PARIS CONFERENCE REPORT JULY 13-15, 2017

His Excellency Jean Nkuete,
Secretary General, Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM)

INTRODUCTION

Sir,
This report is a product of the CPDM USA Section party leadership conference call meeting of July 5, 2017, with all Section Executives, sub-Section presidents and their vice, as well as committee chairs. This write up serve as an update on the state of our affairs of the party, and is also accompanied by the May 2016
Section Conference Report, sent last year to the Central Committee in
Yaoundé, Cameroon, with the unanimous concerns of all members who were present during deliberations. Furthermore, it also reflects the concerns of militants, gathering from their experiences during their militancy for the party over years of its existence in the United States. It is our hope that the leadership will respond accordingly owing to the momentum at the time, and paving a brighter and new beginning for CPDM-USA following the reorganization. We want to point out that the Section has not received any feedback from the Central Committee in Yaoundé, Cameroon.
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Understanding the Political Evolution of Cameroon: From Traditional to Liberal Education

Emmanuel KondeAfter a seemingly prolonged hiatus of non-active engagement in discussions of contemporary politics in Cameroon, our native land, your Guru is back. I plan to provide uncommon perspectives to understanding political evolution in Cameroon. Having devoted some time studying the major actors and political parties of Cameroon, I have decided to lend my weight on the side of the ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM) and its leader, President Paul Biya. I do so at this particular juncture because Cameroon is in the throes of fundamental social change, the 2011 Presidential Election, whose result might either derail the progress that has been registered over the past half century or push us forward to greater achievements especially in the realms of respect for human rights and the fashioning of a democratic political culture.

The numerous opposition parties in Cameroon have proved themselves unruly, disorderly, and disorganized. Given this state of affairs, it is unlikely that any one of these will pose a formidable opposition to the highly organized ruling CPDM. As a point of fact, many of those who aspire to challenge Mr. Paul Biya for the presidency of the republic are neophytes, inexperienced, and often resort to propounding lofty ideas that some would aptly consign to demagoguery. In as much as some may want to deny the obvious, governing a country in which more than 85 per cent of the population has no inkling about what democracy entails—let alone understand the issues at stake, changing course at this juncture will not but plunge Cameroon into a deluge. Slow but steady progress is much better than retrogression. A different kind of change is required in Cameroon, which must come on the heels of a well contrived and executed policy of education designed to transform the populace from tribal subjects to national citizens. There is no other party in Cameroon that is ready to execute this task than the ruling CPDM.

Shift in Educational Emphasis

To attain the national aspirations of a largely tribal people, however, some prerequisites will have to be met, namely: (1) the political education of the masses to an appreciative level of understanding the basic content of the constitution and their rights as citizens so as to circumvent the continued hegemony of the educated elite who have dominated political life in Cameroon since decolonization; (2) the construction of a new nationalist order in which citizenship shall prevail over tribal identity; and (3) the de-regionalization of the national territory.

What I have I outlined above is a project of deconstruction and reconstruction that will involve every Cameroonian native. Both strands will have to be executed simultaneously. This, of course, is a daunting task because it is rooted in change that summons all to give up something, such as abandoning the customary and embracing something new and seemingly alien, among the most difficult of the customary to relinquish being power and tradition. This is the case because all power, like tradition, is conservative. Those who wield power, like those who practice certain traditions, are habituated to conserving them. They tend to conserve power and tradition because habits are easier formed than eradicated. Consequently, that which they know is always more appealing than that which they know nothing about. It is here that a particular kind of education, far-removed from the customary method of passing on knowledge from generation to generation, enters the fray.

I am proposing a liberal form of education, which is not integral to traditional education that consists of parents and elders passing on the knowledge of customary practices to children and the younger generations. As we all know, traditional education is non-revolutionary, limiting, very conservative, and non-expansive of mental horizons. In traditional educational children inherit knowledge from their parents and this can be seen everywhere in the country. Born in mud hut—a bequest of the elders, the young reproduce mud huts, and wear leopard skin and the plantain leaves that their forebears wore for centuries without end. Confining and non-progressive, traditional education truly is!

The Measure of a Liberal Education

What is a liberal education? A liberal education is essentially the opposite of traditional education. It is non-conservative and aspires to newness, innovation, and change—perpetual change. Liberal education is alien to and destructive of tradition. It opposes abuses of power and human rights, whether by the divine chiefs who possesses magical powers or the corrupt bureaucrats who employ their wield power and authority as instruments for exploiting the people they are charged to serve. Symptomatic of liberal education is the knowledge of right and wrong that it imparts as well as the will to oppose wrong at all times, and to do that which is right, even at the expense of one’s own life. But liberal education cannot function properly in a society mired in tradition.

