Anglophone Crisis Spillover: Yaoundé Under Siege from Protesting Teachers

Yaoundé: 27th March 2017

Every social problem is like malignant cancer! If not solved in time, it only spreads, it never goes away. That is the same with the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon which has emboldened teachers in Yaoundé to stage a protest march, starting at the Ministry of Finance.

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Many of the teachers are demanding to be paid wages they are owed for over 60 months.

Their placards carry messages such as “NO PAY! NO SCHOOL!; “WE WANT TO GET PAID NOW“; “RESPECT US“; “PAY OUR SALARIES“, among others.

Some of the organisers have confirmed that their hope is for all schools to be shut down across Cameroon until the deplorable educational conditions are addressed.

When asked if they considered it an extension of the Anglophone crisis, one of the protesters explained

“we cannot pretend our problem is as bad as the Anglophone crisis, but we have been inspired by their resilience. It is our way of showing solidarity, while at the same time expressing our grievances”.

This view is apt given that for many decades Anglophones have been suppressed, dehumanised and treated like second-class citizens in their own country. Over the last five months, the situation escalated when Lawyers and Teachers started protesting against the injustices suffered by English-Speaking Cameroonians.

The government of Cameroon responded with brutal military crackdown and arbitrary arrests and detention. Many lives were lost and property destroyed. The Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium, with which the government was hitherto negotiating, was suddenly banned, some of its leaders were arrested and are facing treason charges in a military court.

Many people have been expressing some optimism on social media following the action in Yaoundé. Some have boldly asserted that this has taken the Anglophone struggle into the lion’s den. Others have been calling on all factions of civil society across Cameroon to rise up and put an end to Biya’s 35 years of economic stagnation and widespread deprivation.

Some have been critical, asking why it is that there is no major crackdown by the security forces as was the case with the English-speaking teachers and lawyers. In response to this, it has been highlighted by others that this is just another indication that Anglophones are treated less favourably by the Biya regime.

Collage Credit: Capo Camer

Whatever the situation, this is a rallying call to all Cameroonians to realise that this is the time to end the rot that has eaten into the fabrics of society. It is a call on all to say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

Cameroon’s president is reported to have gone to Geneva after his visit to Italy and the Vatican, should this unrest continue, it is projected that he will be unlikely to enjoy his much craved time in what has been known to be his actual country. Activists from across Europe are already mobilising to go to Geneva and chase Biya back to Cameroon.

Pope Francis Tells Paul Biya that Suppression of Freedom & Abuse of Human Rights is a ‘Path to Peace’

What would Jesus Do? This is the question that many have asked and keep asking in many different situations.

Yes What would Jesus do if he were to meet with Paul Biya, the Dictator who has clung to power in Cameroon for 35 years?

What would Jesus do if he were to meet with Paul Biya, at a time when millions of English-Speaking Cameroonians have been without the internet for 65 days and counting?

What would Jesus do if he were to have a one-to-one discussion with Paul Biya, after receiving hundreds of tweets from English-Speaking Cameroonians asking for his intervention?

What would Jesus do if presented with the case of millions of English-Speaking Cameroons who have been suppressed by successive Cameroonian governments?

If there is one person in the best position to answer these questions, it would be Pope Francis, the Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. The Pope received Paul Biya of Cameroon and his Wife Chantal Biya at the Vatican, after an official state visit to Italy.

English-Speaking Cameroonians and well-wishers across the world held their breath as they expected the Pope to use it as an opportunity to preach a life-changing sermon to Biya. To say they were disappointed would be an understatement. Despite receiving hundreds of tweets with gruesome images and videos of the atrocities being committed in Cameroon by Biya’s government, the Pope chose to treat Biya as if he were a Saint, much to the chagrin and disappointment of millions of Catholic faithful who look up to the Pontiff to be the voice of the voiceless.

In a video released by The Rome Reports TV News Agency,  the Pope can be heard telling Biya after receiving a sculpture of an Elderly Cameroonian that “The Memory of elders is the Wisdom of a Country”.  As one tries to grapple with understanding what memory, or which elders or which wisdom, the statement is refering to, the pope goes on to present Biya with a sculpture that sybolises peace and then drops the bombshell “I Wish for Cameroon to Continue Walking on the Path of Peace”

Really? Cameroon where freedoms and personal liberty is suppressed, Cameroon where a 17-year-old University student is raped by the police and nothing is done about it; Cameroon where leaders of the Civil Society have been in prison for over 2 months, facing the death penalty, for peacefully demanding an end to the suppression of English-Speaking Cameroonians; Cameroon where hundreds have been arrested from their homes in the North West and South West Regions (which practices the Common Law system) and taken hundreds of miles to prison in Yaounde (a Civil Law jurisdiction); Cameroon, the country that has been world champion of corruption on two occassions; Cameroon in which any form of dissension against the corrupt and incompetent dictator is punished with a very lengthy prison sentence?

Is the Pope referring to another Cameroon or the same Cameroon where there is a genocide brewing and in which English-Speaking regions are under threat of extermination?

Anyone familiar with the Bible would not be in doubt about what Jesus would do if he met Biya. Jesus would have told him exactly what he told the Pharisees of his day. In Matt 12 33-36 Jesus had this message for the Pharisees

Make a tree sound and its fruit will be sound; make a tree rotten and its fruit will be rotten. For the tree can be told by its fruit   

 You brood of vipers, how can your speech be good when you are evil? For words flow out of what fills the heart.

Good people draw good things from their store of goodness; bad people draw bad things from their store of badness.

So I tell you this, that for every unfounded word people utter they will answer on Judgement Day

This is the type of message anyone would have expected the Pope to tell Mr. Biya. If I understand verse 35 above correctly, there is no way someone like Biya can bring about peace in Cameroon when he is not at peace with himself. A man whose hands are filled with the blood of innocent Cameroonians cannot be the one the Pope is wishing could be the architect of peace. A bad person as Biya is can only bring forth bad things from his store of badness.

The Pope, therefore, encouraged Biya to go on doing the horrible things he has been doing in Cameroon for the last 35 years, by insinuating that Biya was leading Cameroon on a path of peace.

I am sure even Jesus Christ would be disappointed that the Pope did not use this unique opportunity to preach the gospel to one man who needed to hear it the most. One thing though is clear, Cameroon is nowhere near the path of peace and unless Biya is told the truth by those whose responsibility it is to uphold the truth, then the journey to peace will be a very long on for Cameroon.