The Colbert Factor: If the Need for Urgent Dialogue has never been indicative, then the Urgency is Now.
As I was reflecting on this topic and wondering what to say that has not been said and heard in Cameroon and in discussions amongst Cameroonians of all walks of life since the resurgence of the crisis of Anglophone identity late last year, I received a sudden call from a staffer of the CPP party that Edith Kah Walla was in town, and although government has banned all gatherings in Bamenda, and by extension, the North West, she was still determined to meet a few Bamenda-based journalists.
I was equally determined to meet her, especially as the word of mouth message indicated that the meeting with Bamenda- based journalists was to take place in her private residence. As I waited for the meeting to start, I reflected on why a party that has even declared on rooftops that it will stand for a one and indivisible Cameroon till thy kingdom come, would be blocked from making a public statement on the way forward for the Anglophone crisis and the urgency of dialogue.
I was also interested in finding out from her if government could ever engage in active and inclusive dialogue if it could confiscate civic space from a duly registered political party that had come to town to seek ways and means of bringing Cameroonians of all walks of life to sit on the dialogue table. As we continued with the now public reflection, Kah Walla of the CPP reminded the audience of the basics: That the difference between the past dialogue proposals and the one she and her CPP party and the sidekick, Stand up for Cameroon lied on the fact that her version for dialogue was that it be sincere, credible and profound.
According to Edith Kah Walla it meant that those to be called to the negotiation table should no longer be the very interlocutors Biya has been sending out to dialogue with Anglophone leaders since the uprisings begun, but should rather be people whom the aggrieved and marginalized populations believe them to be sincere. As concerns the credibility of interlocutors, Kah Walla believes they must be people with a track record for themselves.
The profoundness of the dialogue, according the CPP chieftain, should mean that it must address the root causes of the problem and especially that all shades of opinion should be listened to. One thing that reassured me was the fact that the voice of people is the voice of God, as before the Kah Walla meeting, I was also preparing this reflection in that same light. I had planned this reflection because I thought we needed to change the narrative in this whole whahala.
I thought if I was given only five minutes to advice our illustrious Head of State, I would just be telling him to forget about the big and influential elites he has known all along and start building a new Cameroon with the new kind of elites I described in my just published book: Bamenda: Source of Inspiration for Modern Cameroon’. The book which is my humble contribution to get us and quickly out of the current impasse, proposes and strongly that Biya should start dealing with the new generation of elites fashioned out by this strike.
It was Senator Mbella Moki Charles, who painstakingly acknowledged some one month ago, that MPs, Senators and other Anglophone elites should admit their failure and pass on the baton to a new generation of elites. In this light, I was thinking of the ordinary teachers who were foresighted enough in the first place to find serious loopholes in our educational system when even so called celebrated University professors have been unable to identify. I was thinking also of our ordinary Common
Lawyers who in their simple and extraordinary ordinariness, had the wisdom to be quick to discover that our legal system has been adulterated. More importantly, I was reflecting on these ordinary bike riders, these ordinary boys that made Chop Samuel to begin deep reflection on the central role played by the taxi driver…this guy that rushes a wife in labour to the maternity and when the family is celebrating the birth of the new born, they think less of the taxi driver. You see, If dialogue was to be sincere, it would target those on the fringes of society. After all, the so called elites have not only failed us but also President Biya who had the misfortune of relying on them in the first place.
If upon return from his refreshening trip to New York, President Paul Biya offers to receive, say, 1000 biyam sellams or bike boys from the North West and another 1000 from our sister region, the South West, they would all go home as his mouth pieces. Such sincere dialogue means President Biya himself takes up the file by himself, no longer sending his subordinates, not even his SG, not even the Prime Minister. Imagine President Biya dines and wines with these ordinary Cameroonians? Imagine Common Law Lawyers and teachers wine and dine with Biya right at Etoudi or here in the North West or South West.
How can we talk of inclusive dialogue without acknowledging that all issues should be put on the table. Cameroonians need to let their President know that we all love this country and nobody should pretend to love this country more than the other. What would it benefit the powers that be if the would gain the whole world and lose their souls.
As we seek to rebuild confidence in each other through dialogue, we must understand as the U N Secretary General indicated prior to the opening of the 72nd General Assembly, there would be no ‘ win- win’ situation. Every stakeholder with an extremist position must be ready to make concessions. Which means, both advocates of decentralization and federation need to be ready to give concessions. In that light, we should already be expecting a fusion between decentralization and federalism.
Since time immemorial, Anglophone marginalization has been visible in the form of ministerial appointments.
Why is it that even though we are a country of 58 Divisions, it cannot simply be agreed that each Division should produce one minister? After all, that would lead us to have only 58 ministers, instead of the bloated 64 ministers that we currently have. The proposed inclusive dialogue should address all these issue.
Journalist Gwain Colbert