Barrister Sam Ekontang Elad, who was the famous Chairman of All-Anglophone Conferences (AAC I & II) in the early 1990’s, has commended Christian Cardinal Tumi et al, for convening an Anglophone General Conference(AGC),to seek genuine solutions to the deadly Anglophone Crisis, which erupted in October 2016.
Elad, who says “Government is already fighting against Anglophones coming together,” doubts if the Biya Administration will take the idea of the conference kindly.
In an Exclusive Interview, last Friday July 27, with The Horizon’s Contributing Editor, Christopher Ambe, Elad who was also the pioneer Chairman of the Southern Cameroons National Council(SCNC),now an outlawed organization, regrets that an intellectual as Dr.Simon Munzu who has been charged with the organization of the conference, is labeled a traitor by some Anglophone activists.
Below are excerpts:
Below are excerpts:
The Horizon: Senior Barrister, you were the chairman of the All-Anglophone Conferences (AAC1 & ACC2) that held in 1993 and 1994 respectively. Now, a kind of AAC3, baptized Anglophone General Conference (AGC) has been convened by Cardinal Tumi and other clergymen for August .What is your reaction to this, considering that in an interview you granted me in November 2017,you emphasized the need for another such conference?
Barrister Elad :Thank you Mr. Ambe.I must say, it is a great initiative to call for this conference. So much has happened between the last AAC 2 in Bamenda and now, and so much has not been done. There is the need to sit down and examine what has happened since we presented our resolutions to the Government, what has been achieved and what further can be done to solve what still remain the problems of Anglophones.
So, if I get you well you very much welcome the idea of the conference?
Oh, yes. I welcome it; but the times have changed. Convening the conference now would be like convening a conference at a time of war.
I feel the authorities in Yaoundé would be very suspicious of such a gathering of Anglophones, because it has been declared that the Yaounde Regime is at war with Anglophones. And a gathering like that may raise a lot of suspicion; but I think they will be there. It is a good thing I support it.
But I have fears that the Regime will oppose it until members for the conference are prepared to do what we did in Bamenda in the 90’s -to go ahead with the conference whether the authorities give the permission to hold it or not-irrespective of what happens.
But as a sign of good faith and honesty, the conveners of the coming AGC have invited both the governors of the Northwest and Southwest Regions to attend the conference or be represented. Is there anything to hide?
It is a good initiative to invite them. But you see the Yaoundé Establishment do not at times reason the way you and I do. The suspicion has been there for a very long time that Anglophones cannot be trusted. The presence of the military and the governors may not change the perception of the authorities in Yaoundé.
Have you called Cardinal Tumi to salute this initiative of a conference since you like the idea?
The initiative taken by Cardinal Tumi, the PCC, and the Imams of Buea and Bamenda is a wonderful one and I applaud them whole heartedly. Calling any of the initiators is really uncalled for at this time. The most important thing is that they are guided by God so that their wisdom can transpire.
Barrister, what would be your proposals for discussion during the coming conference, conscious of the fact that, the 1993 Buea Declaration advocating a federal character of government was largely ignored by the authorities in Yaounde ,and you have maintained that the Buea Declaration is still very relevant in resolving the Anglophone crisis?
That is a good question. The problem one can ask oneself is this: since those conferences and their resolutions were handed to Government, haven’t those in charge taken notice of them? Has Government not ignored our Prayers? My feeling is that Government has ignored them. If we are calling such a conference it looks to me like sounding the bell for Anglophones to begin to ask themselves and prepare themselves for what used to be called the Zero option. You must have a plan B if you are asking the Regime for something and you are ignored; you must have a plan B … to fortify your means of resistance. It is a good conference, but I doubt if they can achieve much by way of discussions.
You said in our previous interview that a third conference, which has now been convened, should be a moment to tell the decades-old Biya regime that “If you don’t act now, then the zero option would fit in”
Don’t you think that the mounting pressure on President Biya to resolve the Anglophone crisis may be, somehow, confusing him?
[Laughs]. I like the sympathy you have extended to the leadership. In my opinion, I don’t think they have reason to be confused. This problem has been shining on them for as long as we have lived in this Cameroon.
The only answer to the problem is, change the parameters by which the state is governed. Don’t take a line of non-negotiability of those parameters. Nothing is difficult. Look at Ethiopia and Eritrea, look at Spain although their leadership for secession was arrested(I mean Catalonia),they are moving gradually; look at the United kingdom-Wales and Scotland, the world is moving towards appreciating the identities of minorities and empowering them, realizing that by becoming one you become stronger.
