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A Rejoinder to Cameroon’s Foreign Minister’s Address to the 73rd General Assembly of the United Nations. By Lambert Mbom

 

On Thursday September 27th2018, La Republique du Cameroun’s Minister of External Relations Lejeune Mbella Mbella addressed the 73rd session of United Nations’ General Assembly (UNGA). The minister spent 19 of the 25 minutes he spoke skirting around the real issues and in the remainder of the six minutes addressed the hydra-headed foreign affairs monster namely the Ambazonia quagmire. It was a shameful outing filled with lies, historical aberrations and fallacies.

In his opening words, Mbella Mbella hailed this moment as historic given that the UNGA current President is a woman only the fourth to accede to this position in the institution’s 73-year history. While this is quite symbolic, it pales in comparison to the fact that Paul Biya, Mbella’s boss and the colonial dictator of Cameroon has been President for half of the years of the existence of the United Nations. And could not show up at this year’s meeting due to the fact that he was launching a campaign ahead of presidential elections whose results have already been well packaged and he prepares to declare himself winner for another seven-year mandate.

No wonder then that H.E. Maria Fernanda Espinosa is only the fourth woman to become president of the General assembly in the over seven decades of the U.N.’s existence. Octogenarian and nonagenarian strongmen like Paul Biya have not only held their people hostage but also cast a spell on the international order by surrounding and shielding themselves with strong old men and soothsayers like Mbella Mbella. It may be of interest to note that Cameroon currently has only one female ambassador and she is only the third in history.

Mbella shamelessly opines that “The corporatist claims of the teachers’ and lawyers’ unions which lie at the heart of the situation have continued to be subject to negotiations with these social and professional groups.” This is so pathetic to note that the Minister and Cameroon’s government are still stuck in 2016 when the current crisis began as concerns of trade unions. It is this ostrich-like mentality and myopia of the barbaric regime of Biya that feels compelled to conveniently circumscribe the problems to being an issue of teachers and lawyers that has led it to be dogged in its heels. This regime is so moronic that it cannot make the distinction and relationship between symptoms and malady. They could not see or have failed to acknowledge that the problems raised by teachers and lawyers were symptomatic of deep seated simmering and systemic issues. Those corporatist claims morphed and exposed the systemic issues that had plagued an ill-fated “union” with the entire people of former United Nations trustee territory of British Southern Cameroons.

And for the Minister to claim that negotiations have continued with these unions is a lie. Has the minister forgotten that they jailed leaders of the consortium forced others into exile and later extradited them with the complicity of Nigeria?

“Unfortunately, Mr. President which is unfortunate to say from this rostrum, some individuals that are ruthless and lawless have tried to transform these socio professional concerns into demands for secession which aim to break up the state without any regard for constitutional and democratic mechanisms.” This is truly unfortunate that a minister would tell such brazen lies from the sacred rostrum on such a global stage. La Republique is bandying around the term secessionists in the hope that with this tag, the people will back down and chicken out. A cursory look at the history of Cameroon will challenge this characterization. We must remind the minister that the union between Southern Cameroons and French Cameroon is a constitutional monstrosity. With hindsight, it is worth stating that there has always been a grand scheme from the get-go for La Republique to annex and recolonize Southern Cameroons. Cameroon is built on a lie. No wonder the custodians of that patrimony continue to peddle more lies to defend it. But soon the deluge! In the context of the constitutional malpractice and the constitutional illegalities that define the Cameroon experiment, it would be instructive for the minister and his cronies to read the Buea Declaration of April 1993. This landmark document paints the contours of the constitutional rape which began in April 1960 even before the union came into force and declares forcefully that “No valid constitutional or other legal basis has ever existed for the reunification of the two Cameroons and for the common governance of the two territories.”

While this annexation project kicked off in April 1960 with the discovery of oil in Southern Cameroons, the recolonization project was fast tracked and in abrogation of the terms of the union, then President Ahidjo unilaterally imposed a referendum with the majority of citizens of La Republique partaking and invariably overwhelming the minority Southern Cameroonians. The supposed “Union” was designed to be two federated states. In flagrant disregard, a bogus referendum in 1972 led to the dissolution of the two states federation. This led to the chimera called United Republic of Cameroon.

And barely 12 years later, Emperor Paul Biya sealed the deal whereby with a stroke of the pen changed the name of the country from the United Republic of Cameroon to The Republic of Cameroon which is the name former United Nations trustee territory French Cameroon adopted when it gained independence on 1st of January 1960. It is worth noting that a name change is a very significant development in the life of any person and in the life of any nation. Mr. Minister lets state the facts clearly: La Republique already seceded from the botched union. This is a clear instance of the pot calling the kettle black. When you look into the mirror if you have the courage to, all you see is your face.

