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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What

UK Cameroonians & Sympathisers Deliver Petition at French Embassy; Demand Response From CommonWealth Secretariat

Friday 20 January 2017 was a very chilly day in London, with temperatures just about 2 degrees or less. Even more chilling were the images and messages carried by Cameroonians and their sympathisers from across the United Kingdom. The messages were similar to those carried in previous demonstrations, decrying and denouncing the marginalisation of English-speaking Cameroonians. There was also a petition that was signed by all present and handed to a representative of the French government.

One noticeable difference, however, were the images and messages demanding the release of the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium leaders – Barrister Agbor Balla and Dr Fontem Neba.

free-balla-and-neba

Their first destination was the Embassy of France in Knightsbridge, London. Among the many songs chanted, most notable, was one asking the question ‘how many people will Paul Biya Kill?’ – the appropriateness of the question is reflected in the silence of the international community to the violent crackdown going on in Cameroon. One cannot there help but wonder with the protesters – how many people does a dictator have to kill before there is an international outcry?

Another notable song was a dirge from the slavery days:

Oh, my home! Oh, my home!
When shall I see my home
When shall I see my native land
I will never forget my home!

By this song, the demonstrators were implying they were slaves in their own country. Another interpretation could be the barbaric conditions that had made some of the demonstrators to flee their Cameroon.

Why Embassy of France?

Many people might wonder why the protesters went to the French Embassy and Commonwealth Secretariat instead of going to the Cameroon High Commission. The reason is simple – they understand that the problems in Cameroon are directly linked to France’s continuous domination in Africa. In 1916, the French and British, after taking Cameroon from the Germans, arbitrarily divided the country between them. France had 80% of the Country, while the UK had 20%. These two regions, therefore, evolved with two distinct colonial structures and cultures.

Upon independence in 1960, the French staged a false independence after a war that had killed about 120,000 Cameroonian Nationalists. The UK however, in 1961, quickly left Southern Cameroons, following a sham plebiscite that amalgamated the two regions in a manner that created the conditions for a political osmosis. Given the French control of the Cameroon economy, and her inglorious history of intervening in the affairs of many African countries, it was only natural for the protesters to stop at France’s doors to demand that their country be left alone.

What seemed to be a simple demonstration almost spiralled out of control when the French Embassy refused to receive the signed petition from the demonstrators. The anger of the crowd was only assuaged when a contingent of British police officers, explained to the French Embassy that they could not refuse the petition. Audience was finally granted to the representatives of the West Cameroon Movement For Change (WCMC), UK. The petition was handed, with a promise that protesters will return if it was not acted upon.

Return to the Commonwealth Secretariat

On Friday, 09 December 2016, Cameroonians handed a petition to the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, in which they demanded the suspension of Cameroon from the intergovernmental organisation. As no noticeable action has been seen from the organisation, protesters, therefore turned up at the Secretariat to demand a response to their petition.

Despite being a very peaceful protest, the large police presence was an indication that the demonstrators’ reaction to the French hesitation to collect their petition, had sent a clear message to the Met Police. The message was simple: this was not a joke!!!

After an agonising wait, the WCMC chairperson and another representative emerged fromimg-20170120-wa00441 the Secretariat with a letter which was read to the crowd. The letter had been hastily put together and did not respond directly to the petition. The crowd expressed their disappointment, but promised a return unless some decisive action was taken soon – at least beginning with an official statement from the Commonwealth, denouncing the killings, rape, torture and arbitrary arrests taking place in Southern Cameroons.

 

The Consortium Calls for Caution; The UK Gains Momentum

Everything seemed to be set for the Cameroon worldwide peace walk that had been scheduled on the 2nd January 2017. Cameroon president Paul Biya’s speech on 31 December in which he insinuated that protesters were ‘extremists being manipulated’ did more to inflame the already precarious situation.

The President’s speech was a further example of how out-of-touch the man at the top was, about affairs in the Central African Nation of Cameroon. Riddled with a lot of contradictions, one thing that was clear from the end-of-year address was that protesters were clearly being threatened by the president. Hours following the address, this became evident as most of the strategic towns in the West Cameroon region, which were already militarised, got additional troops.

In the light of all these, it was therefore not surprising when the Civil Society Consortium issued their 11th Press release in which they assessed the situation and called off the protests scheduled for 2nd January.

CONSORTIUM PRESS RELEASE NO. 11
CONSORTIUM PRESS RELEASE NO. 11

This action was received with mixed feelings. While some persons were of the opinion that the Consortium had acted responsibly by thinking of the potential loss of lives, there were some persons like Mark Bareta who felt they did not have the mandate to call off the demonstrations. Others like Jet Newton felt that such an action will only embolden the regime in Cameroon.