So are you suspecting the Government of bad faith?
I don’t know whether to call it bad faith, but I don’t know see anything good in the sense of achieving what we are asking for coming from the Biya Regime.
When you talk of Zero option, what do you mean by that?
There comes a point in time when Anglophones realize that the approach they have taken of pleading, of trying to negotiate will bear no fruit; it is at that time they realize that the end has come. What do we do?
Dr.Simon Munzu is no new name to you. How do you know him and what is your take on the fact that the conveners of the third conference have tasked him to be in charge of organizing it?
Dr. Munzu is a friend. We worked together to convene the AAC in 1993.I have respect for his intellect. He is very analytical. He would do a good job. It is a pity that a brain as Dr.Munzu is not really being utilized to his full potentials to the benefit of our people. The conference will succeed if it takes place by way of the industry he will put in its organization.
But some Anglophone activists allege that he is a betrayal, fighting against outright independence for Southern Cameroons. Do you see him as such?
No! What I see in him is a tactic. Those talking about the zero option, do they know how much it costs to sustain a war? Do they know the cost of a machine gun? Can we really stand with the trained military and say that, we are fighting?
You say you are his friend and you know his intellectual capacity. Would you like to join him in his new assignment?
If I am invited. He is indeed a friend and I have known about his aspirations. It is not long ago we spent about six hours together talking about the issues of the nation. He is someone who is very committed to the destiny of this country. It is a pity that some people would look at him and say that he is a traitor. There are no greater sincere patriots more than he is!
So without an invitation you cannot volunteer your services for the common good?
Why? I can do that in whatever, especially where the clergy are clearly involved. There is something there because if you lose your life doing the mission of the clergy, I am sure you can be certain of a place in heaven.[laughs]
The current Anglophone crisis is rooted in the fact that the spirit of the reunification of Southern Cameroons and La Republique du Cameroun was not or has not been implemented. Could you explain to our readers what was supposed to be that spirit?
That is a very good question. You know I led the delegation of the SCNC to the UN.In that delegation you had Dr. J.N.Forchu and Hon. S.T.Muna,Ambassador Epie,leader of CAM; during the period of interacting with Dr.Forcha,I realized there was a lot he could have done ,which he didn’t. I can say that many of the problems we have today can be traced back to his plural conceptions…
To my mind Dr. Forcha did not fight for his people the way it was expected. The spirit of reunification was to be that of equal status.
The Biya Government last June launched an Emergency Humanitarian Plan worth 12.7 billion to take care of tens of thousands of victims of the Anglophone Crisis, yet the military is continuously using excessive force in its war against so-called terrorists (separatists). This has resulted in loss of hundreds of lives and property. What do you make of such a situation?
Believe me, this is a perplexing situation. You kill the people, burn their houses and villages and you turn around and give them what you call aid. Is it a war tactic? Is it a tactic of silencing the people? I would say that the tactic is very hypocritical .It is not something that people who have suffered the brutality of the regime should accept.
What advice do you have for the victims of the crisis?
I cannot as an individual give any advice. Each case will be judged on its merits. There are people who can say “take away your aid” and there are also those who are terribly deprived that even iodine they cannot buy. I don’t think there should be a hard and fast rule here.
Presidential election has been slated for October 7, 2018 in spite of the fact that the Anglophone crisis is only worsening. How would you describe the presidential decision convening the electorate, in spite of the growing odds?
That decision is amazing, in a sense that there could be no regard for insecurity in the country or the regime doesn’t just care how some Cameroonians feel. I think the whole thing is part of the plot to disenfranchise or obscure Anglophone Cameroonians…Who will take the risk to campaign where there is insecurity?
You have been involved in the restoration of the rights of Anglophones for long.What advice would you give Anglophones now as they look forward to holding a third conference to press for solutions to their grievances?
The government is already fighting against Anglophones coming together. Today, you hear announcement calling for tribal meetings. The Bafaws want to meet.The Bakweris want to meet. All these meetings have been engineered by a few people sponsored by the Government to ensure “divide and rule’” I think our people should be more conscious. Do they like the circumstances under which they live? Do they want that the people serving them in the civil service are all “foreigners”?
It is better to have your own brother-whether you disagree with him. The Northwest and southwest regions are brothers in the sense that both have shared the same culture for decades This divide- and- rule is a government weapon against the Anglophone struggle.
I think as Anglophones we must identify who the enemy of our progress is and confront such.
(This interview is published as lead story in The Horizon Newspaper, Cameroon, of July 31,2018)