There was a golden opportunity for the government of La Republique to correct the constitutional gaffe and that was in 1996 when the constitution was revised. Ahead of this, the aggrieved people of Southern Cameroons got together and first in 1993 called for a return to the two states federation. When this request fell on deaf ears, a second conclave held in Bamenda in 1994 and came up with a Proclamation. The Bamenda Proclamation warned the government of La Republique that if she failed to take action the people of Southern Cameroons would be forced to “proclaim the revival of the independence and sovereignty of the Anglophone territory of the Southern Cameroons and take all measures necessary to secure, defend and preserve the independence, sovereignty and integrity of the said territory.” The government’s response was characteristic and predictable: wanton arrests and detention, brutal use of naked force to railroad the people of Southern Cameroons to accept the lie of a unitary state.

It is quite ludicrous that the minister talks of constitutionality when strangely the crisis of the North West and South West regions has never ever been addressed by the Parliament and Senate in Cameroon.

Talking of democratic mechanisms, Southern Cameroonians have availed of different avenues such as the African Union, the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, the International Court of Justice and lodged complaints but given the international conspiracy, they have been treated like orphans. But the world must remember that no matter how long the night is, day must dawn. And Lejeune and his cronies must note that the thief has 99 days but one day the owner will repossess his property. We seem to be on the 98th day!

What is more, the minister further intimates that “the government welcomes the fact that the entire people of Cameroon and above all the populations of these two regions have rejected any attempts at secession.”This is quite a laughable tale. Clearly the minister is under the illusion that lackeys, stooges and crumb gatherers like Atanga Nji, Philemon Yang, Ngole Ngole speak for any people but themselves. Mr. Minister when and how did the people of Ambazonia reject their independence? I hope you have watched some of the videos of the celebrations last October 1st when Ambazonians came out to celebrate Independence Day. Are you insinuating that those fighting for the restoration of independence are foreigners? Yes, we are foreigners in La Republique. It is wishful thinking to continue this parody in the pious hope that someday beggars would ride. We understand that you have an aversion for numbers and so any figment of your imagination such as your current claim is what you package and sell. If you are courageous enough why not ask the UN to come and supervise a referendum on this question and let’s see who is living a fool’s paradise? Don’t be fooled: even those you think and believe are with you share the aspirations and spirit of the Ambazonia revolution. They just lack the moral courage and political wherewithal to manifest this. On this I can dare you that over three quarters of Ambazonians want an independent state.

 Shamelessly the minister maintains that “In light of the aforementioned the government is working to restore peace and security in the two regions with respect for human rights and rules and laws of the Republic.” These are mere words that even the person uttering them does not believe in. Your Excellency, there can be no peace without justice. And justice in its most common and basic meaning is giving to each what is their due…For the people of Ambazonia, it is simply the restoration of the independence. Peace is not just the absence of war. And did I hear mention of human rights? The world knows or should know by now that using La Republique and human rights in the same sentence is not just a linguistic aberration but also an anomaly in reality. Everybody has seen the videos of the military junta executing women and children at close range after labeling them Boko Haram terrorists.  And this is just the tip of the iceberg. When the world will wake up to the atrocities of la Republique du Cameroun against the people of Ambazonia, even the corpses of the perpetrators would be exhumed for trial and condemnation. The government of Cameroun is after an elusive peace. Coercing the people into a doomed and damned union is just a recipe for disaster. Biya and his ilk should have gotten the message by now: a union is not forced and is not even possible!

Once more being sensitive to the fate of the concerned population, the President of the Republic has decided to implement an emergency humanitarian plan with a provisional budget of 12.7 billion fcfa.” This is the most ludicrous pronouncement. Biya declares war on the people of Ambazonia and turns around with an emergency humanitarian plan? This is a smokescreen. The kleptocratic despot just created a cash cow to satisfy the insatiable corrupt appetites of the governing mafia. After razing villages with your scorched earth policy, then sending armed thugs in name of military to shoot and destroy innocent civilians whose only crime is them activating their inalienable right to self-determination. The most egregious violation of human rights is the annexation and recolonization of the people of Ambazonia. And to add salt to injury, killing these innocent people for standing up for this right.

The Minister then proceeds to disgrace his master by claiming that they “…have shown our openness to dialogue but in strict respect of the institution and laws of the Republic.” When you label people as terrorists, how do you dialogue with them? Recently, the US had talks with the Talibans they had been combatting in Afghanistan over the last two decades. This should be a lesson to the warlords of La Republique. You can never win in a guerilla warfare. The time for dialogues has long passed. Ambazonians begged and pleaded with you but in characteristic Machiavellian fashion displayed a masochistic bravado and swore that Ambazonia will rise only over your corpse.

No doubt Mr. Minister you claim that “Robust measures have already been taken to remedy the situation. For example, the creation of the National Commission for the Promotion of Bilingualism and Multiculturalism as well as a fully-fledged ministry responsible for decentralization.” One would have expected you to show that your commission is working and for once address this noble assembly in English and French. What is more, you proved the point: with the wrong diagnosis, you could only get such out of target and lack of focus solution, as decentralization. It is worth stating for the umpteenth time: the independence of Ambazonia is non-negotiable. It is not a matter of if but rather when.

