T he Major National Dialogue MND which was convened by President Paul Biya and which ran from September 30-October 4 2019, is a year old this week. Chaired by Prime Minister, Chief Dr. Joseph Dion Ngute, the dialogue wrapped up with some recommendations outlined, to effect peace and bring solace in the country, notably in its North West, South West and Far North Regions. One year after, appraisals, judgments and opinions are being voiced by key players, observers, in line with the success of the event. Across political leanings and walks of life, Cameroonians speak to The SUN!
How did you receive the announcement by the Head of State, President Biya, to convene the Major National Dialogue?
Cameroon is involved in a civil war and all right thinking Cameroonians from Cardinal Tumi to many other persons were interested in the dialogue, so the idea was well received. The expectations of the dialogue were that there will be a discussion between all belligerents and all the combatants in this conflict. The dictionary defines the dialogue as a conversation between two or more people. However, the persons who should have participated in this dialogue, people like Sisiku Ayuk Tabe, people like Sako, people like Ayaba Cho, people like the members of the Ambazonia interim government, did not come, did not take part in the dialogue. As a result, what was meant to be a dialogue was actually a monologue.
It is true a former “Amba fighter” was given some audience, but even then those of us who watched the programme on TV, observed that there was a young man in a suit standing behind him trying to moderate his views, trying to advise him on what to say!
As far as the dialogue was concerned, I think it is only that “Amba boy” who expressed some of the grievances of the English speaking people.
Even brothers do not know what is bothering us, because they have not had the experience which we have had. They have sent children to write an exam only to discover that no child can pass the exam because the questions were mistranslated. So they don’t even know what bothers us.
Where some of your expectations met at the end of the dialogue?
The expectations could not be met because what was meant to be a dialogue was actually masked monologue. The government spent money, brought people together, presented the show to the national committee, but there was no effective dialogue. Even in recent times, they tried having a small dialogue with Sisiku but they themselves closed the dialogue down. We all want an end to this situation, but the situation cannot end unless there’s a true dialogue involving governments and the leaders of the Ambazonian movements.
Were you moved by any of the MND recommendations?
Well, the main issue which could have interested many English speaking people who are moderates, (those who are not secessionists), would have been the creation of an effective federation but the government is only window dressing and its efforts are not effective.
Many of us saw the West Cameroon government operating. The West Cameroon government was efficient, much more efficient than the government of the Federal Republic ever was; they (West Cameroon government) did not even have many resources and they were efficient in administration! If we could have an effective federal structure with strong powers at the federated states which would have made the transformation in the lives of the population, I think many people would have been happy. Even Chief Mukete said that what we needed were meaningful structures! We need meaningful structures which can transform the life of the people. We have no electricity, we have no water, we have no employment. At the federated level, the government should be able to tackle the problems of the people. Thousands of young people leave schools/universities and are unemployed, there are no industries created. A lot of money is embezzled; an effective federated system could have put an end to some of these situations.
What is your take on the implementation of the Special Status for the North West and South West, said to be the most luscious fruit of the Major National Dialogue?
First of all, I don’t even know what the special status is. I don’t know what it is, what is special about the special status of the English speaking people? We don’t know.
We have only heard words – special status, special status has not been defined. I don’t know what is special about our status because a few days ago, five youths were killed in Esoka village!
How well do you think the MND has succeeded to address the socio-political conflict in the two regions?
The conflict is ongoing, it has not stopped. Normally, the Major National Dialogue should have had as its purpose the end of hostilities. Nothing has stopped, the war is still on! So, for the Major National Dialogue to be effective; the war should have stopped completely and we should have had a return to peace.
That return has not yet been obtained and it is true the government is trying different things; the Major National Dialogue, reconstruction, bilingualism commission etc, but they are avoiding the main issue, which is an issue of people sitting down on the table to talk about the state of Cameroon.
In fact, what is needed is not just the MND but a Major National Conference, where people will be able to express their opinions in a fertile manner for Cameroon to be reborn.
It is not only the Anglophones that have problems; there are other people who have problems too. In recent times, we saw people demonstrating in the Littoral, the Northerners have their own agendas and problems, even the Betis definitely have their own problems.
So, what is needed is for people to sit at the table and talk without being restricted from talking. For example, how do you explain the fact that in one year the government can spend two thousand billion francs in the South region building ports, roads, hotels, developing major infrastructures and then the total expenditure for the North West and South West is not up to 300 million, what is the rationale for that? How do you explain the fact that big people steal money every day and are sent to Kondengui every day, but the stealing continues? The country is so corrupt!
So it appears to me that the government is very corrupt and the government is avoiding providing answers to the hard questions, they are trying to use tricks like bilingualism commissions, major national dialogue, reconstruction etc to calm down the Anglophones so that there should be no deep discussion of the problems of the Anglophones.
If the Anglophones calm down, Cameroon will continue as before. We need a rarely allocated formula which defines how much money each region of the country will take. We don’t need a situation where some bureaucrats arbitrarily send millions to one region and the other regions have nothing. All these issues can only be well addressed and handled if there’s an effective dialogue.
What do you think the MND failed to address in its quest to solve the four years conflict?
First of all, they don’t even know what is bothering the Anglophones up till now. The conference was managed like the conference of the Communist Party. People were not given an opportunity to express the in-depth grievances of the population. For example, we are all Cameroonians yes, but why is it that for 36 years, the SDO of Fako has only been Francophones?
If we are Cameroonians, a Francophone can be an SDO and after some time an Anglophone. But now, we are being ruled as if we are commoners, as if the government is an occupation.
The leaders of the secessionist movements and even moderates like Agbor Balla, Ayah Ayah etc should all be summoned to a true dialogue.
I believe that Anglophone Cameroon will not be at rest until there’s a strong federal government in this part of the country. Because when you have a variety of languages in a country, the governmental structure is always federal, like in Switzerland, in Canada, in countries that have multiple official languages, there’s federalism which takes into consideration the official languages of various areas.
So, we will not make any progress until such a proper federal structure is instituted. And unfortunately, the fear of the government is that federalism will lead to secession! No, it is federalism that will put an end to secession because the unitary state does not recognise the identity of English speaking peoples, it does not even recognise their language.
The language of administration is French, the security conferences which takes place every Mondays in Limbe are conducted in the French Language, the government ministries are run in French. So that places the English speaking people at a considerable disadvantage.
Interviewed by SIMON NDIVE KALLA