Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Lost In the Wilderness


You  may feel bored with the statement that British Southern Cameroons voted in a plebiscite in 1961 to attain independence “by joining” the “Republic of Cameroun”. 
But history is notorious for its repetitiveness and immutability. Even where one attempts to distort history, the act becomes part of history, with history remaining immutable. No apology then do I owe anyone for the recitation! I should directly proceed to say that the consequence of the said vote was the clash of two European cultures.

An early and prominent offspring of the clash and the de facto cohabitation was the Federal Bilingual Grammar School, Man O’War Bay (now in Buea). From its creation and, (methinks), up to Ahidjo’s exit from power, the institution admitted per anum thirty-five students from “East Cameroun” and an identical number from “West Cameroon”. As if in obedient compliance with the dictum of English judge that “equality is equity”! Even as Ahidjo attempted in 1972 to depart from this recognition of two states of the same status by declaring French constitutionally authentic, the current constitution provides in Section 1(3), inter alia, that “The official languages of the Republic of Cameroon shall be English and French, both languages having the same status”. It was also a constitutional matter prior to 1972 that, where a person from the one state was the president, some person from the other state must be the vice president, and vice versa. That state of duality was symbolized even after the 1972 “constitutional surgical amputation” with the maintenance of two stars on the flag.

Soon after Ahidjo’s exit came another constitutional surgical amputation in 1984, with the removal of one of the two stars; and the reversal of the name of the couple-to-be-in-law from the “United Republic of Cameroon” to the ante-plebiscite name of the “Republic of Cameroun”, purporting thereby to confer constitutional recognition on a bastard not even begotten through constitutional rape. The last amputation was in 1990 when, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the independence of the “Republic of Cameroun”, not only was “West Cameroon” excluded from the festivities, but a map of the old/new“Republic of Cameroun” was produced, excluding the territory of “West Cameroon” as evidenced on a postage stamp.

Citizens of “British Southern Cameroons” there were who timidly took objection to those constitutional violations, arguing that they and their peers it was who elected to join the “Republic of Cameroun” of their own volition. A few were audacious enough to point out that they were not a conquered people; and that even if any union there had been the repeated rape of the “constitution” amounted to the termination of cohabitation. A fewer radicals opted for outright self-determination behind a veil with the ineffectual maxim “the force of argument, and not the argument of force”. The “conqueror” by conduct has simply ignored them even in the face of their all-important judicial recognition as “a people” by the African Commission on Human and the People’s Rights at Banjul.

As if with intent to add salt to injury, aside from the repeated castrations of the constitution, citizens from the “dependency” have been excluded from acceding to some key ministerial positions. Since the de facto cohabitation, for instance, none of them has held the position of the Minister of Finance, Education, Armed Forces, of the Interior…In the face of such callous mistreatment, equality in status has become a mere illusion in spite of some hollow justification that hinges on wanton intellectual vandalism.

More pragmatically, the enviable unique African example of fusing two contrasting alien cultures, building up to probable beneficial linguistic dexterity, met its early demise before the world had had time to learn something new from the dark continent in perpetual distress. “West Cameroon” was thus reduced to the status of a “conquered territory” with its citizenry reduced to beggars wandering in the wilderness! The situation has now degenerated to irretrievable despondency liable to harden hearts. But how can it be depicted otherwise?

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”.

As for the Judiciary – the third arm of government – the first judge of “West Cameroon” origin may not be among the first ten judges by order of seniority. Promotions and appointments are designed to cater for such disparities to the detriment of beggars!

Nor is there any difference even at the much lower levels. The Ministry of Education, for instance, has been split into some five different ministries. Not a single person of “West Cameroon” extraction has been judged capable enough to be appointed even as a junior minister. Yet our bi-cultural de facto cohabitation ipso facto brought together two systems of education…
Even slaves! Are thy not entitled to maintain their natural complexion?
Na God go answer that your nonsense question, my mbrara!

*Ayah Paul Abine,is a career magistrate of exceptional class,an outspoken MP and Secretary-General of People's Action Party(PAP)
(First published in The Recorder Newspaper,Cameroon ,of July 1,2013)

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