The minister tops off his lies “To conclude, Cameroon whose independence was conducted and guided by the UN will like to restate its faith in our organization but also its attachment to peace and stability basic resources without which no development is possible.” Mr. Minister, the country you represent had its independence on January 1st 1960 while Ambazonia gained its independence on October 1st 1961. Yes the UN supervised both but did not complete the latter. This is why it is the UN’s responsibility to listen and address the recriminations of its former Trustee territory. It is unconscionable for the UN to claim that the destiny of the people of Ambazonia was foreclosed with the union with La Republique.

The UN General Assembly adopted as its theme for this session: “Making the United Nations relevant to all people: global leadership and shared responsibilities for peaceful, equitable and sustainable societies.” The people of Ambazonia need the UN to become relevant to them. In the Political document signed at the Nelson Mandela Peace summit, the UN pledged to move beyond words in the promotion of peaceful, just, inclusive and non-discriminatory societies…for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.” The current crisis presents a unique opportunity for the UN to deliver on that promise. The UN must stand up to bullies like La Repubqlique du Cameroun. The crisis is not a domestic conflict or an internal matter. Even if it were it is not by merely wishing it that peace will reign. One wonders if the UN has learnt any lessons from the past? The time to act is now! The UN cannot trust the words of an abusive partner hoping that he will do the right thing. This problem was created by the UN and it is the UN’s to fix!

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Book Review: The Mysterious Ways of God. By Lambert Mbom

20180711_163710After ten years as a priest of the diocese of Buea, Cameroon, part of which he served as Editor-in-chief of Catholic Panorama, (a monthly publication of the diocese of Buea) Fr Wilfred Emeh explored missionary endeavors in the United States landing first in Maryland, the indisputable Cameroonian hub in the US. The rude awakening that the universality of the Catholic Church had some geographical colorings stunned him as he found it near impossible to find room and board in local presbyteries. With this hurdle, came the detour that brought this young priest to Birmingham, Alabama of all places. Buoyed by the urgency of the mission and burdened with the prejudice of the dark history of Alabama and race relations, this African with a heavy accent took the risk. He “put out into the deep” and after four years he was bursting at the seams with gratitude. After a four years’ stint at Our lady of Sorrows parish, Alabama where Fr Wilfred Emeh had spent time joggling academic chores and pastoral responsibilities, he imagined what gift he could offer this unsuspectingly gregarious community. His answer is in a book, “The Mysterious Ways of God: A Memoir of Love, Trials and Friendships.”

There is a certain myth that African priests who travel to the United States of America do not face the same challenges of immigration that many of their lay confreres go through. It is that gilded notion of the priesthood that many especially in Africa hail. But nego! While the legal Rubicon of getting asylum is hardly their problem, they are not vaccinated against the numerous cultural shocks. In eight short chapters, the author recounts the story of how a Cameroonian priest navigated the complex vicissitudes wont of emigrating to the United States and settling in the deep South of all places and against all odds and becoming the enfant Cherie of his home away from home. It is a book for priests and religious seeking an understanding of the complexities that undergird ministry in the United States of America and how to navigate these.

In appraising this piece of literary gem, I could not help but borrow from St Paul’s admonition to the Philippians 4:8: Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things…then the God of peace will be with you.” These qualities are reflected in the 104 pages, Fr Emeh pens adding to an already rich pedigree. In four years, Fr Wilfred Emeh had successfully bagged a master’s degree in Communications and has written two books. Paul lays out eight qualities namely true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, excellence, praiseworthy which could be applicable to this new publication. Of the foregoing qualities, four are worth considering namely true, gracious, just and excellence.

Some of us had the privilege of consuming an overdose of literature as we grew up. I remember the fictional acuity of Hadley Chase and the romantic escapades momentarily albeit of the celebrated Mills and Boons. With the “Mysterious Ways of God,” Fr Emeh lays bare the truth of his experience. There is a certain vulnerability that comes with writing a memoir yet the priest challenges himself to unravel the mysteries of the divine in his daily encounters in Alabama. One thing that shines through this work is how Fr Wilfred wraps in the best of the three Popes he has been privileged to live through their papacy. In his encyclical Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict XVI invites us to the abiding truth that: Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with a person which gives life a new horizon.” Pope Francis develops this further and invites us to a “culture of encounter.” He reminds us that “Faith is an encounter with Jesus, and we must do what Jesus does: encounter others.” And like Pope St John Paul II, Fr Emeh draws from the inspiring “Memory and Identity” to share his experiences. It is Jesus Christ who brings Fr Epie to Our Lady of Sorrows where he encounters the same Christ making him present to the people. One way of reading this text is invariably then that of the encounter of two cultures made possible by the person of Jesus Christ through the priest (an African black man) and a predominantly white community (Our Lady of Sorrows) with a sordid history of racial tensions (Birmingham, Alabama).

The unmistakable point one comes away with is the fact that this priest listened attentively to the following words Bishop Pius Awa of Blessed memory addressed to him on the day of his ordination fourteen years ago: When you baptize you will bring men and women into the people of God. In the sacrament of penance, you will forgive sins in the name of Christ and the Church. With Holy oils, you will relive and console the sick. You will celebrate the liturgy, offer thanks and praise to God throughout the day, praying not only for the people of God but for the whole world.” This book reads like an account of Fr Emeh’s stewardship over the last four years while in the United States of America. It is a memoir, a memory of the first African priest to serve in Alabama. It is neither a work of fiction nor is it draped in the dreary theological platitudes.

