Why I Can’t Be Silent about School Boycott in English-speaking Cameroon

When I talk about schools in d North West and South West Regions  of Cameroon, It is not as if I stand to personally gain or lose if schools remain closed.

Malala

When I speak out against school boycott, I am thinking of the child who did NOT choose any of these.

I am thinking of the child who sits and wonders why they cannot go to school but their rich  neighbour’s kids have either gone to school in other towns or the expensive ones where there is security.

I am thinking of that child whose dream to read and write is being taken away, yet they have no say.

I am thinking of that child who, because of school boycott, is now subjected to child labour in the farms.

I am thinking of that child who will be forced into marriage because they have no reason to stay around.

I am thinking of that child who will want to understand why there is a war, but will have to rely on oral history, because they cannot research and read for themselves

I am thinking of that child who will not understand why both factions in the conflict claim to be fighting for their future yet neglect their present.

That child who wonders why it is that despite insecurity, other businesses function but schools do not.

YES.. I don’t own a school and I have no kids of my own who have to go to school.

I could keep quite because of the insults and threats to my life… but if I do, how will I sleep at night knowing that these children will one day accuse me of doing nothing.

If I keep quiet because I am afraid to use my education to speak out, then I don’t deserve to extoll the virtues I have acquired from my learning.

Malala  Yousafzai, a little girl from an obscure town in Pakistan, spoke out when a Taliban gun was held to her head. She believed it was better to die than remain uneducated.

She took a bullet from the Taliban but the education acquired by the medics at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham UK, saved her.

She inspires me today. Because of her, as much as I dread the insults, threats to my life and that of my family, it is nothing compared to what Malala had to endure because she wanted to go to school.

So as much as I will want to, I am SORRY, I cannot keep silent on the issue.

When I talk about schools in the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon, It is not as if I stand to personally gain or lose if schools remain closed.

When I speak out against school boycott, I am thinking of the child who did NOT choose any of these.

I am thinking of the child who sits and wonders why they cannot go to school but their rich neighbour’s kids have either gone to school in other towns or the expensive ones where there is security.

I am thinking of that child whose dream to read and write is being taken away, yet they have no say.

I am thinking of that child who, because of school boycott, is now subjected to child labour in the farms.

I am thinking of that child who will be forced into marriage because they have no reason to stay around.

I am thinking of that child who will want to understand why there is a war, but will have to rely on oral history, because they cannot research and read for themselves

I am thinking of that child who will not understand why both factions in the conflict claim to be fighting for their future yet neglect their present.

That child who wonders why it is that despite insecurity, other businesses function but schools do not.

YES.. I don’t own a school and I have no kids of my own who have to go to school.

I could keep quite because of the insults and threats to my life… but if I do, how will I sleep at night knowing that these children will one day accuse me of doing nothing.

If I keep quiet because I am afraid to use my education to speak out, then I don’t deserve to extoll the virtues I have acquired from my learning.

Malala Yusuf, a little girl from an obscure town in Pakistan, spoke out when a Taliban gun was held to her head. She believed it was better to die than remain uneducated.

She took a bullet from the Taliban but the education acquired by the medics at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham UK, saved her.

She inspires me today. Because of her, as much as I dread the insults, threats to my life and that of my family, it is nothing compared to what Malala had to endure because she wanted to go to school.

So as much as I will want to, I am SORRY, I cannot keep silent on the issue.

As much as I want to avoid the threats and insults, I think I should rather be glad they are not as bad as a Taliban gun placed to the head of a little child who wanted nothing but to go to school.

For that reason, I continue to plead with both sides of the conflict in Cameroon especially the Regime of Biya… do something, any thing, that will allow kids to go to school without fear of being kidnapped or attacked.

The Paradox of #Anglophone Children Going to Study in French #Cameroon

The last few days have been particularly difficult for me. This is probably because I am very passionate about education and as September approaches, I cannot bear the thought of Anglophone children staying out of school for another academic year.

Importance of Education for Motivation - Jim rohn
Importance of Education for Motivation – Jim Rohn

I was mildly optimistic that the Anglophone leaders meeting in Washington DC over the weekend will make this a priority and pressure the Yaounde regime into some form of capitulation. As this did not happen, I was nursing my disappointment, I came across a Facebook post in which the person jocularly indicated that Anglophones were now going abroad to study in La Republique Du Cameroun.

Making reference to the ultimatum issued by Chris Anu, the Ambazonia Interim Government Communication Secretary, who gave till the end of May  2018, for Francophones to leave and advised Anglophones to come back home, this Facebook post pointed to the irony that the reverse was happening – Anglophones were rather going over to French Cameroon, to ensure the education of their children.

