Thursday, August 18, 2011

Cameroon:The People’s New Challenges

By Tazoacha Asonganyi,Yaounde.

This article is dedicated to my friend Barrister Augustine Mbami for his unforgettable
friendship, and for calling on youths, 24 hours before his unfortunate demise on August 15,2011, to take over from tiring elders like himself and prosecute the deadlocked struggle for change in Cameroon, not because he knew he would die so soon, but because he wanted to live the advent of change…

Mbami serving his  50th anniversary drink on 15 Dec.2002
The last few years have been replete with the exploits of the people around the world. Those in ex-colonies like Cameroon, in spite of the distorted history of their countries taught them, have become fully aware that their “independence” was handed to people who did not ask for it; and that those of them that took this inheritance, governed their societies not for the benefit of their people, but in thankfulness to those who handed them the inheritance.

 And so after many years of pent up resentments and latent frustrations, the people started sticking up for themselves by the thousands or millions, from one public square after
another, asking to be handed back their inheritance. Most of the time, their known
“leaders”that had accompanied them in their frustrations and resentments were far, far behind them,hurrying frantically forward, as if to say that the new-style revolutions still needed their old-style, hesitant leadership! Invariably, these “leaders” always got elbowed away, in preference to new leadership equally elbowed forward from the ranks of writers, journalists,trade unionists, professors, entrepreneurs, civil servants, bayam-sellams; elbowed into more assertive positions of power by the tectonic movements caused by the rumblings of the swelling, sweating crowds determined to manage and govern their societies according to their own reasons, not those of other peoples.

Luckily for us, every political party that came to the scene in the ‘90s has always claimed that education of the masses – of the people – was their principal mission. We assume that the purpose of such education was to enable the people to think and act for themselves. In which case, the people are fully prepared to effect change, in spite of their “leaders” that have become less and less courageous, and more and more cautious. We expect the change to sweep away these “old” leaders who for over 20 years, have refused to learn about the peril of focusing on differences that divide the people, rather than commonalities and mutual  interests that band them together to dictate the pace of the society. The opposition forces that guided the people have refused to find a way of being together while being different,in order to address matters that require common actions with national impact – like organizing free and fair elections.

Time has caught up with the “old” leaders, and exposed their emptiness – their dissimilarity to what they said they were! Time has revealed them as people cowed into paralysis by years of “activism” and secret deals. Time and its new gadgets have taught the people about what their peers are doing elsewhere – about the good things happening in places near and far that could happen here too if their leaders were wiser and more inventive.

The people, in spite of years of “education,” may not know how to write platforms, or manage an economy, or govern society; but they know from the experience of their daily lives that the those who claim to have produced dozens and dozens of “platforms” and “programmes of government” in the past are not very good at management and governance either. They know that what the “leaders” are doing is not good enough, or at all, and needs to be changed.

Time has revealed to the people, the foundation on which their society rests and the subhuman fate that is theirs, and thrust many possible human choices at them. Now they know that in places near and far where all avenues are closed, these choices are made at the centre of the public square!

The corollary of an election that is not free and fair is not peace. Everybody seems to be talking about “peace” – in motions of support, in resolutions of opposition parties, in  press conferences! Everybody is becoming more devoted to "order" than to justice, thus preferring what Martin Luther King would call “negative peace” which is the absence of tension, to “positive peace” which is the presence of justice.

Every political party seems to be calling on their supporters to give up their efforts to ensure that their basic constitutional rights on elections are respected because such a quest would disturb “peace.” Everybody seems to be resigned to the belief that nothing can be done to ensure that elections are free and fair, since nothing has been done effectively in that direction since 1992. Everybody seems to have given up on the quest for justice, so it seems to now be left to some “reckless” youths to do what they did in 2008: vent their long suppressed frustrations by disturbing “negative peace” in order to have “positive peace”; vent their latent anger by laying the election case before the conscience of the national and international communities.

Democracy is no respecter of persons. In a democracy the people are the boss; you cross the line to meet them not because you like them or you want to be friendly with them, but because you know who you aspire to work for. That is how it has always been. Those who refuse peaceful change demanded by the people may end up facing violent change imposed by the people. Only then will they realize how much they had been eaten up by their own conceit; how much they had been consumed by their own petty arrogance.Then they will have only their eyes to weep and their hearts to bleed, like some of their peers far and near are doing now!

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