The gracious seems to be the single leitmotif underpinning this work. It is a story of the inscrutable work of grace. There is no doubt that becoming a priest is the work of grace. It was breathtaking reading how the author almost called off his ordination during a retreat until the reassuring words of Our Lady to him: “I will help you, do not be afraid.” Thirteen years later Fr chose Fatima, a famous Marian apparition site, to do a pilgrimage in honor of the Blessed Mother, Mary. The mystery of being a priest, of being alive and ministering in Alabama, could only be the mysterious intervention of grace.

It would have been an epic failure of sorts if the author failed to address the current malaise affecting his country of origin, Cameroon. Since 2016, Cameroon has been mired in a crisis that has spiraled out of control and trudging to the precipice. As a priest, he answered the call of his prophetic ministry and used the barrel of the pen to communicate his thoughts on the struggle. Even in the midst of the crisis, Fr Emeh displayed his ecclesiological magistracy at the demise of Bishop Balla of the diocese of Bafia, Cameroon who had been brutally assassinated and dumped in a river with a fake suicide note left in his car. Without the ethnicity bias, this priest wrote: “Additionally, the current crisis plaguing our homeland is a wakeup call to the clergy and God’s people in Cameroon, and to the church as a whole, because an attack on one of us is an attack on the entire Body of Christ.” (p.71). In a series of social media postings, Fr Epie addressed the inherent question of justice underlying the current political quagmire that has gripped Cameroon. He extends to the assassinated Bishop a courtesy that Francophone Bishops have not been able to extend to Ambazonian Bishops. Beyond his prophetic voice, Fr Emeh has now dedicated his work to humanitarian and relief services for the aggrieved people of Ambazonia. He has accepted and become a board member of the Cameroon Humanitarian and relief Initiative, an apolitical organization. They have been actively engaged with the refugees in Nigeria and feeding political prisoners in Cameroon. There is no peace without justice!

Fr Emeh’s piece is an excellent piece of literary wizardry. It makes for easy reading and quite entertaining. One of the best stories Fr tells is of his classmate, an African American girl who is 23 and tries to woo him and when this fails she tries to hook him up with her sister. To find out how that story ends and many more get a copy from EWTN’s Religious catalogue.

 

 

MLK Challenge: Ambazonians – “Remain Awake, Alert and Creative” By Lambert Mbom

Last Monday, Americans honored the legacy of civil rights icon, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This year’s celebration took on an added meaning against the backdrop of President Trump’s recent racially tinged comments. While in the land of my birth, for over a year now, the people of Southern Cameroons/Ambazonia activated and ratcheted the revolution for the restoration of the “won and lost” independence.

While Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech remains very popular especially among Africans, today in the face of the daunting challenges and setbacks that have beset the Ambazonian revolution, one of Dr. King’s priceless themes worth revisiting is “Remaining Awake Through A Great Revolution.” The version I laid hands on is Dr. King’s address at Morehouse College Commencement, 2 June 1959. It is worth remarking here that MLK delivered variations of this theme throughout the 1960s.

As I watched the march past, I could relate to the many issues that defined the long march: “Black Lives Matter,” “Jobs not Jails,” “Statehood for DC” to name but these. Conspicuously absent today were the many Africans from the infamous “s…h…” countries that would have seized the moment to register their discontent. One could not help but ask for example where all the many champions for Ambazonia/Southern Cameroons were?

Reflecting on the current state of the Ambazonia revolution, the words of Dr King to the 1959 graduating class of Morehouse College remain relevant: “The great challenge facing every member of this graduating class is to remain awake, alert and creative through this great revolution.” This is and should be the abiding message to every Ambazonian. This is the MLK challenge to every Ambazonian.

The grave danger at this time is to be complacent or disappointed especially with some of our leaders in jails in the colonialist’s dungeon and their accomplices in neighboring Nigeria abducting Sisiku AyukTabe of the Interim government and some members of his cabinet, increasing number of refugees streaming in from Southern Cameroons/Ambazonia and the bloodbath cum impending genocide as a result of the provocation of the occupying forces of La Republique. We have come too far and must hold the fort. Let us remain awake, alert and creative.

Each of us must avoid becoming the Ambazonian “Rip Van Winkle.” The coward is said to have gone up to the mountain for a long sleep during the American Revolution. In Dr. King’s words: “When he went up, the wall had a picture of King George III of England. When he came down it had the picture of another George, George Washington…When he started his quiet sleep America was still under the domination of the British Empire. When he came down she was a free and independent nation. There is nothing more tragic than to sleep through a revolution.” Ambazonians wake up, be alert and creative.