Education leads to Peace
Education leads to Peace

This trend should not in the least be surprising, given the importance placed on education within African societies. Education is seen as the only way out of poverty and the assurance of a better future. For parents, therefore, who have had their kids out of school for two years, this is as much a sacrifice as they can make.

The paradox of the situation, however, is that the Anglophone crisis began in 2016, in part, as a quest to stop the Francophonisation of English schools. By prolonging the school boycott strategy and forcing Anglophone families to send their kids into the French-Speaking zones, the policy is not only depriving the Anglophone region of financial resources, it is achieving the exact thing, the protests in 2016 sought to challenge.

The longer the school boycott strategy is in force, the more Anglophone providers of education suffer; the longer the strategy persists, teachers, especially those employed by the private sector, suffer and the more Anglophone Children find themselves at the heart of a French system of education.

Education is the sure means to a sustainable Future
Education is the sure means to a Sustainable Future

I must state here, however, that this happens to be only the children of well-to-do families. The poorer children, whose parents cannot afford to send them to the French areas to study, will be left uneducated. This, therefore, creates another problem. A class distinction, in which the rich create opportunities for their kids, while the poor suffer the brunt of the school boycott approach. In the not too distant future, the rich will inevitably become richer, while the poor will remain servants thereby broadening the class distinction.

Justice Ayah Paul Contends that School Resumption & Ending Of Hostilities are Mutually Inclusive

As the dust is about to settle on the just-concluded All Ambazonia Consultative Council (AACC) which held over the weekend in Washington DC, some people have been left underwhelmed, not least, Justice Ayah Paul Abine. In a post on his personal Facebook Page, the former Justice in a strongly-worded statement makes the case of why school resumption and cessation of hostilities were absolutely necessary. In my recommendations to the conveners of the conference, I had seven points that they could consider, among which were the declaration of a ceasefire and school resumption.

Justice Ayah Paul Abine
Justice Ayah Paul Abine

In that write-up, I was too optimistic and had treated both the issues of school resumption and cessation of hostilities, as mutually exclusive. I also made an argument that the call for hostilities to end could come from the Anglophone leaders. Ayah Paul has debunked this by arguing that the Cameroon government “cannot declare war and call on the adverse party to lay down their arms unilaterally.” and that the same government “cannot argue the case for a return to normalcy when [they] go killing people indiscriminately, including the most innocent”. After reading these logical arguments, I must admit that I was naive to assume that it was possible for such a solution to have come from the Anglophone leaders. Following therefore on the superior logic of Ayah, I will submit that ending of hostilities remains the responsibility of the Biya Regime.

The issue on which Ayah and I do agree on is the importance of education for the building of a sustainable future. Ayah argues clearly that:

…we owe posterity a collective duty to prepare those growing up to take the relay baton from us. Therefore, I am one with all those who hold that education is too invaluable to be toyed with. None of us would be doing with efficiency what we are doing today without education. It is absolutely self-defeating to prosecute for a better tomorrow and perpetrate simultaneously conduct that mars that very tomorrow.

The importance of education both as a human right and a conditio sine qua non for the sustainability of the Anglophone quest for freedom, having been established, the question remains as to how this can be achieved in an environment of conflict.

First off, we can all agree that school boycott has no impact on Biya, who has not placed any value on quality education in the 36 years he has been in power. If we agree on that, then we can also agree that Biya will never be moved by the declaration over the weekend, from the Anglophone leaders that schools should not resume. On the other hand, should the leaders of the opposing camp take up the challenge and highlight the importance of school resumption, they will automatically heap pressure on the regime, whose duty it is to ensure that children going to school are not put in harm’s way.

While reiterating therefore that the starting point for any calls for school resumption should be the cessation of hostilities, Ayah Paul goes on to declare that the Anglophone leaders have as much a responsibility as the Biya regime in making this happen. He argues that although the responsibility for ending the conflict lies with the regime, it is not a blank cheque for Anglophone leaders

…  at home and/or abroad [to] take refuge under continuing hostilities to stay formally resolute against the reopening of schools. My considered opinion is that we should leave the door open, thereby shifting the blame to those guilty of belligerency.

If the Anglophone leaders truly care about the future of the children at home, if they care about posterity and the sustainability of the quest for freedom, then they will surely be revisiting their resolution that schools should not reopen.

