- By Kah Walla
- Tuesday 31 January 2017
WE MUST ACT TODAY #FreeAllArrested #JusticeinCameroon
We talk often of a Cameroon that we will build someday. A Cameroon that is just, equitable and provides equal opportunity to all its citizens. We dream of a Cameroon that will fulfill the potential that nature has provided it with in terms of resources and geopolitical positioning. We dream of a Cameroon that is Leading the Way.
The reality is, more so than ever, we are building that Cameroon today. The crisis in the North West and South West regions has put us solidly in that building process. The questions these regions have asked are posed not to government, but to us as Cameroonians, to us as a nation.
It is important not to get distracted by “how” the questions were posed and to focus on the essence of the questions themselves. Amongst others these questions are:
- Who are we as Cameroonians? What does it mean to be a bilingual nation? How have we forged our traditional heritage with our colonial heritage to build an identity that is truly Cameroonian? Who are we?
- What is the form of state that we want to live in? The centralized unitary state has systematically and catastrophically failed us as citizens? What form of state should then be ours today? What form of state will take into account our identity but also ensure the delivery of basic services such as water, electricity, healthcare, education, etc. to all of us as citizens? How should we organize the state?
- How will we repair and heal the injustices of the past? The disastrous governance of the last 56 years has fostered discrimination and marginalization to certain groups in our country. This discrimination has created deep, hemorrhaging wounds which remain profoundly painful till today. How do we address these wounds, heal them and build a healthier, stronger nation?
These fundamental questions do not affect two regions of the country. They affect all 23 million of us. Unsurprisingly, our government has reacted with the arsenal of responses it seems to be limited to: intimidation, violence, violation of the law and violation of the rights of citizens. This unfortunate but rather predictable government response, poses for us as Cameroonians another series of questions.
- What are the principles and values on which we wish to build our nation? Do we really respect freedom of speech, ideas and political opinion as stated in our Constitution? Will we allow government to arrest people for having ideas and political opinions which simply differ from their own?
- What do we do when government breaks the law? All of the arrests of Anglophone leaders have been carried out without due respect of the law. Government has kidnapped people from their homes, without warrants, depriving them of legal counsel and basic healthcare. Should we as citizens allow this to continue?
- How long should we tolerate a government that exercises excessive force and violence against citizens? The right to strike and to non-violent protest is enshrined in our Constitution. Yet every strike in Cameroon is met with state violence. How long are we going to allow this to continue?
These and other questions are what we are faced with today as Cameroonians. These are the questions we and only we can answer as citizens. If we do not answer these questions, we give our power as citizens over to the small minority that has been governing us so badly for the last 34 years. If we do not face these questions and take action with regard to them, we will have missed the opportunity to build the foundational pillars of our country. Until we build these pillars we will never be able to stand strong, just and true as a nation.
It does not matter whether you are a Cameroonian who believes in two-state, four-state or ten-state federalism. It does not matter whether you believe in decentralization or a centralized unitary state. The questions here are:
- Do you believe in your fellow citizen’s right to express his/her opinion? Defending this right is of utmost importance when that opinion is completely different from your own.
- Do you believe that the State must respect the law, notably when it is dealing with citizen’s rights?
- Do you believe that the State cannot violate the rights of millions of citizens, for example by depriving them of access to the internet for weeks?
- Do you believe that whatever their alleged crime, the State cannot kidnap citizens, depriving them of their right to legal counsel and their right to inform families of their whereabouts?
- Do you accept to be ruled by intimidation, violence and fear?
These are the fundamentals that build a nation. These are the values and principles that we must all stand up for, regardless of our political opinions and points of views. If we cannot stand up for these basics, we can never hope to build the Cameroon that we dream of, the Cameroon that is Leading the Way.
So what can you do as an average citizen? There are actions for the short term and the long term.
In the short term:
On Wednesday, February 1st, 2017 our compatriots will go on trial for having expressed their political opinion and for leading the protests that enabled millions of Cameroonians to bring their deep frustrations to the national stage.
For the last three months, government dialogued with these men, negotiated with them and sought solutions to this crisis with them. On January 17th, government declared their Consortium illegal and arrested them as leaders. This in itself is illegal. The law cannot be applied retroactively. Subsequently, these leaders where charged under the law on terrorism. On Wednesday February 1st they face the death penalty.
We must communicate to the Cameroonian government that we as citizens want no part of a State that acts in complete illegality. This is what we must do:
- Denounce this situation in every newspaper, on every radio and every television station in Cameroon. Now, is the time to stand up and build the pillars of our nation
- Inform our neighbors, friends and families on the truth of the situation. Whether we agree with these leaders or not, the law has been broken in arresting them and their rights have been systematically violated. Today it is them, tomorrow it will be you, your child, your neighbor. Educate your fellow citizens on why it is important to defend the rights of these leaders.
- Send an email to the Presidency of the Republic of Cameroon, the address is firstname.lastname@example.org. The President works for us. We pay his salary and give him the luxurious life he leads. In return, we want to be governed with respect for our rights as citizens and rule of law. The President must know, his government has broken the law and we as citizens will not abide by this.
- Inform every news and media outlet in the world. On Wednesday, February 1st the eyes of the world must be on Cameroon. Injustice, violence and illegality happens under the cover of darkness. Shine the light of information on Cameroon and oblige our government to do what is right.
- Every day as of today tweet and put on your Facebook page at least five messages to #FreeAllArrested and for #JusticeinCameroon. Tweeting and posting on Facebook is tracked by the international media and the volume of a hashtag will attract international media attention. Five tweets a day by just a few thousand Cameroonians will put the eyes of the world on Cameroon and could save those who have been arrested.
In the longer term
We can no longer ignore the fact that our country, Cameroon is in full-blown crisis. This crisis is also an opportunity. The opportunity to redefine ourselves, address our fundamental issues and rebuild ourselves into the glorious nation we were always destined to be.
This will only happen if we as citizens act. We must stand up for Cameroon. Concretely this means:
We must advocate, protest and demand for a Government of Transition. Our current government has lost all credibility with citizens. It cannot lead the political transition we so badly need. A Government of Transition is made up of leaders who are not standing for elected office, who have a track record of integrity, morality and taking stands for the good of the community and the nation, above and beyond their personal interest. It can include clergy, technocrats, teachers, lawyers, artists, etc. who have the technical ability to lead a transition. The main tasks of this transition will be:
- To conduct a national dialogue on issues such as: the Cameroonian identity, the Anglophone problem, the form of the state, historical discriminations and marginalization, etc.
- To re-write the Constitution of Cameroon based on the results of the national dialogue
- To reform key institutions and systems such as the electoral system
- To conduct national elections that will bring in new elected officials into the national institutions of Cameroon
This is the path to re-found and rebuild our nation, solving not only the Anglophone problem, but healing other historical wounds and divisions in order to build a just and equitable nation united in its diversity. What must you do to enable us obtain this political transition:
- Inform yourself on the political transition, its steps and the strategies for demanding it, non-violently and with determination by contacting us at the CPP cppeople1st[a]gmail.com or at Stand Up For Cameroon standupforcameroon[a]gmail.com .
- 2. Join a political party or civil society group that is working actively to obtain political transition
- 3. Communicate on your Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter pages for #PoliticalTransition in Cameroon
- 4. Attend meetings and rallies on political transition in Cameroon
The future of Cameroon, does not depend on this regime that has failed us for the last 34 years. It depends on you and me, the stands we take, the words we speak and actions we take. Cameroon is ours to build, ours to chart a future for, ours to ensure that the Cameroon of tomorrow is the Cameroon that is Leading the Way. For that, we must act today!