Dr. King defined this in another of his famous quotes: “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

The harsh conditions of the elements of nature with the frigid cold did not deter some of us from joining the Peace Parade along the hallowed streets of South East D.C dedicated to the iconic Martin Luther King Jr. In the context of the Ambazonian struggle and against the backdrop of President’s Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign which seems to be a euphemism for “America Alone,” it seems foolhardy to engage in politically charged activism like the Ambazonia Revolution. Yet, Rev Dr King’s rousing speech makes the strong case for why Americans need to be engaged in struggles like Ambazonia’s. Even though referring to the abject poverty he witnessed in India, one could paraphrase King’s words to refer to Ambazonia thus:

“Can we in America stand idly by and not be concerned? The answer is an emphatic No because the destiny of America is tied up with the destiny of Ambazonia (Southern Cameroons). As long as Ambazonia (Southern Cameroons) or any other nation is insecure, we can never be totally secure. We must use our vast resources of wealth to aid the developed nations of the world. Too often have we used our wealth to establish military bases, while neglecting the need of establishing bases of genuine concern and understanding.”

We the Ambazonian Diaspora in the United States of America must move the struggle beyond the noisy chat rooms of our “Whatsapp” groups and enlist our friends at work, church and clubs. While charity truly begins at home, it becomes selfish if it remains at home. We must remind Americans that the destiny of Ambazonia is inextricably bound with the destiny of America where some of us have found refuge. Rev King has provided us the words to avail of in this campaign of enlisting America’s support: “No nation or individual is independent; we are interdependent. We are caught up in an inescapable network of mutuality.” Each of us must become an Ambassador for the Ambazonian revolution.

It is thus pathetic to see that our activism has not risen beyond the confines of our quarrels on social media and hence we have not been able to convict the consciences of our American friends. We need a groundswell of actions like those of the proud and courageous Ambazonians in Boston who convinced their local council to take up the Ambazonian issue. If all the Ambazonians in the US could follow this model and engage their local politicians in a more deliberate fashion, then maybe, just maybe we will get the US to do what they did to bring down Apartheid in South Africa. It is unfathomable to imagine that Ambazonians in the US were unable to get 100.000 signatures last year to bring the Ambazonia issue to the White House. It is unconscionable to imagine that we have not been able to get the crowds at our demonstration that will shut down traffic and bring on the attention to our revolution.

Yes, all politics is local and it is a numbers game. Let us activate Ambazonian Revolution 2.0. In celebrating the legacy of this luminary of the civil rights movement, let us celebrate the legacy of Mancho Bibixy, Sisiku Julius AyukTabe and our leaders incarcerated and abducted in foreign dungeons of La Republique du Cameroun and Nigeria.

Even though a Catholic hymn, I can bet my last dime that Rev. Dr. King must have reflected on the following words of Faber which in the current context of our incarcerated leaders and compatriots ring out loud:

Faith of our Fathers! living still
In spite of dungeon, fire, and sword:
Oh, how our hearts beat high with joy
Whene’er we hear that glorious word.

Faith of our Fathers! Holy Faith!
We will be true to thee till death.

Our Fathers, chained in prisons dark,
Were still in heart and conscience free:
How sweet would be their children’s fate,
If they, like them, could die for thee!

Faith of our Fathers! Holy Faith!
We will be true to thee till death.

Buoyed by these words, we Ambazonians must “remain awake, alert and creative.” Happy Martin Luther King Day.

 

 

The Inconvenient Truth – Southern Cameroons’ Activism on WhatsApp By Lambert Mbom

“I once said, ‘If you want to liberate a society, all you need is the Internet.’ I was wrong. I said those words back in 2011, when a Facebook page I anonymously created helped spark the Egyptian revolution. The Arab Spring revealed social media’s greatest potential, but it also exposed its greatest shortcomings. The same tool that united us to topple dictators eventually tore us apart.” Wael Ghonim TedTalk March 2011

One of the most active battlegrounds for the liberation of Ambazonia is on social media: Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter in descending order of usage. Like with most revolutions, free speech is often the first casualty. I write today to bemoan the dictatorial tendencies that have characterized many Ambazonian WhatsApp fora. One cannot but denounce the actions on the SCNC forum where group administrators have let emotions not reason get the better side of them as they yank members off the group’s WhatsApp forum. Unfortunately, this is becoming a norm rather than the exception.

The SCNC WhatsApp group emerged in November 2016 as a fundraising tool where people made pledges to support the budding revolution at the time and served well when that lone objective reigned. It soon became a place where people settled personal vendetta. With the emergence of the SCACUF’s Governing Council, the attack dogs went wild. Today, this has gone viral.

This unfortunate reaction appears to have been fueled initially by the posting of a video message recorded and widely disseminated by Edwin Suh on social media lambasting the flawed process that birthed Sisiku AyukTabe’s leadership of the Governing Council of SCACUF. Clearly, criticism of any form against the Governing Council of SCACUF became anathema on the SCNC forum.

Let me state clearly that I do not subscribe to the “anything goes” social media school of thought. Free speech or better still freedom of expression is not license to “any” and “everything.” There is such a thing as abuse and hence the need for etiquette on social media.

The fun of it is that “WhatsApp” is a free service provided for information sharing and community building. Is it not greed that one is provided a service gratis and he turns around to purge others from enjoying the same? Each group that avails of this service is supposed to have its defining ethos; these have to be carefully and clearly delineated for all members to understand. This too cannot be done willy-nilly but must be agreed to. There is no evidence of such discussions, guidelines and rules set forth on the SCNC WhatsApp forum. While the argument could be made for unwritten guidelines, such do not resolve the problem of borderline cases. We cannot let this be dictated merely by common sense or willy-nilly at the whims and caprices of a select puritan few.

