Cameroon Opposition leader, John Fru Ndi says fight remains same as 30 years ago, reiterates stand on federalism and promises “We will come back…”
May 27, 2020
By Amos Fofung
Firebrand opposition leader John Fru Ndi credited nationally and at the international level as Cameroon’s father of democracy has in a four-page anniversary message to members and sympathizers of his Social Democratic Front, SDF political party stated that the fight which started some three decades ago, remains the same.
In his message to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the SDF, the first opposition party in Cameroon, Fru Ndi who doubles as founder and national chairman of the party counted the numerous sacrifices of the party’s founding fathers as they suffered police crackdown, detention and brutality which led to death of many compatriots.
“It has been 30 whole years since we came together bonded by purpose to set our beloved country on a different path. It has been 30 years since we took a firm decision to leave the perceived comforts of the side‐line, nonparticipation and implied complicity with the wrongs of our society, to raise our voices for change and a call for action.”
“It is now 30 years since we started our fight for the very spirit and soul of the country, for the institution of a state of law, for social justice, for equal opportunities and of total restitution of power to the people,” a fight which he points out remains the same and will continue.
Acknowledging that three decades later the social situation remains very preoccupying in Cameroon with poverty, unemployment, lack of basic amenities and now civil unrest threatening the country’s existence, Fru Ndi reiterated his stance on returning the country to a federal system of government.
The vocal politician has twice been kidnapped by separatist fighters in Cameroon’s English-speaking region of North West for his stance on keeping the country united. After his last release, he fled the country but in his anniversary message he promised that this is not the end of the fight.
“In the face of our perceived setbacks we must be reminded that we will come back when people think we should be forgotten; and no matter how far down we may be, we are never too far down to come back”, he said.
He pointed to the fact that Cameroon, purported to be divided by language (English and French) has some 300 local languages which has never been a source of division. “Where then is all the dis‐unity and disarray of the country coming from?” he pondered before adding that.
“We can only point at the centre, to the politics, the administrative set up, the procedures and the laws that govern us. That is what we must change if we are to accomplish our common destiny as a people united in purpose. That only through the Federal option will each and every Cameroonian be given the unique opportunity to define and design their destiny.”
Below is the full message of John Fru Ndi, national chairman of SDF on 30th anniversary of party’s creation
Anniversary Message by National Chairman
Dear Members and sympathisers of the Social Democratic Front,
It has been 30 whole years since we came together bonded by purpose to set our beloved countryon a different path. It has been 30 years since we took a firm decision to leave the perceived comforts of the side‐line, nonparticipation and implied complicity with the wrongs of our society, to raise our voices for change and a call for action.
It is now 30 years since we started our fight for the very spirit and soul of the country, for the institution of a state of law, for social justice, for equal opportunities and of total restitution of power to the people.
Looking back over these years, I want to start by thanking God Almighty, for preserving us to this day. For all that He has done for us through this time; for the amazing highs and very testing lows, and finally, for all the lessons we have learned along the way. All these were to prepare us for the responsibility that has been thrusted on our movement. As it is famously said, to whom much is given, much is expected.
Dear Members and sympathisers, Fellow Cameroonians,
Let us take a trip down memory lane. This same day, 30 years ago, we began our struggle fordemocracy. During the launching speech, we said and I re‐quote “…the essence of our democracy is about local people controlling their day‐to‐day affairs…Because where the people are not free to go about their daily chores without undue molestation, they cannot exhibit their skills and talents… we must build a true democracy where the people decide what is good for them…dictatorship produces the following results in the words of Argentina’s great blind writer Jorge Luis Borges: “…oppression,servility, cruelty and more abominable is the fact that it breeds stupidity.”
Those words which captured the reality of Cameroon at that time, still ring very true in our society today. In the same speech, we never failed to mention that “…make no mistake and do not allow yourself to be misled or misguided by anyone, no matter his station in life. Democracy has never been handed over to a people on a platter of gold!”‐ 6 of our compatriots were later shot dead!
Today, the social situation in Cameroon still remains very preoccupying:
The war rages on in the North West, South West, Far North and East Regions of the country.
I express my heartfelt condolence to all those who have lost loved ones in these various conflicts;
The corona pandemic, which is silently decimating our people, has come to add to the list of other pandemics we suffer as a people;
There is total breakdown in health facilities and inadequate doctors to take care of the health needs of Cameroonians. Scandals are a daily occurrence in our hospitals. And sorrowfully, most of these scandals result in fatalities;
The level of poverty continues to grow, with less than 1% of the population living in provocative affluence;
There is still no portable water in a majority of the cities and towns of Cameroon, even during such moments ‐ remember water is the basis of health and life;
Electricity shortage continues to be chronic;
The near absence of a good road network in the country continues to be the cause of many fatal road accidents;
The rate of unemployment and under employment, especially among the youth, continue to provide a ready army of disillusioned people, who can easily be manipulated to engage in unrewarding political actions, which only cause the death of more and more sons and daughters of the country; In fact, we are at the brink of a complete break down and very divided in our thoughts as a people and worst still, how to resolve them.
Over the years, we have made suggestions and contributions on how to shape the future of the country, principally that we must return to a federal form of governance.
Despite the hostile political environment we found ourselves in, even where we were considered enemies in the house for our position and ideals, we have fought hard and contributed tremendously to the building of a progressive image of the country.