Lest I be misunderstood, it should be borne in mind that I am not advocating the transference of Western liberal education to Cameroon. Yes, I do not wish to make Cameroonians black Europeans. Therefore, the type of liberal education I am calling for should first undergo a serious transformation and only after it has been thoroughly indigenized can it be implemented. Unlike mathematics and the sciences that are universal, the social sciences cannot be transplanted from the west to Cameroon. There should by African psychology, African political sciences, African sociology, etc., because the psychology of the African, the social realities that they confront, and their politics, are totally different from those of Europeans and other non-Africans.

Many who have tried to infuse liberal knowledge in the space occupied by traditional knowledge have suffered a fate that they never imagined possible. Why? Because the disjuncture that obtains in a society where traditional and liberal knowledge co-exist but where traditional knowledge is still preponderant, support for the few who espouse liberal knowledge is always weak and the prospect of liberal allies abandoning each other as well as their avowed cause very strong. In this society, where the human mind has not yet been developed to decipher myth from fact, the public interest from the private, more important than conviction are food, drink, and wealth accumulation. Steeped in spirituality and scornful of reason and science, many derived consolation for everyday living in the power of a super natural forces that can move mountains, hill the sick, and transform the life of an impoverished jobless man overnight.

Whereas a truly liberal education teaches man how to use reason to transform his social circumstances, tradition affirms the limitations of man and makes no allowance for man to understand and control his personal destiny. Where man cannot control his personal destiny, politics, the instrument that the powerful use to affect social change, is made as distant an attainable reality as only God can bring to the reach of man who possesses only traditional knowledge.

Is it any wonder that even among those who have attained a good dose of liberal knowledge, no sooner they are thrust in the realm of traditional knowledge, invariably are co-opted and lose that once burned in the recesses of their minds? This brief discourse is intended to make you think. Politics cannot be discussed fruitfully in the abstract as many have been doing on this forum. The interplay of traditional knowledge and an incipient form of liberal education makes murky and blurry the political picture that some of us pretend to treat with uncommon clarity.

Deconstructing and Reconstructing Corruption

It isn’t enough to define traditional and liberal education. We must move a step further to demonstrate what these actually entail because there are two important dimensions to knowledge: acquisition and application. Our greatest handicap, it has always been apparent to me, lies in the realm of knowledge application, especially liberal education which is theoretical. The translation of theory into practice is not that easy a feat to accomplish for a people acculturated to practical traditional education. Nowhere is this more discernible than in our traditional understanding of corruption, which we invariably assign to the practitioners and the practitioners only: the bribe givers and takers and embezzlers. It is therefore not uncommon to hear a beneficiary of corruption cast aspersions at a practitioner, even though both are corrupt. To demonstrate this novel construction, permit me to deconstruct our traditional conception of corruption by way of reconstructing it from a liberal perspective.

If one is neither a bribe giver/taker nor embezzler but nonetheless accrues some benefit by association with, or affiliation to, a practitioner, then, the beneficiary of corruption is as corrupt as the bribe giver/taker and embezzler. All native Cameroonians are corrupt by virtue of the fact that we issue from a culture of corruption. We, and our relatives, distant and near, are either takers or givers of bribes; we are either embezzlers or beneficiaries of funds or properties acquired through bribe-giving or bribe-taking, or through embezzlement. When we engage in the enjoyment of the fruits of corruption, we automatically become enablers of the culture of corruption. Yes, it is sheer hypocrisy for us to isolate “others” and accuse them of practicing a socially debilitating culture that we are all mired in, and that is part and parcel of our beings as sons and daughters of Cameroon. If the CPDM is accused of corruption, so are the SDF and all other political parties.

Emmanuel Konde
Professor of History
Albany State University

Formalized

After many years of unofficially militating in the United States, a journey which started on April 19, 1996 by Comrade Jude Eze Okafor (then of Houston, Texas), the Central Committee of the party officially recognized our militancy in March of 2007. The CPDM Section in the United States was thereafter re-organized and formalized in April 2007 by a team headed by Minister Elvis Ngole Ngole.

Vision

Yaah Patience Tamfu was voted President of CPDM USA in 2015 in a fiercely contested election. As a former president of WCPDM USA, the newly elected president of the party here in the United States of America believes in the CPDM party’s doctrine; to assist the party in its continuous effort to position a democratic Cameroon on a sustainable path to achieve a social and economic development growth. In order to achieve these lofty goals of hers, she has set up nine (9) committees such as Political, Economic and Investment, Education, Science and Technology, Youth, Culture, Project etc., to facilitate her objectives.