On the SCNC WhatsApp forum, there has been a vocal coterie shouting out: fie, fie, fie to members who dare challenge otherwise comfortable positions. When a house is on fire, it is not by occupants shouting that there is no fire that the flames are put out. The fire invariably consumes the house and the naysayers or deniers. Let us never forget that just as “ignorance is bliss,” so too is “knowledge power.”

When one looks for the reasons for such intolerance on social media, one cannot lose sight of the fact that dictatorship breeds dictatorship. One understands that having lived under the brunt of a brutal dictatorship, sufferers too invariably become dictators of some sorts when the opportunity presents itself. What is the difference between the action of the government of la Republique shutting down the internet for over 90 days in the North West and South West regions and administrators of WhatsApp groups throwing people off the forum who even though they agree on the restoration agenda differ on how to accomplish it.

The last time I checked the motto of the SCNC is “Force of Argument and not the argument of force!” These WhatsApp Generals have invariably turned this on its head and using the argument of the force of Group Admin to chase away those whose only force is that of argument. This is undoubtedly an instantiation of cyber bullying which we must eschew. This crass demonstration of two fallacies “Argumentum ad baculum – argument of force” and argumentum ad hominem” is pitiful. Once people cannot comprehend the issues they resort to force and personal attacks.

One finds it intriguing that the purveyors of this banality are enjoying unfettered freedom of speech in the US and yet seek to stifle that of fellow activists on a small chat group on WhatsApp. What is so funny is the fact that these WhatsApp groups are populated just by 260 people and we often mistake the loud noises we make among ourselves as activism. There is a difference between WhatsApp and the other social media like Facebook and Twitter with a better possibility of setting the flame and stoking it to levels of paroxysm. It is foolhardy to continue to deceive ourselves that we can control information flow on WhatsApp and use that to effectively sanitize the struggle.

In civilized society, free speech is a cardinal cornerstone. Freedom of expression cannot be denied those who speak truth to power or who have a different opinion. It is therefore primitive to be shutting people out of Whatsapp forum because they are not ready to sing: Hail, Hail to Sisiku AyukTabe.

Let us take a leaf from the popular American soap opera “Saturday Night Live” and its parody of even the most powerful man on earth, the President of the United States of America, Donald J Trump. Don’t the English say: “What is good for the goose is good for the gander.” We must be careful about the monster we are erecting because it will come back to bite us. We can continue pretending that the king is not naked when he is dressed in Adam’s suit and instead of manning up and dressing up the king, we hurl stones at the court jester who like Shakespeare’s fool in King Lear is speaking truth to power.

We must make ours the words of Voltaire: I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

In fact, Thomas Jefferson put it correctly: He who fears criticism is hopeless. Only those who do things are criticized. To hesitate for fear of criticism is cowardly. If our cause is right be not afraid of criticism, advocate it, expound it and if need be, fight for it. Critics always have been and always will be, but to the strong minded they are a help rather than a hindrance. Take your part in life’s stage and play your part to the end.

 

 

ANU’s Recriminations against MoRISC: A Rejoinder. By Lambert Mbom.

Dear Mr. Anu:

Thanks for dedicating the Editorial of Feb. 2nd, 2017 on your coveted online platform, Cameroon  Journal, to denigrate, deride and lambast the Movement for the Restoration of the Independence of Southern Cameroons, aka MoRISC. As one who claims “to have pioneered the initiative that led to the birth of MoRISC,” one would have expected these views to have been expressed in some shape or form while you enjoyed membership with MoRISC but helas. I would grant you the privilege that the scales suddenly fell off your eyes when you were given six months’ leave twice every year from MoRISC Communications Team.

I have struggled to decipher the rationale for your missive but find it hard to put aside the fact that this smells of the sour grapes phenomenon. One would have expected you to preface your remarks with the fact that “You were thrown out of MoRISC Communication subcommittee for proclaiming violence, antithetical to the ethos and philosophy of the movement.” That alone would have given your ranting some credibility.

Your opening salvo, “we have listened to the arguments for and against the group…” sets you up on a high horse as an arbiter and one cannot but wonder whether given the recent brush you had with the group, you could be impartial.

Against that backdrop, I have also toyed with applying the biblical parable to MoRISC of the man who sowed good seeds but while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weed among the wheat. Matthew 13:25 And this “weed” some are already smoking and trying to choke the wheat. Just remember that after the weed dissipates, you will need the wheat! In that parable, Christ asks that the weed be allowed to grow alongside the wheat until harvest time.

The foregoing notwithstanding, I have taken the liberty in my personal name to respond to your charges against MoRISC in the true spirit that brothers fight with elbows and not with fists.