 

 

7 Things that the All Ambazonia Consultative Council (AACC) – Holding in Washington DC, Need to Address

In the invitations sent out for the AACC, the objectives for both days were stated as follows:

First Day August 18th. Will be a global telecast for thousands of Southern Cameroonian/Ambazonian Stakeholders and Friends of Ambazonia worldwide, who cannot travel to the US but are invited to make their voices heard, focusing on The Modalities of Separation of the Federal Republic of Ambazonia from The Republic of Cameroun. Leaders will recommend and vote on a Final Communique based on global inputs. 

Second Day August 19th. Will be highly restricted to Leaders of Liberation Groups, Civil Society, Episcopal Communities, and Human Rights Activists. They will talk about Unity and Collaboration, sign a Unity Declaration, and present a Joint Statement concerning our proposed Terms of Separation after the declaration of the restoration of our statehood of the former British Southern Cameroons /Federal Republic of Ambazonia.” 

I must admit that I clearly do not understand what the two days will achieve in the light of current events happening on the ground in Cameroon. If I am not mistaken, the first day will simply be a day when people across the world will repeat to each other, the same things that have been said from the beginning of time. I will therefore not be surprised if it turns out to be a day of history lessons of what happened and did not happen in 1961. As for the second day, there is some sort of contradiction. It states that a Unity Declaration will be signed and at the same time presentation of a joint statement about the proposed terms of ‘separation’.

If I understand from the invitation and from the confirmation that Dr. Simon Munzu sent out confirming his participation, this event will be both for Federalists and Separatists. Hence, how can a Unity of purpose be achieved? That said, I am going to propose Five Things that should be achieved at the Conference to make it a success.

1. Declare a Ceasefire:

I know that many people will immediately argue that as Biya is the one who declared war, he is the one who should call for a cease-fire. However, I will want to point out that the only reason Biya declared war over dialogue was that he was certain it will be one avenue in which he might have the upper hand. With superior weapons and training, and with support from the US, the Cameroon military has been using spy technology to locate the camps of Separatist fighters, leading to casualties that can be avoided. Let me just point out though, that calling for a ceasefire is NOT the same as surrendering. It is simply that Ambazonian leaders are taking the high ground to show Biya that they care about the lives of their citizens and will be willing to look for other ways of addressing the situation.

2. Announce School Resumption:

It is common knowledge that Anglophone kids have been going to school in many parts of the North West and South West, especially in the urban areas. However, given that there is no official declaration from the revolutionary leaders that schools should resume, everytime a child goes out, they are at risk.

However, some children, especially those from poorer backgrounds, have lost two years of studies. Children from affluent families have been sent over to cities East of the Mungo or sent abroad, where they are studying in peace. The paradox of this situation is that the kids making the most sacrifice – by not going to school – will be the ones who will have no place in a new dispensation. Be it a Federation or a New State, no one is going to employ kids who never went to school. Hence, those who made the sacrifices will remain slaves to the educated ones who made no sacrifices. This approach runs the risk of replicating the South African situation, whereby Freedom arrived but the critical mass of the population was incapable of taking leadership and control of their country, thereby effectively handing it back to the oppressors.

Also, depriving children of education has no impact on Biya’s Regime, as they do not care about the education of children in the first place. Finally, it is only the Taliban or Boko Haram that use the deprivation of children from schooling as a political tool.

3. Denounce in Strong Terms, the Killing of Civilians by Ambazonian Fighters:

I am sure some will again be quick to argue that Ambazonian fighters have not killed civilians. However, video and photographic evidence exist to prove the contrary. On several social media platforms, manned by Ambazonian activists, justification has been provided that the killing of civilians is usually because they are ‘traitors’. One of the key reasons for this struggle was that Anglophones claimed that they wanted to restore their Anglo-Saxon Heritage.

There is, therefore, no place in Anglo-Saxon culture whereby individuals arrogate to themselves the roles of judge, jury, and executioner. If anyone is truly a traitor, then evidence should be gathered for them to be tried in a competent Ambazonian court, whenever they have their independence. Killing people simply because they disagreed with an opinion or position, is exactly the things Biya did that made people stand up against him.

4. Denounce the Scapegoating of Francophones or Members of Political Parties:

Similar to the above, there have been attacks on Francophones, which were necessitated by the utterances of Tapang Ivo, Eric Tataw, and Chris Anu, who started asking that Francophones should leave. There is no mechanism to ensure that such will happen, and there is no tactical benefit from chasing out people who are also victims of the Biya monarchy of corruption and bad governance. However, such utterances, from people who are seen as leaders, have given room for the abduction of Francophones for ransom and for many to flee their homes in fear. Similarly, audios and posters asking that anyone wearing an SDF or CPDM T-short be shot at sight, have been making their rounds on social media. We know that as a result of poverty, many people wear those things simply as forms of dressing, rather than because they support those parties. Putting a target on them is, therefore, a dangerous move, that could lead to many unfortunate civilian deaths. Furthermore, we may not agree with elections, but we cannot force people to accept our views by killing them.

