Kah Walla Defends the Truth & Freedom of Expression: Dare Oppressors

Kah Walla has taken to social media to defend her statements made recently in the USA about the situation in Cameroon’s English-Speaking Regions.

Despite the threats made to her life, the one time presidential candidate, has, in a statement, not only set the records straight but also made it clear to those threatening her that they cannot stop her from standing for the truth.

In this well written statement, Kah Walla blames the Biya Regime for its poor handling of the crisis and also attributes blame to Ambazonian leaders and activists who through lies, manipulation and intimidation, have made a bad situation worse.

There are few politicians and activists in Cameroon who are willing to defend their convictions, even when this puts their lives at risk.

Kah Walla has been one of the consistent advocates of freedom of expression and the rights of all Cameroonians to live in a country free from oppression. From the start of the current crisis in the English Speaking regions of Cameroon, she has not spared a moment to challenge the regime in Yaounde for its high handed and irrational approach to solving the problems.

When journalists and activists have been arbitrarily arrested, Kah Walla has not only spoken up, but also gone out on the streets to demand their release

This brave woman has been attacked, arrested and threatened countless times by the Biya regime. She has shown that she is willing to sacrifice her political ambitions for the sake of peace and prosperity in Cameroon, her recent action being her refusal to stand as a candidate during the 2018 sham presidential election.

Why then is Kah Walla not the people’s favourite? Why is it that Ambazonians are now threatening her for speaking the truth, even when that truth is liberating? Why is it that people who claim to be fighting against oppression, and who should appreciate Kah Walla as a credible ally, rather chose to vilify her?

While I cannot claim to know the answer to all these questions, one thing is clear, Kah Walla is just another victim of a misogynistic society. She is a victim of a society that is still scared of strong, powerful and independent women in positions of leadership.

Had rhe statements made by Kah Walla been made by any other male politician, the vitriolic attacks and threats would have been minimal or nonexistent.

All in all, I cannot fail to express my profound admiration for this woman and all she stands for. She is not only a symbol of liberation for the oppressed people of Cameroon, she represents a symbol of liberation for all women across the world who are still held down by patriarchal and misogynistic norms.

Below is her full statement as posted on her Facebook Page.

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Fellow Cameroonians,

First I want to wish a Happy Easter to all our Christian Brothers and Sisters. Secondly, I wish to extend particular greetings to all who live in the South West and North West regions of Cameroon.

It would seem in the last 72 hours there has been quite a frenzy about a video snippet from the conference I spoke at, at the George Washington University Institute for African Studies. This frenzy has resulted in some persons in the Diaspora calling me an “enabler and declaring me an enemy of Anglophones and demanding that I should be arrested and tried”.

Thank you to all of you who have reached out to me out of concern for my safety and well-being. You are right to be concerned and I thank you for your love and affection.

Please be assured, I am serene and focused on the fight for change for Cameroon, as I have been for decades. There is absolutely no fear in my heart. No fear of visiting the South West and North West regions, which I will do upon return to Cameroon. No fear for my life.

Let me confirm some of the statements made at GWU, once again.
• There is an Anglophone problem in Cameroon which is over 60 years old.
• In the current phase of the Anglophone Crisis which erupted in October 2016, the Biya Regime holds 100% of the blame for the instigation and the escalation of the crisis. The Biya Regime refused to dialogue, refused to address fundamental problems and responded to non-violent protests with violence and killing. The Biya Regime cut off the internet for 3 months to the North West and South West. The Biya Regime radicalized the population and led to the taking up of arms by some groups.

Now let me get to the part of my comments at George Washington University which some have found controversial.

The fact that the Biya Regime is absolutely culpable, does not negate the fact that those who decided to take up arms to fight for independence misled and lied to the population from Day 1 and have continued to do so for the past 3 years.
The Biya Regime has killed Anglophones indiscriminately and committed all sorts of abomination on the population. This does not negate the fact that those who decided to take up arms have also used intimidation and violence from Day 1. It does not negate the fact that their choice to take up arms has created a situation in the North West and South West regions which is catastrophic and untenable for the population.

In fighting the Biya Regime, we are fighting a regime which has lied to us, manipulated us, intimidated us and used corruption and violence on us for the past 37 years. It is inconceivable to me that those who want change would use the same tactics of lies, manipulation, intimidation, corruption and violence on the population while trying to bring about change.
Whether it was the intention of those who fight for the independence of the South West and North West regions or not, that is what has happened and continues to happen on the ground. We can no longer keep silent about it.

A wide variety of political opinions exist among Anglophones. At the very least, there are:
• Those who believe in an armed fight for independence
• Those who believe in independence, but not in an armed fight
• Those who believe in regional autonomy of various types = Federation
• Those who still believe in the unitary state (Yes, Anglophones who are part of the regime are still Anglophones).

