By Christopher Ambe
|Paul Biya-1st personality|
The election of 79 year-old Marcel Niat Njifenji, appointed Senator from the West Region, last June 12, as pioneer president of Cameroon’s Senate has been received with mixed feelings by Cameroonians. While some people are happy, some Anglophone have expressed disappointment at his election
Although Mr.Njifenji has the credentials to occupy such a sensitive post, the election of this Francophone as the second personality in the country, has left Anglophones especially their intellectuals worried and grumbling about the Anglophone-Francophone power equation in Cameroon
The Anglophone community had expected the post to be occupied by one of theirs to show some power balance between the two entities (Southern Cameroons and La Republique du Cameroun) that came together in October 1961 to form what is today known as the Republic of Cameroon The name of former Prime Minister and appointed Senator Peter Mafany Musonge, a respected Anglophone, had even been widely reported by the press as the most likely candidate for the post of Senate President.
|Niat Njifenji-2nd Personality|
|Cavaye Yeguie-3rd Personality|
But surprisingly, it was Senator Musonge, guided by party discipline and acting in his capacity as CPDM group leader in the Senate, who nominated Senator Njifenji as CPDM candidate for the presidency. Having no challenger in the 100-member house, Senator Njifenji was then voted by 86 CPDM and pro-Biya senators as President. Reports said many Anglophone power lobbyists and political observers were disappointedly taken aback by Njifenji’s choice.
In case of vacancy at the Presidency of the Republic, it is the Senate President who shall become interim President of the Republic until a new president is elected. At a time that Cameroon is preparing to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its so-called reunification in Buea, a marriage whose legality has been regularly and publicly questioned especially by Anglophone rights advocates and historians, political pundits monitoring Cameroon’s political power-sharing had thought that, an Anglophone would be “appointed” as Senate President to become second most influential personality-conscious that the sitting President of the Republic is a Francophone, PaulBiya .All hopes towards that line of thought were squashed.
“Everyone expected that the Senate president( who is the second personality of the country) would come from the English-speaking part of Cameroon, especially now that we are talking about celebrating 50 years of reunification of Southern Cameroons and La Republique du Cameroun,” a disappointed University of Buea history don, said on condition of anonymity in a discussion with The Recorder. “We all know that Cameroon is the union of two distinct entities, with two different linguistic and cultural backgrounds.” The University don asked rhetorically, “Where are Anglophone Elites? What are they doing?”
Although there is no written law which guarantees that power should alternate between Anglophones and Francophones on equal or near-equal basis, there seemed to have existed a gentleman agreement between former President Ahmadou Ahidjo and John Ngu Foncha, during the era of the Federal Republic of Cameroon, to the effect that, if one person from one entity should be President, one person too from the other entity should be the Vice-president.
That apparently justified why John Ngu Forcha became Vice-president under then President Ahidjo. And later on Solomon Tandeng Muna (an Anglophone) and Fonka Shang Lawrence (another Anglophone) became Speakers of the National Assembly, respectively. It was after the departure of Fonka Shang Lawrence as Speaker that the power structure arrangement changed till date, with Francophones occupying the first two most important positions i.e. the President of the Republic(first personality) and the Speaker of the National Assembly(second personality).
With the putting in place of the senate, its speaker now becomes the second personality and that of the National Assembly, the third personality. Both speakers are from one entity, better French Cameroun.
With Anglophones especially the SCNC protesting against what they call the marginalization of “Southern Cameroonians” and calling for the independence of Southern Cameroons, many had thought that President Biya was going to cause an Anglophone to be Senate president, before the celebration of Cameroon’s controversial reunification’s golden jubilee in a bid to douse Anglophone activism, which is seen more as a threat to national unity.
Mola Njoh Litumbe, 86, home-front coordinator of the several groups campaigning for the independence of Southern Cameroons, uses every available opportunity to tell anyone who bothers to listen that, there is no evidence before the United Nations that Southern Cameroons and La Republique du Cameroon legalized their so-called reunion to form one nation; hence, he maintains, both entities are free to part ways.
Before the election of the Bureau of the Senate, political party leader and outspoken MP, Hon Ayah Paul Abine reacting to unconfirmed reports that an Anglophone would be become President of Senate, said even if that became true, such would not solve the Anglophone problem of marginalization. “I don’t see any effect of such an appointment on the Anglophone cause”, he said in an interview with The Recorder.
In an article titled “Lost in the Wilderness” by Hon Ayah Paul Abine( also published in this site as a separate article),he decries the gross marginalization of Anglophones in appointment and power-sharing. Hear him: “To begin with state protocol as a glaring example, the first three personalities, namely, the President of the Republic, the President of the Senate, the President of the National Assembly are all of the “Republic of Cameroun” by origin. The poor first from “West Cameroon” – the Prime Minister – comes in the fourth. Even then, there is the powerful secretary general from the other side of the divide that lords it over him. “The second arm of government, the legislature, has two chambers: the Senate and the National Assembly. In the Senate, the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker come from the “Republic”. So too are the Secretary- General and his deputy on the clerical side. The situation is much more telling in the National Assembly where the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker, and the first Acting Speaker precede the first person of “West Cameroon” origin, who comes in the fourth position. As in the Senate, the Secretary General and his Deputy here are also from the ‘Republic’.”
Many Anglophones are of the view that, national unity and integration would be better strengthened if President Biya- in sharing state power- considers, more often, the two -entity factor, which is very vital in the political history of Cameroon.
Anglophones have a pouplation of over five million ,out of Cameroon's total population of about 20 million
NB:First published in The Recorder Newspaper ,Cameroon,of July 1,2013,as lead story.