Through pressure and persistence, we obtained the first Sovereign National Conference and the admission that our system of administration was not set to deliver the development we all desperately wanted. Our engagement in the politics of the nation, preceded the admission of the country to the Francophonie and the Commonwealth of Nations; organisations who have provided various forms of assistance to the country. We later took part in local elections and won some key cities of the country and some seats in parliament. Even though limited in number and stifled by government control, were able to accomplish the following:
On the table in local councils, we were able to lay bare how ineffective, limited and cosmetic decentralisation is as a system to ensure the full participation and integration of the local population in their development agenda;
It is on the floor of parliament, led by formidable men like Joseph Mbah Ndam and Joseph Banadzem (both of blessed memory) and other true social democrats still holding the fort today, that we were able to open the debate on the laws of the land for Cameroonians to be aware of what truly obtained in parliament. We promoted the woman folk and youth, giving them key positions in the bureau of the National Assembly, truly opening up our democracy to every Cameroonian;
It is not until we mounted the rostrum during ministerial question time, were we able to expose and uncover the infamous Monchipou Seidou Scandal, which subsequently ushered in Operation Sparrow Hawk and the clamping down on corrupt public officials;
It is not until we introduced the record number of private member bills were we able to mark some progress with the electoral laws of the land.
All these and many more that I cannot enumerate here, are some of the limited actions we could impact on a system that did all to ensure that we failed and tried to pollute public opinion with innuendos that our participation in sovereign institutions was a harbinger of duplexity and complicity with the regime. A political tool they have never stopped using to distract us from the challenges we have at hand.
We demonstrated great strengths and showed great promise, we succeeded where many wrote us off and waited for us to fail. We are far from where we want to be in that fight, but it is a battle we have committed ourselves to win.
Our experience has taught us to always take a seat on the table and make our voices heard. It is not in boycott and abstention that we register the dissenting voice, but in full participation and consistently telling the alternative story and explaining how things can be and should be different, without blinking.
It is our hard work and determination that has exposed the critical weaknesses of our current system. We must therefore in the wake of these new challenges find new strengths. Our country is in dire need of our maturity, our determination, our focus and our experience. The lessons hard learned and the history we have created must be called up if we are to forge the country of the future, where all will be treated equally and as one. We can only succeed in this God ordained mission by staying true to our vision, which is very simple:
“The People must have an equal chance at autonomy and empowerment ‐ for in true democracy lies our development, in true justice our peace and social cohesion and credible elections, our ability to renew our believes in our Fatherland. Our founding fathers found it fundamental to base our core ideals on DEMOCRACY, JUSTICE AND DEVELOPMENT – Power to the People.”
We are proud that we have not only just said these words, but we have demonstrated the truth in it through our “active intervention” policy. This policy made us tour every nook and cranny of the nation 21 times in 30 years. We slept in all the divisions and almost every village of the country, spreading our message and the merits of our struggle to the people. In all our public engagements, meetings and conventions, from Bamenda (1992), Bafoussam (1993), Maroua (1995), Buea (1996), Yaoundé (1999), Bamenda 2001, 2006, 2012 and 2018, we found more things that unite us than separate us. The only problem we noted is the fact that we have not mustered the political will nor provided the best opportunity to celebrate and encourage these unique attributes we share as a people.
At a time where the debate is rife, let us consider some of these issues and reflect carefully on them. We are mysteriously purported to be divided by language, even though besides our colonial heritage of English and French, we have over 300 local languages, which have never been a source of division.
We have over 30 national dishes, which are a delicacy and appreciated across the nation as a strength and not a point of division. That we have danced, sang and celebrated music across the nation, which doesn’t remind us of division, but prides us as a nation. Where then is all the dis‐unity and disarray of the country coming from?
We can only point at the centre, to the politics, the administrative set up, the procedures and the laws that govern us. That is what we must change if we are to accomplish our common destiny as a people united in purpose. That only through the Federal option will each and every Cameroonian be given the unique opportunity to define and design their destiny.
Dear Members and sympathisers of the Social Democratic Front,
Every time we entertain this critical topic, our detractors find a way of either diluting or misrepresenting our position. The Federal form of governance can be achieved through restoration.
Restoration as a process of constitutional change whereby the political system resumes an earlier structure as a result of the failure of the subsequent structure to evolve into a viable vehicle that adequately addresses the pressing needs of that society. While restoration is usually conceived as a return to the old structure, it is, however, the case that the restored structure, more often than not,turns out to be an updated and much improved version of the earlier one. This is what we should strive for as soon as possible.
I therefore call on government to put an end to the hostilities in the North West and South Wes tregions.
To reconvene around a table of true dialogue and reconciliation.
To have the sincerity of tabling the form of the state as a plausible solution no just to the crisis in the North West and South West, but for the country as a whole. I pray that for once, we will do the right thing for our nation.
I end this note by thanking all the Founding Fathers of the SDF. This band of fine gentlemen who developed a mantra that has stood through time. The work we all started, will live forever in the hearts and minds of the people and indeed we shall overcome. May the souls of all our departed heroes and comrades continue to find peace in the bosom of the Lord.
Let me go on to thank and congratulate every one of you, members and sympathisers of the party, for your steadfastness, tremendous sacrifices, some with their lives and others their unflinching support, that we may truly be able to change our country. My hearty congratulations go to you, who despite the ominous odds, understand the discipline of faith and belief in ideals. In your 30 years of commitment and servitude, you have made the distinction between a journey and a destination. You have matured over these years, learning the art of resilience and focus on the goal. In the face of our perceived setbacks we must be reminded that “we will come back when people think we should be forgotten; and no matter how far down we may be, we are never too far down to come back”.
Finally, I want to commend the efforts of all our medical personnel who are sparing no energy to ensure that we all make it through this pandemic. I call on the population therefore to respect all the directives in place, avoid public gatherings, wash your hands regularly and maintain safe social distances.
Long live the Social Democratic Front
Long live our nation Cameroon
Ni John FRU NDI
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