UBSU – Cameroon’s Homegrown Boko Haram?
By Ernest L. Molua, PhD
If a terrorist is a radical who employs terror as a weapon, or an individual who uses violence, terror, and intimidation to achieve a result, then the University of Buea in the Southwest region of Cameroon is the bastion of terrorists, requiring the immediate intervention of the supreme counter-terrorism unit of the land to reign the excesses and orgy of violence and intimidation that disguises for student unionism.
Whilst student groups in different countries of the word have had a major role in broader political events, student activism have largely impacted environmental, economic, or social change, and student activism has often focused on making changes in schools, such as increasing student influence over curriculum or improving educational funding. Unfortunately, student activism at the University of Buea has been for self-aggrandizement, and the urge has been to intimidate, blackmail and terrorize campus life to achieve diabolic ends. The strategies and methods have been sheer terrorism.
Holding of a Vice-Chancellor hostage for five hours, destroying public and private property, looting and ransacking university property, inflicting bodily harm on lecturers and students are hallmarks of terrorism perpetuated by identifiable members of the University of Buea Student Union (UBSU). The term "terrorism" comes from French terrorisme, from Latin: 'terror', "great fear", "dread", related to the Latin verb terrere, "to frighten". The terror cimbricus was a panic and state of emergency in Rome in response to the approach of warriors of the Cimbri tribe in 105BC. Maximilien Robespierre, a leader in the French revolution proclaimed in 1794 that "Terror is nothing other than justice, prompt, severe, inflexible." The Committee of Public Safety agents that enforced the policies of "The Terror" were referred to as "Terrorists". The word "terrorism" was first recorded in English-language dictionaries in 1798 as meaning "systematic use of terror as a policy". The history of terrorism goes back to Sicarii Zealots — Jewish extremist group active in Iudaea Province at the beginning of the 1st century AD.
Various academic definitions of terrorism conclude that terrorism is a fundamental motive to make societal changes; the use of violence or illegal force; and attacks on civilian targets by "nonstate"/"Subnational actors". Three components of terrorism could are identified: (a) acts or threats of violence; (b) the communication of fear to an audience, and; (c) political, economic, or religious aims by the perpetrator(s).” These are the traits of Boko Haram.
The aims of UBSU have largely been economic and self-aggrandizement of few men and women with genetic disposition for anarchy and orgy for violence, grafted on terrorist methods similar to the Sahelian Boko Haram.
Bruce Hoffman, the Director of the Center for Security Studies at Georgetown University's Walsh School of Foreign Service, USA and a specialist in the study of terrorism and counter-insurgency, distinguishes in his 2006 treatise (Inside terrorism, 2ed., Columbia University Press, p. 41.), terrorists from other types of criminals and terrorism from other forms of crime, by appreciating that terrorism is violent - or, equally important, threatens violence; designed to have far-reaching psychological repercussions beyond the immediate victim or target; and conducted by an organization with an identifiable chain of command or conspiratorial cell structure (whose members wear no uniform or identifying insignia).
UBSU, an unregistered non-licensed assemblage of students, ex-students and non-students, has over the last seven years received direct and indirect support from well-known members of the teaching and administrative staff of the university. In fact, terrorists usually receive funding and support from diverse sources, by persons of similar ideological intercourse. This band of pornographic supporters includes individuals or groups, small and secretive cells, highly motivated to serve a diabolic cause.
This cabal benefits from the free flow of information and efficient telecommunications given that they are integral part of the administration and teaching corps, but with pretentious disposition to feign innocence. A 2007 study by economist Alan B. Krueger found that terrorists are more likely to have at least a high-school education, and over 60% had gone beyond high school. And to avoid detection, a terrorist will look, dress, and behave normally until executing the assigned mission. Any one providing covert or overt support to terrorists is also a terrorist, and must be dealt with. The counter terrorism unit in Cameroon’s ministries of internal security, defense, presidency of the republic and legal department must pounce on these individuals and bring the full force of the state to bear on these anarchists.
UBSU and its bed-partners of influencers are an abuse to student unionism. Universally the purpose of students' union or student government is to represent fellow students both within the institution and externally, including on local and national issues. Students' unions are also responsible for providing a variety of services to students. Depending on the organization's makeup, students can get involved in the union by becoming active in a committee, by attending councils and general meetings, or by becoming an elected officer. Some students' unions often serve as a training ground for aspiring politicians. The combination of the youthful enthusiasm of the various members, has been the nursery of future leadership.
The founders of UB styled the institution on “anglo-saxon traditions.’’ The United Kingdom has a long history of student unionism at a local and national level. The oldest students' union in Britain is St Andrews University, founded in 1864. In the UK, in addition to lobbying, campaigning, debating and carrying out other representative activities, most students' unions facilitate "student activities" (societies, volunteering opportunities, and sport) peer led support (through advice centres, helplines, job shops and more), and social venues to bring their members together. Most unions receive some funding through an annual allocation, also called the block grant, from their educational institution. Many unions supplement this income from commercial sales from their venues, shops, and marketing revenue. But this must be regulated and must conform to the laws of the land, not some jungle assertions. In the UK, the Law relating to students' unions is enshrined in the Education Act of 1994 which requires that Unions have a written constitution and that elections to major union offices are held by a secret ballot of the membership. The Act states that if a petition signed by a minimum number of students (5%) is lodged then a referendum must be held by the entire student body on whether or not to pursue further actions such as a sit-down strike.
Radicalism or the abuse of student unionism in UB is not unrelated to the culture of poverty and fear of poverty. UB being a state institution and subsidized by the state of Cameroon, with enticing emoluments for senior office-holders to the envy of others, the battle for the soul of the university is perennially fierce as the jealous-competing interests have employed students as puns for proxy-wars and battles to gain access to the treasury and purse of the university. One would expect that life in the university milieu would be an intercourse of scholarship and competing intellectual dogmas. This is the not the case in UB and low productivity has been the harvest of a crooked scorched-earth policy of men of menopausal scholarship wishing to ascend to power and authority, even if the community is starved of their inability to be erudite and professorial.
Dr. Dorothy L. Njeuma, the pioneer Vice-Chancellor of the University knew this too well, and incessantly bellowed on the machinations that were tearing the fabric of the university. The thoughtless doomsters relying on bogus claims sent their Jacobins to the streets, notwithstanding, had their way albeit with blood on their hands following the loss of lives of students. Since then, their modus operandi has been the deliberate creation and exploitation of fear through violence or the threat of violence, in the pursuit of their agenda. Their strategy is to unleash far-reaching psychological effects beyond the immediate victim(s) or object of their attack. The goal is to instill fear within the University, and thereby intimidate, a wider `target audience' in Buea subdivision that might include a rival ethnic group or region. And media outlets too are recruited. Through the publicity generated by their violence, these hell-hounds seek to obtain the leverage, influence and power they otherwise lack to effect any change.
However, as Sergey Zagraevsky notes in his ‘365 reflections on a human and humanity’, terrorism is "the dirtiest weapon of the weak against the strong". The current state of affairs is a turning point which must be exploited, and the sledge-harmer in the hands of the incumbent Vice-Chancellor Professor Nalova Lyonga is a tool to bury once-and-for-all this tetrahedron menace that strangulates scholarship and reputation of Cameroon’s most prestigious university.
First published in The Recorder Newspaper,Cameroon,of February 15,2013