kamerun 2.0

9 Feb

By Nwanatifu Nwaco


If the rumours are true, Cameroonians from all the geo-ethnic corners of the national triangle need to engage in some serious political discussion about it. It alleged that president Paul Biya will be pushing through the legislature a government bill at the next parliamentary session for yet another constitutional modification which impacts on the republican character of the state, only that this time it is not to cancel term limits but is aimed at restoring the post of the ‘Vice-President’ which had ceased to exist after 1972 not as a transitional, but in full right, authority and privilege as the legitimate constitutional successor.

REVIEW: An amendment in 1979 established the prime minister as the presidential successor, by which Paul Biya succeeded Ahmadou Ahidjo as the 2nd president of Cameroon in 1982 after the latter’s resignation. In 1984, Paul Biya pushed through a constitutional amendment which abolished the post of the prime minister, making the speaker of the National Assembly as the presidential successor or any executive member chosen under emergency. The post of prime minister was however restored though without possibility of it succeeding the president in 1992 and 1996. Cameroon revised its constitution again in 1996 to usher in a quasi-third republic. This time the senate president in descending constitutional order of hierarchy was to become the transitional presidential successor.

The only two vice-presidents in Cameroons history are John Ngu Foncha from 1961 – 1970 and Solomon Tandeng Muna 1970 – 1972, whom as it happened to be, were the prime ministers of the federated state of West Cameroon following reunification with what became the federated state of East Cameroun in 1961. The coming into existence of the 2nd republic in 1972, meant this initial power alternation agreement ceased with the president of the United Republic wielding all executive powers.

Faced with old age and a pathologically corrupt ethno-ego-centric bureaucracy, the challenge to find a political successor to Biya has been an enigmatic question that has eluded the brightest and dumbest brains of the grand flame party as well as the helter-skelter co-opted opposition collective. The dynamics of power relations and its partition forms the nucleus of the political culture of Cameroon, it is enshrined in the most referenced yet controversial ”regional balance and national integration” slogan. It is a hydra with its head popping out in every public and private service recruitment exams, nominations and appointments. The regionalism enshrined in the 1996 constitution provides a fertile niche on which it fester’s.

The balance of power in Cameroon anchors on ethnicity and official language expressions; the components lean on English for the ‘Anglophone’ and French for the ‘Francophone’. Add to these patronage, clientelism and many other manifestations of mediocrity. This is accounts in great measure for the inability of a united Cameroon front for affirmative and decisive political action against the regime in power or the institutional and political system as a whole.

Cameroon has on the basis of its policy of regional balance struck an unwritten power sharing deal between its various sub-national groups for the top leadership positions of its various constitutional institutions:

-The Centre-South-East Regions get the Presidency of the Republic.
(Ethnic groups here include the Ewondo/Beti-Bulu-Fang)

-The West Region gets the presidency of the Senate.
(Ethnic groups here include the Bamilike/Bamum)

-The Grand Northern Region gets the presidency of the National Assembly.
(Ethnic groups here include the Hausa/Fulani/Kanuri)

-The North-South Western Regions get the Prime Ministerial Office.
(The Anglophone nation: Coastal Bantus and Grassland Tikari ethnic groups)

-The Littoral Region gets the Presidency of the Supreme Court.
(Ethnic groups here include the Duala/Bassa/Bakossi)

**Other constitutional institutions like the Constitutional Council and the Economic and Social Council still have a ghostly character.**

Respectively:
-Presidency, Paul Biya from Mvomeka – South
– Senate, Niat Njifendji Marcel from Bangangte – West
-National Assemply, Cavaye Djibril from Tokombere – Far North
-Prime Minister, Philemon Yang from Oku-North West
-Supreme Court, Dipanda Mouelle from Dibombari – Littoral

The allocation isn’t constant of course! But is we have to follow the lines of the controversial yet official regional balance policy, there will always be a regional consideration and alternation as to the geo-ethnic origins of who heads any of these institutions. If the president is a southerner as the president of the senate, is interpreted by other groups as somehow unfair and a ploy towards power succession. Mediocrity or not, whether we like it or not,we’re too diverse and as such ethnic fracturing is part and parcel of our power sharing structure.

If customary practice as begun during the federal era or the logic of two nations in one state is  maintained, then the allegedly soon to be re-instituted post of Vice-President will have to go to an ‘Anglophone’ Cameroonian if the president is a ‘Francophone’. The problem with this theory however is that other power brokerages enter into play, notably from the ”Grand  North”, which in nationalism is par and parcel of French-speaking Cameroon, projects other forms of claims for the acquisition and exercise of state power. This region has a fairly homogeneous religious and linguistic character based on Islam and Hausa-Fulani hegemony. The fact that the first president of Cameroon came from this region instills in them the feeling that it is their birth right to hold power or see its return to them from the ‘Southerners’ to whom president Ahidjo had handed it to them on a platter of gold in 1982.

The contentions between the ”North-South” axis in French Cameroon go way back cliches before their unification with British Southern Cameroons. According to urban legend, Ahidjo the northerner became the second prime minister with the aid of the French colonial administration deposed Andre Marie Mbida  a southerner, who was the first prime minister of that part of Cameroon. As such the hand-over of power to Biya in 1982 seemed like a peace-offering from North to South. The seeming monopoly of power by the southerners does not sit well with the north. At the periphery of these two above are the loosely allied western highlanders and the coastal  people who criss-cross both Cameroons. Given the parity of numbers in both the senate and the national assembly representing this national  regional power factions and political parties, the odds and even are aligned to the will and favour of Biya.  The question now is who is this mysterious special one that has been groomed to incarnate in physical form, the abstraction of the state? Because all the potential favourites have either been jailed or have lost popular appeal makes it all the more very difficult to shortlist the next presidential candidate.

…”Affaire à suivre”