5. Call for an End to Ghost Towns:

I still struggle to see how forcing our people out of work or business on Mondays, has an impact on Biya’s regime. If anything, it hurts our people, and recently, has become an avenue for power-play. A case in point is that of Buea, whereby a few weeks ago, Ekema Patrick went out with thugs are were puncturing the car tyres of taxis that were not working. If the taxi men went out to work, they would have been attacked for violating ghost towns, however, they stayed at home and became easy targets of the monstrous gangster called Mayor of Buea. This struggle is about helping our people break free from bondage, we cannot continue to impose unnecessary ones on them.

6. Call for a Referendum:

That is the only way the voice of the people can truly be heard. I am not a fan of referendums, given the type of results that the Scottish Referendum and Brexit brought up, but in our situation, it seems the most viable option. Should calls for a referendum, however, lead to a negotiated outcome that does not involve the polls, but one which ends the bloodshed and gives Anglophones autonomy, then it will be applaudable. However, constantly talking of declaration of independence, without having any allies among the Fifteen members of the UN Security Council and perhaps none among the five permanent members with veto powers makes it a non-starter. I wrote a few days ago showing why gunning for independence through the UN was something that we might never achieve. The current trends of violence might only lead to UN involvement, which as we know, might only work in favour of the status-quo.

7. Link Up with Other Oppressed People across the World – Especially in Africa:

I made this suggestion during a march on Downing Street on the 2nd January 2017. We need to know that our strongest allies are other oppressed people across the world. We need to start by looking close to home. Francophones in other countries such around us who are also suffering from the shackles of French imperialism, might not have the same objective as us but will have the same goals, – breaking free. Reaching out and building coalitions with these groups will be a sure way of strengthening our bases.

It is my most fervent wish that some of these issues are considered during these two days so that some sanity might come back to our land.

THE SUPERIORITY OF AFRICAN KNOWLEDGE:

When Socrates made the statement that ‘it is better to be unborn than to be untaught for ignorance is the root of all misfortune’, little did he realise how true this will apply in the 21st century. By many shades it has applied to the African and most third world countries where it is arguably a fact that the high levels of illiteracy could account for the backwardness and lack of development of the regions – resulting in the misfortunes of high infant mortalities, prevalence of diseases and famine etc. But is there is direct relationship between education and development? Are the most educated people the most developed?

Most people will consider this a naive question – and indeed I deed think so myself. For example, Pope Paul VI in On The Development Of Peoples of 1967 held the view that “…economic growth depends in the very first place upon social progress: thus basic education is the primary object of any plan of development. Indeed hunger for education is no less debasing than hunger for food: an illiterate is a person with an undernourished mind.” This view may seem a truism until one decides to question what we mean by education.

If I had been asked this question a few years before I started studying western philosophy, I would have thought the most educated persons were those who had reached the apogee of formal education – that is those with Doctors of Philosophy (PhD). However, after four years of rigorous studies, I came to the realisation that most of the theorists of antiquity were mere monuments of intellection – monuments because they were relevant to their particular periods but offered nothing of practical importance to our generation. Some like the most celebrated Hegel to me may not even pass as a monument given that his greatest writings had the assumption that the African had not reached the level of self-consciousness. As theories used to justify slavery, these views were classics at the time but when subjected to critical inquiry in this age, it becomes apparent how, for a great part, Hegel and many western thinkers were simply rhetoricians who triumphed in arm-chair philosophising.

Their ignorance did not constitute a problem as it did not affect them directly and in fact served a purpose at the time (justified slavery and the colonisation of Africa). The ignorance that calls for serious concern is that which exists in this century where there is so much talk about globalisation and technological evolutions. I know it is stale news that a great part of the world still thinks Africa is a single country. I was shocked to discover, I was not surprised, when, many times in India, intellectuals alluded to Africa as a single country and some asked me if Cameroon is in the West Indies. It is therefore not just a Sarah-Palin-problem. But is this really an issue? I guess not.

The real issue is the ignorance that I have observed being manifested during the last few months. I did not realise how severe it is till I got to Cameroon and was confronted with the fact that people were more informed, objective and critical about issues than I was. I thought I was more educated but to my chagrin I realised I was not as informed as my African counterparts who had lesser formal education.