By way of general comments, notice that in your opening paragraph, you set up any initiative for the liberation struggle on an impossible mission when you opine that – “the mission and modus operandi be made for the purpose of unanimity and acceptability among a majority of Southern Cameroonians” Think about it again! No one expects unanimity. We can have unity without unanimity. Unity is not the absence of conflict. In fact, when conflict is handled well, it leads to unity. And by the way, the different groups mushrooming on the Southern Cameroons agenda do not seek unanimity and a majority of Southern Cameroonians.

It is overly overzealous to imagine and expect that unity would have been achieved between November 2016 and now. MoRISC seeks to forge a long lasting unity between the different groups while creating space for those who do not want to be affiliated to the different groups and yet want to be a part of the liberation struggle.

All I offer in response are the words of the revered Englishman Henry Cardinal Newman who said: “Nothing would be done at all, if a man waited till he could do it so well, that no one could find fault with it.” Desperate times call for desperate measures. The “tour de force” that MoRISC is, is clearly evident in the virulent attacks it has engendered. I just hope you were not insinuating that those opposed to the budding MoRISC are in the majority and even if they were just be reminded that the problem we are decrying in our country borders on the fallacy of numbers.

Let me focus now on the five charges you leveled against MoRISC and attempt an answer. I do so with the firm understanding that your attitude is one of a MoRISC atheist than an agnostic. While the agnostic harbors doubts and is open to understanding, you have already adjudicated and condemned MoRISC. Yet for the sake of information, it is important to clarify.

On MoRISC’s Place as an umbrella organization of all Southern Cameroons Nationalist Movements in the Diaspora: There have been many recriminations against MoRISC with respect to its claim of being an umbrella organization. When the revolutionary volcano exploded in Southern Cameroons last November, many in the Diaspora cried out for concerted effort. There were online appeals for some coordinated leadership and the need for different groups to coalesce and form a united front. That was a tall order and given the rapid turn of events, there was need to make hay while the sun shines.

Chris, for a publisher of your caliber to peddle in half-truths and outright lies is befuddling. Your sourcing for this was poor and worse still biased.

In the United States of America, the three well known groups fighting for the liberation of Southern Cameroons are the SCNC, Ambazonia-related groups most prominent of which is the Ambazonia Liberation Movement (ALIM) and the SCYL.  Each of the leaders of these groups was contacted. There was even a new group created in New Jersey called Confederation of British Southern Cameroons in the US CBSCNA; And many others have sprung up! During the January 21st conference, these groups were welcomed and given the opportunity to introduce themselves.

Let us be clear that this talk of outreach is a smokescreen used to give the impression that MoRISC is not representative. It would be nice to be specific. And here, I like to talk about the Chairman of the SCYL.

As far as I know, the Chairman of the SCYL was contacted and invited to the very foundation meeting of MoRISC. Dr. Ebenezar Akwanga has taken part in a steering committee meeting of MoRISC and even spoke during the town hall meeting organized last December by MoRISC. He is not in support of MoRISC and that is his right and prerogative but that does not mean he has not been contacted and briefed on the goals and mission of MoRISC.

Edwin Ngang, the poster child of Ambazonia Liberation Movement (ALIM) was contacted and you know, he and his ilk have serious reservations against the rest of the groups that call themselves “Southern Cameroons…” They believe any group that labels itself that way is part of the problem. Edwin, has repeated ad nauseam, that pan-Cameroonianism is the major stumbling block. You can imagine the herculean task it is to get them on the table. He graciously accepted to be a part of the conference and was present.

MoRISC does not seek to reinvent the wheel and believes in the trail blazed by giants on whose shoulders it stands. Hence, efforts were made to recognize these. Be informed that Chief Alexander Taku was invited to the conference and he took part in the conference in DC.

Ambassador Fossung originally accepted to be part of the conference on condition that somebody would pick him up. Entre-temps he changed his mind. You wonder why? Folks of your ilk poisoned the swamp.

Retired Justice Alobwede Ebong was also invited and agreed to be a part of the conference and some confusion on transportation prevented him from showing up.

Be informed too that MoRISC in the planning for the conference that took place last January reached out to Fon Gorji Dinka who is currently in London. He was given the opportunity to record a message and send to the group and he originally declined and said MoRISC could use one of the many messages he had sent out. With hindsight, he changed his mind and sent a message which was played in the evening during the “cry-die.”

It is also worth noting that outreach efforts were made to other groups that were known such as the AAG that believes in federalism as the way out of the current quagmire.

As a good reporter, one would have expected that having taken part in the preparations towards the conference, you should have reported that outreach attempts to women and stalwarts of the struggle were made. You even volunteered during the planning of the conference, to reach out to Prof Kofele Kale and get him to be a keynote speaker and we are still awaiting your feedback.

You claim that leaders show up at protest rallies not as organizers but as any other Southern Cameroonian would. This grandstanding must end! Tell those leaders to organize their own demonstrations and invite others. They come to a rally and are recognized and given the opportunity to address the people and it becomes an issue. If they had shown up and not given that attention, they would have cried foul.

I would suggest that those leaders pray this famous prayer of St Francis of Assisi:

Lord Make me an instrument of your peace Lord: where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where   there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

May they seek not so much to be understood as to understand!