Personally, I believe in regional autonomy or what some call federation. However, I qlso believe, all the different opinions have a right to exist and to be expressed. We cannot build change, if we intimidate and are violent with those who have a different opinion from our own.

I strongly and openly disagree with the maintenance of the status quo of a unitary state.
I also strongly and openly disagree with the strategy of an armed fight and have stated clearly since 2016 that I believe this strategy will endanger the lives of Anglophones and will do little to advance their rights. The facts on the ground today, have confirmed that belief.

I will not allow anyone to intimidate me or stop me from expressing my opinion. No threat of violence or arrest will affect me. I have fought one oppressor in the person of Mr. Biya and his regime for decades, I will certainly not be afraid of Facebook oppressors living thousands of miles from the people they say they are fighting for, or any other oppressors in whatever form they may come.

From October 2016 to September 2017 the fight for Anglophone rights was largely non-violent. During that period, we counted less than 100 deaths (all these deaths could be attributed to government forces), ZERO refugees, ZERO internally displaced persons, ZERO villages burned.

The choice to take up arms gave the Biya Regime, which we all know to be violent and repressive, the foreseeable opportunity to intensify its violence.

From September 2017 to date the fight for Anglophone rights has included armed groups. During this period, we are counting at the very least 1000 dead (attributed to government, but also to armed groups), about 50,000 refugees and close to 500,000 displaced persons and thousands kidnapped. The education of an estimated 2,500,000 children is in jeopardy. The economies of the North West and South West are in shambles and fertile ground has been created for extreme violence and criminal behavior. The population lives in poverty, fear and confusion.

In my opinion, it is time to reassess the armed strategy and define new ways of fighting the Biya Regime that do not put Anglophones in the midst of violence, kidnappings, murder and general mayhem. You can agree or disagree with my opinion. What you cannot do is intimidate or threaten me.

Some have issued veiled threats to my life. I am amused. At the very least 1,000 people have died in the North West & South West. My life is not so special. If I lose it, and Cameroonians who remain behind gain freedom and better lives, you can imagine I made my peace with that many years ago.

The Biya Regime has its soldiers, those who are fighting for independence have their armed groups. I am part of that majority of Cameroonians who have no guns and no army. We will however not be intimidated or silenced by those who have arms on either side. We will speak our minds and fight for our freedom without violence.
You have killed many, and you may still kill many, including me. Know that however many you kill, there will still be others to rise up and fight for their rights, without violence and without guns.

We believe in our country, Cameroon. We believe in our future, we are on the ground fighting for our rights.

We will not be silenced.

Thank you.

CAMEROON PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS: A KEG OF GUNPOWDER BUT ANY CAUSE FOR ALARM?

CAMEROON: READY FOR CHANGE?

Throughout the time I have been in Cameroon, (about two weeks now) I have not felt for once that a very crucial presidential election is around the corner – only once in Yaounde when I was asked to present my ID card twice within a distance of 200 km did I get the sense that there was some tension in the air. In fact, I get a greater feel that on the 9th of October 2011, Cameroonians will have to go to the polls, is when I am on Facebook.

It should not be in the least surprising for anyone who has been following Cameroonian politics. The first thing to note about the country is that it is one of the countries that are called ‘democratic’ but which has never for once elected its president. It is alleged that the first President Ahmadou Ahidjo was simply a choice of the erstwhile colonial masters who preferred him to André Marie Mbida after killing Ruben Um Nyobe. Ahidjo himself decided to single-handedly appoint Paul Biya his successor, who has clung to power since 1982. When the winds of change of the ’90s brought multi-party politics to Cameroon, it was an opportunity for old goons to learn new tricks.

The most free and fair elections in the Country was held in 1992 which the opposition led by Ni John Fru Ndi allegedly won but which, the incumbent Biya having the knife and the yam, ended up declaring himself the winner. Many today, blame Mr. Fru Ndi for the 1992 lapse. That was the decisive moment, they claim. He simply had to say the word and Cameroonians would have fought to defend their votes. He rather chose the pacifist route by taking up the bible and pointing to Cameroonians that ‘when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers’. That saved Cameroon the agony of going down the path of many African nations. OR DID IT?

Since then, the incumbent Biya and his party, the CPDM have mastered the art of maintaining power at all costs. The ultimate result has been that the government has concentrated more on trying to maintain power than do anything else. Most terrible in the whole scenario is that Biya has succeeded to build even within his own party a personality cult around himself. Without holding a Party congress since 1996, he has evolved into a ‘natural candidate’ for the party. Two days ago a Congress held after his candidature had already been declared seemed to be an opportunity for him to show all that he was ‘lord’ of the party (Of course, he is. The most popular emblem of the party is now his 1985 face. It is on all party uniforms and official documents). To have selected another candidate would mean the party will have to go through an overhaul of all its intrinsic values. CPDM is synonymous with Paul Biya.

