Activism Beyond Borders, Defying The Biya Intimidation Tactic

Dictator Biya of Cameroon has only one remedy to every problem – silence. This silence operates in two ways, the first is that he is silent over anything that matters in the country, such as the current civil war which he declared. The second is that Biya silences anyone who tries to oppose his remarkable ineptitude in the area of governance and statecraft.

From the start of the current crisis in the Anglophone Regions, Biya has not in any way directly addressed the issues. It has been dealt with only by his surrogates, who paradoxically have no power to implement any outcome to resolve the problem. Biya has addressed ‘The Nation’ many times throughout the crisis but has said nothing concrete relating to the actual situation. In fact, the one time that Biya has directly dealt with the Anglophone crisis, was at the airport when he declared war on those fighting for freedom. When Patricia Scotland QC visited Cameroon, it would have been thought that Biya will engage with the situation. During a lavish dinner which he threw in honour of the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Biya rather reiterated his threats of dealing with anyone who dared challenge his bad governance.

In the area of silencing opposition, Biya has used lengthy prison sentences, having civilians tried in military courts and sending many to jail without trial. In a shocking twist of events, Biya’s tactics extended to Nigeria in January 2018, when colluding with some Nigerian authorities, activists were abducted from Nera Hotel and taken to Cameroon in violation of their convention rights as political refugees.

If Biya expected that the abduction of Sisiku and others will frighten other activists across the world, he was grossly mistaken. Like a hydra, as he cuts one head, two others spring up in its place. As such, despite trying to intimidate activists by holding Sisiku and Co incommunicado and branding them terrorists, many more voices have sprung up in the diaspora, speaking ever so loudly against the carnage that has been unleashed on Anglophones. In a desperate move, the charlatan he appointed as his Minister of Territorial Administration has been making baseless threats about activists in the USA.

First of all, Biya and his sycophant, Atanga Nji Paul, ought to know by now, that Nera Atanga Nji PaulHotel was a one-off unfortunate blip in the radar of the Anglophone quest for freedom. It only happened because those involved had trusted that meeting with Cameroon authorities in good faith could lead to a resolution of the crisis. As it has been proven that Biya and his regime always operate in bad faith, there is no activist who will again agree to meet with a representative of Biya’s government without the necessary guarantees of their freedom.

Secondly, the Nigerian incident was only possible because Nigeria is currently ruled by a man whose only knowledge of governance is in the 80s. Hence, I will not be surprised if Muhammadou Buhari was unaware of what happened in his own country, or was oblivious that accepting Biya’s request to abduct and take refugees out of Nigeria was a gross violation of international law. Either way, the myopia that pervaded the Nigerian saga is one which no sane government will want to replicate.

Donald Trump and his regime may appear to be clueless about a number of things and harsh when it comes to immigration, but they are certainly not stupid enough to realise that conspiring with Biya to deprive the freedom of any activist within their shores, will be political suicide.

Instead of wasting precious time and oxygen on the rants of Atanga Nji, all Cameroonian activists, anywhere in the diaspora should realise that they have one thing that Biya’s regime does not have – the ability to speak out when it matters. This is the time for every activist to speak out the loudest. Whether French-speaking or English-Speaking, there is enough to say these days, and no room for mediocrity or fear. With war raging in the Anglophone regions and many families living in forests, there is no shortage of things to scream about. With a useless election organised in the Francophone regions, while young people stand at the sidelines and watch helplessly as Biya attempts to hold the country hostage for another 7 years, no activist can afford to be silent.

Lurther King

If there is one thing we can promise Biya, it is the fact that activism is something to goes beyond borders and his tactic of silencing those who challenge him, is unfortunately stale. His regime is running out of time and ideas, and before long, their intimidation tactics will be as useless as any words spoken by Atanga Nji Paul.

CASSAVA – Serving All Masters! BUT At What Pay Package?

During a presentation a friend and I made at Ducklington in Oxfordshire during the celebration of Africa Week 2012, we had little difficulty explaining to the kids that chocolate comes from cocoa and sugar from sugarcane, which are African cash crops. Not surprisingly,  cassava drew a lot of attention, not because it was popular among the kids but rather because we had so much to say about it but paradoxically, most of them were hearing it for the first time.

The question I could not stop asking myself was what made cassava such a household name in almost all African and Latin American countries but is barely known in most parts of the world.

I will not go through the drudgery of stating that cassava is a major source of carbohydrates, is consumed by more than 500 million people in the world; can simply be boiled and eaten on its own or with a wide variety of sauces; or that it can be used to prepare Water fufu, miondo, bobolo and nkunkum in Cameroon, eba and akpu in Nigeria, that the leaves of the crop are used to prepare the famous cassava-leaf soup of Sierra Leone; that the famous garri produced from cassava can be soaked in cold water (spiced with peanuts, sliced coconuts or palm kernels) or that garri can be poured into hot water to make a simple meal that can be eaten with an array of sauces.

Neither am I going to go through the mantra of stating that starch from cassava, when treated appropriately makes a good natural adhesive; or that in the textile industry, starches occupy an important place in such operations as warp sizing, cloth finishing and printing: or that alcohol production from cassava has an overall efficiency of 32%, or that cassava could become an industrial crop by developing cultivars with different starch compositions or more importantly that Bio-ethanol production is already making its way into world records as Brazil has already started producing bio-ethanol from cassava and many African countries are also becoming major producers of bio-ethanol.

After all the tossing, I guess you will agree it is time to get back to my initial question: What makes cassava so ‘popular’ yet never entering the hall of fame? Many may not agree but the simple answer is that it is because unlike other tropical crops that can be transported over long distance, any attempt to carry cassava across the ocean will in Mallam Sanusi’s words ‘be tantamount to transporting water’. This is because cassava disintegrates not too long after harvesting and hence cannot do with long-distance travel.

This is, therefore, the tricky part. Africans have never stopped accusing the west for plundering the continent’s natural resources. By crook or by design, one crop is such that no one can effectively exploit outside the area of cultivation, – and what is the result… it is languishing in obscurity. Nigeria for example which is the world’s largest producer of cassava is also a great importer of starch. Transformation of cassava beyond local consumable forms into exportable components is by and large left for a future yet unknown generation. The few factories that attempt to convert cassava into other marketable components are mostly located far from the areas of production.  This is the plight of cassava – so good a crop, grows in some extreme conditions, provides different forms of local consumption but a crop which completely hates travelling in its natural form and unfortunate to belong to a people who seem to hate transforming anything beyond the point of local consumption.

Yes! Cassava typifies the African plight. A continent so richly blessed but yet thinks that her successful transformation only lies beyond her shores. When this transformation fails to come, she becomes the sleeping giant. Mighty in herself yet ineffective in creating any influence beyond her shores. Full of potential, yet without the ability to market herself beyond her immediate surroundings.

This is the plight of cassava! Serving all masters but receiving pittances in the form of wages. Enough for subsistence but never enough to save for a rainy day. Enough to satisfy current wants but never thought of as a form of long-term investment. But like any other plight, there is a remedy! Cassava can get her rightful place in the world if and only if Africans begin to invest in the transformation of the crop both for longterm domestic consumption and for foreign markets. If foreign markets will not eat eba or drink garri, they will certainly need starch, ethanol, paper. adhesives, corrugated boards, gums, wallpaper,  textile, wood furniture, particle board, biofuels, dusting powders, drugs, plastic, packaging, stain remover, and moisture sequester, which are all produced from cassava.

If this is done, there is no way cassava will not receive a fair wage for her services. After all, a labourer deserves her wages!