ByTazoacha Asonganyi in Yaounde
These last weeks, we have been inundated with information in national and international news outlets about the sealing of the premises that host Foundation Radio Bamenda, by order of the Mezam SDO Nguele Nguele Felix. This was said to be due to the airing during its “Good Morning Bamenda Show,” of an interview with two guests said to be of the Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC). Nguele Nguele obviously derived the power to carry out such brazen action from Law N° 90/054 of December 19, 1990 on the maintenance of law and order. The law in its application is not different from the 1962 repressive ordinance which the “freedom law” is said to have replaced. The action is directed at the SCNC: to make it impossible for the group to express their views, since this will frighten news media from opening their news outlets to those who profess to be linked to the SCNC in one way or the other.
Law N° 90/054 of December 19, 1990 gives wide-ranging powers to administrative authorities to requisition people and goods, without specifying the category of persons and goods to be requisitioned. Thus, since 1990, the administrative authorities have used the powers to prohibit freedom of movement, and deprive citizens of their right of ownership of property; and to arrest and detain citizens for exercising their liberties and freedoms, categorizing citizens as bandits and vandals - terms whose definitions are not self-evident in the law.
What the CPDM regime has presented to the nation as “Vision 2035” claims that the main challenge facing Cameroon is “to consolidate democracy and enhance national unity” and to bring “together the various components of society…” We are also told that “Cameroon is built out of many sociological groups (which) if poorly controlled, can lead to the country’s disintegration…”
Thus, regime claims that one of the uncertainties about its “vision” is the “emergence and development of centrifugal forces”; and one of the “threats, risks, and obstacles” is the “management of the dual Anglophone-francophone heritage.” They also say that fighting against the centrifugal forces will require “discouraging and eradicating primary loyalties from various origins… that are clearly contrary to the law and cohabitation…” and “constantly having an eye on groupings likely to ignite tensions and cast doubt on national unity.”
The “vision” further claims that “Over the years, Cameroonians skillfully succeeded in ensuring original cohabitation between the English-speaking and French-speaking systems…(but) the country is still fragile as evidenced by some events that occurred in the past like…..the violent representation of remote identities as well as outbreak of tensed or even irredentist conflicts...
And so the vision has as one of its ambitions to create “… a united and indivisible nation enjoying peace and security…” rooted in “the willingness of living together and overcoming together all adversities…”
We are also to in the “vision” that “…an effective democracy implies: (i) promotion of the rule of law; (ii) respect of human rights; (iii) accessible justice; (iv) fight against impunity and corruption. The rule of law is the essence of a credible and equitable judicial system that is independent and transparent, competent and accessible….” And so on!
There is a Chinese saying that a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step; even the longest and most difficult ventures have a starting point. We are being told by a regime that has been around for over 50 years that this time around, management of the life of the nation will be based on laws that derive from the powers and responsibilities delegated to the three branches of government – legislative, executive, and judicial – provided by the constitution imposed on the country by the regime since the 1960s. The constitution has since provided and still provides that the legislative branch originates/adopts legislation that becomes laws; the executive branch administers the laws with a president (head of the executive branch) who can issue decrees having limited legislative powers; and the judicial branch interprets the laws. This division of powers and responsibilities ensures a system of checks and balances.
While our age-old regime promises to adhere to these constitutional provisions, it turns around and seals business places without a court order, deriving powers from anti-constitutional laws that give judicial powers to partisan and half-educated administrators! The action of Nguele Nguele and his kind can only send a chill of apprehension to the international community expected by “Vision 2035” to bring foreign direct investment (FDI) to contribute to the making of the much toted “emerging country.”
Of course, we are told that fighting against centrifugal forces will require “discouraging and eradicating primary loyalties from various origins… that are clearly contrary to the law and cohabitation…” and keeping “…an eye on groupings likely to ignite tensions and cast doubt on national unity.” But this must be based on the rule of law, not on the whims and caprices of a self-interested executive branch.
The famous “vision” tells us that it was developed by “(i) identification of issues and key factors, (ii) structural analysis of such issues and, (iii) development of general and contrasted alternative scenarios for the country’s potential future” to make Cameroon a strong, united, industrialized emerging country. We expected that at the end of such process that led to “vision 2035,” the regime would have identified causes and addressed them rather than fight results and effects of such causes. There have been many errors of commission and omission that have dented the October 1961unification adventure. Such errors should have been seriously examined and addressed rather than indulging in such brazen actions of closure of business places and arrest and detention to force Anglophones to reconcile with a state of affairs most of them refuse to reconcile with. No force in human history, no “vision” has ever succeeded in blunting the human yearning for justice, freedom, and liberty; it is neither “Vision 2035” nor actions related to it that will.
The regime knows that radio and television talk shows will always be used to advance the education of citizens; it knows that during such shows, panels of experts promote ideas by “discussing” them.
There are always points and counter-points, with both pro and con participants airing their support or opposition to highlight a subject the public needs to understand. Excuses like “the talk show Coordinator, as an informed and patriotic Cameroonian who through his fine journalistic prowess let his guests understand how unfounded, illegitimate and illegal the SCNC struggle was,” are uncalled for because they give the impression that if the contrary were the case, the thoughtless action of Nguele Nguele would have been understandable. The regime should not think that it has a monopoly of such talk shows.
In the society that “Vision 2035” claims to look forward to establishing, opposition parties, advocacy and pressure groups will use them too. Such democratic space should be regulated by the rule of law, not the whims and caprices of half-baked people the regime churns out from ENAM that have a very weak concept of justice, liberty, and freedom.