AFTER MACRON:Christopher Fomunyoh Quakes -“It’s Time To Tackle Cameroon Problems”

By Amos Fofung

Today, it is beyond obvious that a military approach is a road to nowhere, because to succeed, the military will have to continue killing, says Fomunyoh on the crisis in the North West ,and South West regions of Cameroon

When it was announced that French President Emmanuel Macron would visit Cameroon during his July tour of Africa, the news was greeted with fanfare and jubilations.

Expectations were high as Macron’s visit came at a time when the price for gas and basic economic commodities reached record high. Like most countries, Cameroon’s economy had taken a blow from the global economic crisis prompted by Russia’s war in Ukraine, the 2020-2021 supply chain crisis and years of mismanagement and slow economic growth.

In Yaounde, Cameroon’s political capital, municipal employees decorated the center town with French and Cameroonian flags, renovated dilapidated roads that have been begging for attention for years and also gave a facelift to structures situated along major roads where Macron’s motorcade was expected to pass by.

During his two-day visit, the Elysée resident promised to boast security and food production while strengthening “Francafrique” relations.

Weeks after his departure, Cameroon has returned to its typical way of life. The country is beset with two major violent conflicts and faces rising ethno-political tensions on and offline. Economically plagued by a devastatingly high poverty rate, struggling education, failing health care system, paralyzing corruption and various internal rifts that threaten national security and any prospects of a vibrant tourism industry.

In an op-ed first published in French Daily newspaper, Mutations, the Africa director of US-based National Democratic Institute (NDI) Christopher Fomunyoh believes it is necessary to come down from the clouds of the visit of the French president and tackle head on the vital problems of Cameroonians.

He writes…

Like millions of Cameroonians, I followed with particular interest the visit to Yaoundé from July 25 to 26, of the President of the French Republic Emmanuel Macron.

Despite the contradictory debates, sometimes fueled by speculations of all kinds on the public agenda and the supposedly hidden agenda of the visit held on various platforms, and lots of folklore around the arrival of this distinguished guest, I would say that the rest, at least what happened in the public square, was both predictable and expected.

Admittedly, the physical presence on Cameroonian soil is a point to which the Yaoundé regime was very attached, but in short, Emmanuel Macron got the better part of the deal, for himself and his homeland France. In addition, I felt his desire to shirk off the role of permanent scapegoat behind which some African autocrats and their zealous accomplices hide to clear themselves of the calamitous mismanagement of their own countries and the suppression of the fundamental rights and freedoms of their fellow citizens.

Three aspects of the visit caught my attention: the joint press conference that was very painful to watch as the physical state and the alertness of the speakers were visibly unbalanced to our disadvantage; the meeting with civil society with declarations on the practice of democracy that Cameroonian democrats themselves have been proclaiming for decades; and the visit of part of the French delegation to the National Assembly with basic lessons on the role and responsibilities of elected officials and the functioning of democratic institutions.

Sixty years after independence, our pride, and the dignity that comes with it, demand that we ourselves raise the level of our individual or collective professional performance, so as not to have to depend on basic lessons from others. Although in other circumstances, some of the visitors could easily be our own pupils, were it not for the color of our skin and the written history of human civilizations. This is also what it is about for the future of our country, Cameroon.

Cameroonians have been killing each other for five years in the North West and South West regions, mainly because politicians have decided to outsource to the military the responsibilities that should be theirs: those of managing the legitimate grievances of the English-speaking populations, tired of being marginalized and abused in a Republic forged in 1961 by a reunification approved by a majority among them.

Today, deaths are in the thousands among the civilian population and also members of the defense and security forces, hundreds of villages razed to the ground, nearly a million internally displaced persons and refugees combined, nearly 800,000 children who have not had access to education and three or four million people at risk of starvation or famine, should the conflict continue .

For five years, I have insisted repeatedly on the search for political solutions through genuine dialogue and negotiations, and I remember other credible voices such as former minister Abouem A Tchoyi ( one of only two personalities to have served as governor in the two English-speaking regions, and later at the highest political and administrative level of the country) as well as the Protais Ayangma, Dieudonné Essomba, Barrister Joseph Lavoisier Tsapi, Emmanuel Koungne, and others. They too were right, even if their common sense was quickly stifled by the warmongers who thought that a country could find a winner in a fratricidal war and that the war would last only a few weeks. ; whereas we know that with each death on the battlefield or in a village in the area, the gap widens between these populations and the Yaounde-based regime that claims to want to safeguard their well-being and their future .

During Macron’s brief stay in Yaoundé, the question was again raised, and rightly so, about France’s role in the massacres that took place in Cameroon more than 60 years ago, therefore before independence, in Bassa land , and later in Bamileke areas until 1971. Does anyone sincerely believe that the English-speaking populations and all those who lost loved ones in this useless war, will forget the wounds and the broken hearts of these past five years? Political leaders must show courage by sitting down to negotiate an end to this war. That too will put an end to the generalized psychosis which reigns and which in a sneaky way contributes to the multiplicity of acts of violence even in non-conflict zones. Yes, today, Cameroonians see that violence is becoming normalized and accepted as a way of life in our society. These days, violence is seen everywhere, even in schools and homes.

Handling the Anglophone crisis within a political (and non military) framework will allow the defense and security forces and the country as a whole to focus on the real sources of more deadly security threats from foreign fighter groups such as Boko Haram It is counter-intuitive to see the redeployment to the North West and South West of equipment and personnel, including senior military officers, trained to fight Boko Haram in the Far North. And yet, it should be a secret to no one that the existence of Boko Haram is hampering development initiatives in the Far North and any opportunities for the young people in the area, whose demographic figures keep growing by the day. My last visit to the Far North dates back to 2015, and I am reminded every day with insistence that living conditions have deteriorated even more since then; frustrations and social tensions too.

Some may say that apart from the North and the Anglophone zone with five regions in total, happiness would be found in the remaining five regions. But no, because the West and the Littoral regions suffer the disproportionate weight of internally displaced persons from the war and the socio-economic stagnation that comes with it, while the East is exposed to vast insecurity from the Central African Republic with its toxic mix of armed groups, local and Russian .How can one not remember that on these Central African lands, the Cameroonian military lost some of their own, including late Major General Martin Tumenta of blessed memory. In the South, we hear from time-to-time cries of anger and demands against ‘these elites who have betrayed their people . Of course, in Yaoundé in the Center, some pretend to breathe fresh air, but it is a semblance mixed with uncertainty about the unpredictable tomorrows.

Paradoxically, for this specific case, the only constant is the rainy season as in this month of August during which the vagaries of a very dilapidated urban infrastructure remind us all that the capital, like the rest of the country, needs a ‘do over’, and that in every respect . Resuscitating a Cameroon that can give hope to its youth and to all its sons and daughters will not be an easy task. This would require an overhaul of existing but outmoded structures; a renegotiation of the social contract linking the populations to those who receive a mandate to represent them for a fixed term; it will require vision and a new and more humane mindset. Oh yes, uncertainties for future generations are real and existential!

*The above op-ed is a “Translation from MUTATIONS of August 8, 2022.”

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