But why all this sycophancy? Why is it that the failures of the Biya regime stare at all in the face yet he keeps receiving ‘motions of support’ even from parts of the country that are so run-down that one wonders if they are part of same Cameroon? All these would have pointed to the fact that the elections are a foregone conclusion had it not been for the recent happenings of the so-called Arab Spring – especially the fall of Hosni Mubarak. This is what makes the Cameroon situation precarious.

A KEG OF GUNPOWDER?

Cameroon did not take a cue from the uprisings in North Africa as many will wrongly assume. In 2008 Cameroonians came out on a nationwide protest and strike against Mr. Biya’s bid to change the constitution, a protest that was effectively crushed by the US-trained Battalion Intervention Rapide (BIR). Since then it was clear that the force could effectively carry-out the mandate for which it was created. However, with the fall of Mubarak, even when he tried some of the tricks Biya used in 2008, (clearly showing that they were reading from the same script), it became clear to the United States that even the BIR may not be able to quell a revolt in Cameroon this time, should one occur. President Obama quickly called on Biya to hand over power as a bid to avoid the same situation whereby power could fall into the hands of someone who was not on the US control-roll. This will have been an easy thing for Biya to do but unfortunately, he has little or no guarantee that leaving power would mean freedom. He had already soiled his hands. There is the lake Nyos disaster of 1986 that still has unanswered questions; there are the massive killings that he carried out from the period of 1990 to 1992; there are the mass imprisonment of people without trial; there is the case of the 9-killed at Bepanda; there is the recent case of 2008 and many crimes against humanity which the ICC has on their lists waiting for him.

Caught in this dilemma, Biya could not declare his candidacy until a few weeks to the elections as trips to China clearly gave him reason to dare the US. While it is clear that China endorsed his bid, given that they were clearly represented at his party’s congress, the real problem is that the leadership and command of the BIR is more American than pro-Biya. Should there be massive protests in Cameroon this time around, the US will be slow in using the BIR to maintain Biya in power. However, unless the US can get a candidate they can back, it will be a difficult situation as their inaction could still lead to what they are trying ab initio to avoid. The worse case scenario, however, will be one in which the US backs another person against Biya using the BIR and Biya manages to get support from the Country’s French forces and military. A clash between the gendermarie and the military on one hand and the BIR on the other, will be inevitable. BUT THIS CAN ONLY HAPPEN IF THE US SEES A POTENTIAL THREAT TO BIYA’S REIGN AND DECIDE TO LEAVE HIM IN THE COLD!

ANY CAUSE FOR ALARM THEN?

There seems to be none as far as Cameroon is concerned. This is because of three reasons:

First is the fact that Cameroonians are generally peaceful people. No people will bear the failures of Biya with such docility. From the time Biya took power in 1982, the country has been on a steady decline in all aspects. The economic crisis officially declared in 1987 was just the beginning of worse things to come. No new infrastructure in the country can be credited to the regime. From the presidency, airports to even football stadia, everything still carries the insignia for Amadou Alhidjo. Despite all these, Cameroonians have watched the country go from bad to worse with a geometric retrogression but maintained stoic silence. This may be because they are very hard-working, such that they have been able to weather the storms and keep sustaining themselves and forging ahead, and hence, lacking some of the basic ingredients of violent revolutions such as widespread hunger and great frustration, which makes the likelihood of a popular revolution slim.

Secondly, Cameroon has a breed of opposition leaders who unlike the Alassane Dramane Ouattaras and Morgan Richard Tsvangiras, are not ready to sacrifice the blood of innocent Cameroonians for the presidency or a piece of power. John Fru Ndi showed this in 1992 and at this stage, even popular leaders like Kah Walla and Ayah Paul Abine have all shunned the way of violence. This, however, can only be sustainable if none of them decides to approach the USA or France with promises of greater concessions against China. As long as they keep hoping to win through the ballot, none will defeat Biya unless they decide to team up with the power brokers – the USA and France. If they should take this root, however, the avenues for violence in Cameroon will be greatly opened.

Thirdly, the ability of the US to maintain the status-quo is crucial. Asking Biya to leave was not because they favoured change in Cameroon but because they fear change that is not within their control. If Biya can play his cards well and retain power, the US will be all too glad to endorse him again. He may not be playing the huge role that Mubarak was playing in the Middle East but at least being as naive as he is, he is effectively the type of person the US needs to maintain a solid base in West and Central Africa. Hence the USA will back another person only when it becomes crystal clear that a popular uprising that could threaten Biya’s hold on power is imminent.

In the final analysis, one should not expect anything to really change with the present elections, unless the opposition can effectively work out a strategy that promises a fair deal to the US and France. Should this happen, then Cameroon could explode at the slightest ignition after the elections.