“The Draft Constitution that Surfaced in DC” is your next charge. MoRISC has a legal team that drafted that Constitution. Again your sourcing was wrong, poor and prejudiced. It is so easy to give a dog a bad name and hang it. Chris, it is shameful that members of MoRISC’s own steering committee did not read the draft constitution. This is the problem with us all. That document was circulated at least 24 hours to the conference. Do not forget that the only way to hide information from a black man is to write it in a book.

I hope you are not insinuating that a constitution is only worthwhile when written by a team. You worked on hearsay and concluded that the constitution was done by one person. There were at least eight fine legal minds that worked on that document. Now that a team prepared that document, you still have issues with it. Every constitution is a working document.

I would agree that may be more time should have been given for people to read through the document. Hopefully, many have had the opportunity to read the draft document and are prepared to send forth proposed amendments for the 11th Feb conference in Hagerstown.

On MoRISC as a political organization – It would be instructive to research on the various ways of registering an organization in the US and the implications not just for donors but for those running it. It is very easy to stoke the flames of sentiments and make outlandish claims. What do you understand by a political organization? Please school yourself on what the options are, the implications of each and the advantages/disadvantages of registering groups in the United States.  How do you for proper tax purposes constitute an organization in the US and blend that with the activism and diplomacy needed to achieve the goal of the independence of Southern Cameroons. What do you suggest as an alternative? How is the SCNC for example registered in the United States? FYI, SCAPO at the recommendation of the African Union Court deposited registration forms as a political party in Cameroon. How about the SCYL? How is it registered if at all in the United States? Be informed too that it took years for the SCNC to be cleared off the State department’s list as state sponsor of terrorism. We must walk a fine line and not just throw words around?

Your insinuation that MoRISC is a monolithic cabal high jacked by Boh Herbert is a cheap shot. Try again! Why is it that of the over 24 persons on the steering committee of MoRISC, you have singled out Boh Herbert and claim he has “vehemently challenged revision of the group’s status?” You ridicule the rest of us members of the steering committee and make us look like dunces being led by the nostrils. The interim leader of MoRISC’s steering committee has been the Chairman of SCNC. The fact that Herbert has been the public face of MoRISC should not invite this kind of vitriolic attack. To use an editorial page to settle personal vendetta against one with whom one harbors differences in opinion is definitely a cardinal sin in journalism.

On the relationship between MoRISC and the Consortium: For the last couple of months, the name on every lip in Southern Cameroons is the consortium. Thanks to this representative body of lawyers, teachers and drivers which took the country as by a storm, the liberation struggle of Southern Cameroons has been reenergized. Given the reality on the ground and with the sound legal minds that led the consortium, they strategically argued for federation as the ultimate solution to the Southern Cameroons conundrum. While MoRISC unapologetically convened on the sole agenda item of restoration of the independence of Southern Cameroons, it recognized the leadership of the consortium and paid allegiance to it. There is no doubt that given its reality on the ground, the consortium could only do that much. Many of us had sustained conversations with members of the consortium. As a body, MoRISC recognized its role as a diaspora organ working with external options and exploring international options.

Ivo Tapang, has been invited many times to join the Communications committee and he has elected not to. There were attempts made to have him be a keynote speaker at the last convention. That too fell through.

It is not for want of trying. Do you know the relationship the consortium had with the political leaders of the different groups in the struggle back at home? It would be nice for you to read, re-read and understand where the Consortium was going to and why they did what they did.

Structures on the Ground: Again this charge against MoRISC while valid is premature and presumptuous. Concretely, the only organization that has structures on the ground in Southern Cameroons is SCNC. It would be nice to find out what you mean by structures? Office space? Or did you mean human resources/boots on the ground? If it is about human resources, MoRISC is barely two months old today. It is work in progress. Yet, it is gathering momentum in South Africa, in Europe, in Africa and even here in the United States of America. MoRISC is designed to provide the convening power to galvanize the efforts of SCAPO at the African Union, Ambazonia Liberation Movement at the United Nations and the SCNC. It seeks to serve as a lubricant while at the same time creating space for non-aligned members of any of the current outfits to also participate. This is where the rubber meets the road.

Your reference of Hon. Wirba is yet another desperate attempt at legitimizing baseless claims and sanitizing half-truths. Hon. Wirba has received more phone calls since his courageous speech in Parliament than all his life put together. Yes, MoRISC reached out to him to invite him to the conference last January 21st and he explained that there are too many groups inviting him all around the world and he thinks this is not the opportune moment for him to travel. He clearly indicated that he thinks it is premature and more coordination needs to be done.

You can see how much time one has wasted responding to these gripes that could have been settled inter nos. We must make no mistake: La Republique is not the only enemy Southern Cameroons has. We too, the people of Southern Cameroons are out best enemies. Your editorial was an epic betrayal of journalism, laden with innuendoes, half-truths or rather “alternative facts” I urge you to tighten your role as a watchdog. Just be careful that the dog does not turn and bite its master while the enemy is pillaging and plundering the master’s property. It would be an overstatement to claim MoRISC as it stands is a perfect gem. It is work in progress and we can either let it blossom or at our own peril seek to choke it.

 

 

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