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.




FURTHER READING: Aborted Statehood and the Cameroons Reunification

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