By Tazoacha Asonganyi in Yaounde
It is not difficult to design a thought experiment, pondering what would happen if 1984 in Cameroon were today, not 30 years ago. Hindsight has a way of clarifying the past, and would make the result of such an experiment edifying.
Guérandi Mbara was a principal actor in a key event in 1984. If one were to go by the rumour about his capture and elimination, and the cold blooded, casual reaction of the Biya regime, it would be irrefutable proof that the regime seems to glorify its past, pride in its present, and look forward to an unchangeable future! This would be a tragic scenario for Cameroon, to say the least.
A classic Cameroonian understatement is, “not bad.” This is offered in response to casual social enquiries like, how are you, and many others. Yet, for a long time, we are aware that it is not good! Since the tragic events of 1984, there has been a deep feeling of a great divide in the country’s conscience, caused by the action of one national group that had just left the helm of the state, and the overreaction of another that had just ascended to the helm. There has always been an overwhelming feeling that for the good of the country’s future, we need forgiveness and reconciliation. And we all knew who and what to forgive, which made the task relatively easy. If Guérandi’s alleged capture and execution is true, it would confirm the saying that forgiveness is usually harder to summon than the desire to settle old scores.
Of course, society as a whole shares responsibility for the leadership, culture, and environment it has. How the policeman does his work, how the teacher performs in the classroom, what laws come from the elected legislator, how much the rule of law holds sway, and much more, all have influence over our lives and that of the future of our society. We may all have individual guilt, citizen guilt, moral guilt, or metaphysical guilt; in the end, national solidarity renders each of us co-responsible for all the wrongs and all the injustices in the country, especially for crimes which took place in our presence or of which we are aware. This is why the casual response of the regime to the “rumour” about Guérandi is abhorrent.
For sure, artists see the world differently. So too do journalists. So too do politicians. So too do many others. After all, even the Judeo-Christian Bible, and the Quaran are open to different interpretations, but most of the time, this leads to peaceful co-existence, even if we are today exposed to the banality of evil that individual human beings can come to represent. In spite of that, politics requires that we enter into negotiation with such evil men - and we do - for the sake of national solidarity, national security, and national prestige. Politics is the art of confronting difficult choices, and of reaching legitimate compromises; it is not charity or the expression of compassion, but the exhibition of solidarity.
Corruption has always been the oil that greases the wheels of longevity in power, laxity, impunity and all the evils that are daily wrought on us ordinary citizens. If the Guérandi script is correct, it worked perfectly against him. Guérandi may come to be a symbol of how the post cold war world can still be cruel and unforgiving. Like for Moumié that suffered virtually a similar fate abroad, it brings home forcefully to us the reminder that the fight for freedom can usually be a lonely one because freedom’s enemies are usually brutal and determined, while freedom’s friends are often unreliable. Luckily, freedom has always had the last word because it is the inextinguishable desire of liberty in the human heart.
Our Orwellian “advanced democracy,” and other very Cameroonian sound bites that make “democracy” and corruption coexist in perfect harmony in our society, can only serve power vanity; they cannot land any legacy.
At this stage of our history, we need acts that bind national wounds, not inflict more wounds on the national psyche.