 

This notwithstanding. the Leader of the West Cameroon Movement for Change, UK, Mike Takie, quickly reassured members that the Consortium had simply called off the demonstrations in Cameroon and not those planned in other places. He was very emphatic that this was rather a clarion call for the diaspora to understand the need to take the struggle abroad.

This call was hearkened by many who turned up at 10 Downing street, despite the freezing January weather. The banners and placards carried a variety of messages, all leading to one conclusion – West Cameroonians were ready for a long struggle and were not going to give up until Biya made some much-needed reforms that will guarantee the restoration of their lost dignity.

After several messages either addressing the protesters, addressing the UK Prime Minister, Theresa May MP, addressing the Biya Regime or simply addressing the general public, the protesters, walked through Whitehall to Trafalgar Square where more speeches and exaltations were made.

pic-of-demo-jan-2

When the London protesters finally gathered in a local pub for some refreshments and deliberations, one thing was certain – they were poised for a long, bitter struggle. None of them was under the illusion that this was going to be an easy walk. Nonetheless, they seemed in agreement on one thing – it was either this walk was taken to its logical conclusion or West Cameroonians would see their gradual extermination by Biya.

An address from Mr. Takie further informed the group of many planned activities including upcoming demonstrations in and around London. The next destination was a revisit to the Commonwealth Secretariat to get a response to the petition handed to them a few weeks ago.

The response from all gathered was unanimous – THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES!

 

Cameroonians in the UK Call on UK Government to shutdown High Commission

The Cameroon High Commission London was in a state of disarray today as many Cameroonians from across the UK assembled there to protest against human rights abuses in the country. Protesters could be heard chanting ‘Safe English-Cameroon’ ‘Safe Southern-Cameroons’ or simply ‘ENOUGH IS ENOUGH’. Some speakers asked the UK government to suspend diplomatic relations with Cameroon until the human rights abuses had stopped.

This demonstration that was quickly called together to express solidarity with the Common Law Lawyers and teachers who were already protesting in Cameroon.

The current Cameroon government which has been in power for 34 years has done everything possible to silence any dissenting voices; journalists and activists have been imprisoned for daring to challenge the status quo. As a result of bad governance and endemic corruption, people have been getting increasingly frustrated. There have been protests in Cameroon in the 1990s and 2000s, but notably in 2008 during which the military combined with the police in shooting and killing innocent unarmed civilians.
lawyers-engaged-in-peaceful-demonstration
The current problem has its origin in the colonial history of Cameroon which saw the country split along linguistic lines in 1916 by the British and the French. There was the French-speaking Cameroon  (Former colony of France) and English-Speaking Cameroon (Former British Colony). In 1960 French Cameroon gained independence and a year later, during a Plebiscite organised by the United Nations, English-Cameroon or Southern Cameroon was offered the conditional choice of independence by either joining Nigeria or joining The Republic of Cameroon. They chose the later and formed what was then the Federal Republic of Cameroon with both East Cameroon and West Cameroon retaining their respective parliaments, educational and legal systems. However, in 1972, in what many Southern Cameroonians today consider a move towards annexation, President Ahmadou Ahidjo oversaw the dissolution of the Federation and made it The United Republic of Cameroon.
troops-descend-on-lawyers-with-teargas
Upon taking power in 1982, one of the first things that Paul Biya did was to change the name of the country, – without any public consultation – back to The Republic of Cameroon. This name was one owned by French Cameroon before the Federation. It was to turn out to be more than a mere nomenclature. For the  34 years, that Biya has been in power, the English-speaking Cameroonians (Anglophones) have been systematically marginalised. One of the ways this has happened has been the imposition of the French legal system (Civil Law) on the Anglophone Lawyers trained in Common Law through the appointment of French-speaking magistrates to English courts.
Against the backdrop of these and the widespread discontent in the country as a result of poverty, endemic corruption and bad governance, a peaceful protest was organised by the lawyers to challenge the marginalisation and perceived injustices and ask for a bi-jural system and a respect of the Common Law. Troops were however sent out to harass the lawyers, their wigs and gowns were confiscated, they were teargassed and some were injured.
Teachers and other parts of Civil Society soon joined in the protests and before long, the security forces started using live bullets, resulting in the death of some civilians.
Kingsley Sheteh, an activist with Movement for Justice by Any Means Necessary called on other Cameroonians in the UK to carry out this demonstration, so as  to bring the attention of the world to what happened and keeps happening in Cameroon.

The arrival of the British Anti-terrorist police at the scene is confirmation that the Biya regime and its cronies are now so scared that they considered a group of activists to be as dangerous as terrorists

The struggle continues until all Cameroonians can begin to live as free citizens in their own country.

#changeforCameroon