CAMEROON AT CROSSROADS: THE VOTE THAT WILL RE-DEFINE HISTORY

Introduction

Dr. Henry Elonge The Republic of Cameroon stands majestically in Central Africa as a country whose political and economic fortunes have shaped not only its citizens, but the peoples of the region and the world. Cameroon remains an envy of many Africans and others who have often posed the question as to why Cameroon continues to enjoy relative peace and stability, while its neighbors remain embroiled in civil and sometimes violent conflict. The simple answer to this question may be that Cameroon is just lucky. But a more in-depth and reflective answer could be that Cameroon possesses attributes that have helped the country to survive 50 years of independence.

My task here today is to attempt to respond to my compatriots who have filled the web with messages such as “Biya MUST GO”. I will not attempt to answer the question whether the President should go or not. But I hope my short essay will persuade them otherwise. Let me make one point clear at the start, and it is that, I am not persuaded by the events in North Africa – Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, etc., that other African States must follow their example, because, if you look critically at the nature of these regimes and societies, you would realize that they are totally different from most African states south of the Sahara.

In this short essay, I will trace Cameroon’s rich and diverse history, to find out what elements of our country have assisted Cameroonians to “converge” as a people and a nation, to move the country towards a truly democratic society. In doing so, I will delve into areas where, Cameroonians, as a people, have continued to “diverge”, just as a true reminder that there is still a lot of work to do, to realize the dream of democratization. To begin this discussion, it is imperative to define a few terms/concepts that will help clarify what I intend to discuss in the later sections of this paper.

The first definition that is relevant to this discussion is that of the concept of democracy. Definitions of this concept abound. But the definition which is most suitable for this paper is as follows: Democracy is a ‘form of government, where a constitution guarantees basic personal and political rights, fair and free elections, and independent courts of law.” Democracy is therefore, a political process through which the socio-economic and political hopes of a country can be realized. Taken broadly, democracy can also refer to the political processes of participation and representation that ensure the peaceful, efficient and effective distribution of resources, without resorting to violence. It is “a means to an end” and not “an end in itself.” It is a process that must evolve from the history and institutions of a particular society, and one that cannot, and should not be imported from other societies. One can learn from other societies, but not at the expense of their own history.

The renowned Professor and Pan-Africanist, Mzee Ali Mazrui stated in one of his writings, “you can teach a people the English language, you can teach them the French language and culture and other attributes of western societies, but what you can never teach them is how to govern themselves, this, they must learn themselves.” This is what we, as Cameroonians, MUST realize and understand. We must approach our task of governance through “trial and error” with the understanding that our style of leadership must be shaped by our history, our traditions and, indeed, what “we as Cameroonian want and not by “foreign” models.

In essence, any true democracy should be anchored in the traditions, institutions and culture of that particular society. As such, there is American democracy, French democracy and also Cameroon democracy. Cameroon’s democratic experience is therefore uniquely patterned after the political experiences of the country. I will in the few pages that follow, assess the advances that Cameroon has made in its efforts towards democratization after 50 years of independence, and especially under the leadership of President Paul Biya for you to be the judge.

An understanding of the concept of democracy – its responsibilities, possibilities and limitations, also begs for the definition of two other concepts which are directly related to Cameroon’s political history – Cameroon’s New Deal Ideology”, that is, the ideological framework that has guided Cameroon’s democratic experiment, and the methodology (process) through which the country has attempted to realize these democratic milestones. The “New Deal” refers to the underlying philosophy of the Biya Presidency in Cameroon. This ideology also marks the advent of President Biya’s political career and power in Cameroon. In advancing this ideology the President stated that:

“We must remain deeply committed to the present requirements of
nation-building while entertaining hopes for the future. Because,
a State can only be loved if it can provide each citizen not only
with the security and the satisfaction of his basic needs, but also
the possibility of total human fulfillment; that is to say, if it is able
to combine order, freedom and ‘progress in a judicious balance
within its territory…’”

The New Deal ideology called on all Cameroonians to search their hearts and minds and develop a new appreciation the new political realities of the country and President Biya’s leadership, moral leadership and political foresight in Cameroon. This New Deal required Cameroonians to develop a new mental and moral construct to understand their rights, responsibilities and obligations vis-à-vis the state, and the country as the nation. The process required a step by step methodology. A method is a “way of doing things”, the process by which events and activities get accomplished. I contend in this discussion that Cameroon’s march towards democratic governance has not only been methodological, but it has also been founded on some of the core principles and values of statehood, that define the Cameroonian character. It is to these principles that I will turn to next.