Thomas Jefferson had made the point that “ the man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers”, which I have extrapolated to include Robert Brault’s statement that “You don’t realize how little accuracy there is in network TV reporting until they cover a story in your hometown.” Hence while we were being deceived by the mainstream media and kept away from the truth about Libya for example, African media houses were feeding the people with the truth. Little wonder the African Union for the first time unanimously challenged a decision by western powers – they knew the truth which we in the west did not know. I have had time to reflect a little on the whole notion of what I know and what I do not know and hence I now can boast of the superiority of the African education.

In High School, I studied American History, British History, European History etc. alongside African and Cameroon History; I studied Agriculture in France, Fishing in Norway and Agriculture in Nigeria among others; I studied British economics; I studied western philosophy and an apologia of African philosophy though I have been having encounters with the rich flavour of African philosophy in folklores and rich African proverbs all through my life. I studied in Cameroon, (Africa in Miniature) and Nigeria (the giant of Africa) and then studied in a renowned western university. The point here is that I, like all African students studied all what western Education offers but western students do not study anything that African education offers. An African who has not travelled out of Africa therefore, ends up knowing more about the world after high school, than a PhD holder who studied all through, in western institutions.

Do you have any doubts, then tell me – who can better understand the problem of hunger – the African who has experience of it or the foreigner who read about it? I recall with a fit of mild irritation how a mate from South Africa got a fail in an exam that he wrote about the apartheid only got an ‘A’ after he openly challenged the lecturer with facts. He lived the experience and the lecturer had only read about apartheid from books. He had firsthand knowledge and what the lecturer knew was at least three times removed from reality. He had knowledge of apartheid but the lecturer had an opinion about apartheid.

It is in the light of this that I cannot understand how it is that many institutions in the West have departments dealing with African studies where Africans go to learn about Africa. What illogicality! The truth is that Africans go for the certificates and not the knowledge. Hence, all what these renowned centres of African studies do is merely celebrate retardation in intellectualism. It is high time we stop deceiving ourselves. No one can teach Africans about Africa.

Isn’t it all so glaring with the stories emanating from the recent invasion of Libya? Of course it is logical that a good reason has to be given to taxpayers for every invasion. Unfortunately these reasons blur the truth and hence knowledge. Ask many in the West today what Libya was in 2010 and all they know is that Gaddafi had stayed in power for 42 years and that Libyans wanted democracy. Ask an African and he will tell you that Libya was a poor Kingdom under King Idris when Gaddafi seized power in 1969, expelled the British and US military bases that ensured Idris’ stay in power, and that Libya according to the UNDP Human Development Index of 2010 had a life expectancy of 74 and that it had free education, and enviable healthcare system and that it was a welfare system with unemployment benefits. How many people in the West today know the real reasons why there have been tensions between Gaddafi and the West?

  • That Gaddafi resisted joining a US/NATO-sponsored military alliance in the region.
  • That Gaddafi also refused to join the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM)
  • That Gaddafi put $300 million of the $400 million to fund Africa’s first communications satellite in 2007. (A project that made western countries to loose a net income from Africa of over $500 million a year)
  • That Gaddafi maintained public ownership of Libya’s own central bank, and the authority to create its own national money
  • That Gaddafi worked assiduously to establish an African Monetary Fund, an African Central Bank, and an African Investment Bank, which will curb the high levels of capital flight from Africa, make African governments more responsible and unfortunately render the IMF and the World Bank visibly useless.
  • That Gaddafi refused the request of Western powers to be part of these projects, especially France and the UK.

Of course many will not know all these. I have read many articles discussion the Post-Gaddafi era. Unfortunately, they are so filled with misinformation that I pity the western generation that will know nothing but what these tell them.  I am in no way down-playing the high standards of western education in western institutions. When it comes to the empirical sciences and technological sciences, there is no doubt that these institutions are of the most premium quality. But talk about the social sciences, the bottom line then is that if anyone wants to be educated in the world today, let them do their primary to high school education in Africa and then go to the Western institutions for University education. That way they will be able to discern fact from fiction and will not end up living a life of deceit.

In the final analysis, it is clear that the era is long gone when a few individuals or countries will continue to present their ideologies and selfish interests as international creed, thereby eroding the powers of the African people. This is clearly a period for a philosophical re-articulation of the African reality; a re-articulation because of the history of bastardisation of the intrinsic realities of African continent. It should be a philosophy of “existential hermeneutics” of self-rediscovery of the past, for an adequate re-integration and possible synthesis for a new way of being, doing and saying. In this sense, it should not be a mere mental or metaphysical outlook on life: not a mere ideological, and not even only an existential construct; but something that involves all of the above – a holistic vision and attitude to life. But most important one that can only be done by those most informed to do it – AFRICANS.