II. Historical Antecedents

Cameroon presently comprises of a multiplicity of peoples, divided by many characteristics including ethnicity, religion, language, location, etc. History notes that it was the Portuguese who began to explore the coastal area today known as Cameroon in the 1450’s. They were succeeded by the Germans who formally occupied the country from 1884-1917, a period that witnessed World War I. The defeat of the Germans in the war, led to the formal occupation of Cameroon by France and Britain, under the United Nations framework known as the League of Nations. France and England occupied the country and formed and governed it initially as an “Anglo-French Condominium” which lasted from 1918-1939, the beginning of World War II. The period between 1945 and 1960 witnessed the introduction of modern political institutions in the country by the French and British respectively. Cameroon later became a trusteeship territory of the United nations after World War II. It was under this framework that the country gained independence in 1960, under its first President Ahmadou Ahidjo. Ahidjo’s presidency ended in 1982 with the accent to power of President Biya. President Biya‘s reign has lasted from 1982 to the present day.

What then has been the foundation upon which Cameroon’s political evolution towards the establishment of a truly democratic state and why do I refer to this experience as methodological? To answer these questions it will be necessary to give a brief overview of Cameroon’s pre-independence history. The Ghanaian musicologist, Ephraim Amu re-iterates the importance of history in the life of a nation as follows: “The past has a lot to tell; The past has a lot to teach; We are throwing the past away; On what then can we base the good governance of the country? (Letitia Obeng, 27) Cameroon’s present political evolution has been shaped by its rich historical past which, in many ways, is destined to shape its future.

In my opinion, the four major pillars that have shaped Cameroon’s political history include:
1) The belief in self-government and freedom, manifested historically through the collective spirit of resistance against foreign dominance
2) The will and vision of Cameroonians as a people, to embrace new ideas and to use these ideas to transform the country- the spirit of tolerance
3) The advent independence and re-unification, the consolidation of the newly unified state and the belief in nationhood
4) The march towards a truly democratic society- a legacy of the Biya presidency.

The story of Cameroon is more than a story of individuals; it is a story of a people and their collective will to create a new Cameroonian state, society and identity that would respond to the challenges of the country, and the needs and interests of the African continent and the modern world.

III. The Cameroonian Spirit of Resistance: The Quest for Freedom

Contacts between Cameroon and Europe have been captured in major works by many of Cameroon’s leading historians such as Father Nveng, Lovette Elango and Martin Njeuma, Verjika Fanso, etc. This contact which started from trade, later degenerated into a relationship of slavery, colonization and capitalist exploitation. The harsh realities of this infamous period brought together Cameroonians of all ethnic persuasions to resist foreign domination; in so doing, they sacrificed their lives for the eventual liberation of the country. This achievement was realized at a very high price, in blood, tears and sweat. Captured as slaves, coerced into forced labor (corvee) and/or forced to leave their ancestral lands to work for the colonizers, Cameroonians remained defiant. Despite this onslaught by Europeans, Cameroonian peoples never gave up; they distrusted, disliked and rejected colonial rule from the onset, and put up a strong resistance to the colonial form of domination – the Bakweri, Bali and Beti wars against the Germans, tell just a small part of the story. Resistance against a foreign enemy – Europeans, became a rallying point of “convergence” of all Cameroonians and subsequently a unifying factor in the country.

IV. Modern Politics and the Birth of a Transforming Leadership

The 1940’s ushered in a new period in Cameroon’s history. Because of internal resistance within the country, and partly because of events in Europe and the world, European colonial powers began to give in to some of the demands of Cameroonians, specifically the need to govern them. The French began this process through the creation of representative institutions from 1946-1960 – ARCAM (1946-52), ATCAM (1952-57), ALCAM (1957-60). These so-called benevolent concessions began to expose the new Cameroonian elite to the European style of governance but occupation was still unacceptable to the Cameroonian. The British on their part, began making concessions to British Southern Cameroonians in 1945 by the passage of the Richardson Constitution for Nigeria. This was followed by the Macpherson constitution, the birth of the KNDP and CPNC political parties, the 1959 elections and the UN plebiscite on British trusteeship Cameroons in 1961.

In summary, Cameroon’s pre-independent era was characterized by the reluctance of European colonial rulers to give Cameroonians the power to govern themselves. But Cameroonian local leaders, who had become apprentices, were taking every opportunity to study the ways of the colonizer’s government. The colonizers preferred a moderate approach to self-government but this was unacceptable to the Cameroonians who became increasingly worried and uneasy with their status. By 1955 when the French would not give Cameroonians the right to govern themselves the Cameroonians declared war under the banner of the Union des Populations du Cameroun (UPC). This nationalist war of resistance continued even after the country gained independence from France in 1960. During this time Cameroon elites became divided into two camps one which favored negotiations with the French, and the other that favored taking power by force.

By the time Cameroon gained independence in 1960 (French Cameroon), and after the United Nations had settled on the status of English-speaking Cameroon through a plebiscite (1961), Cameroon became one country. The new Cameroonian elite became the new leaders of the country – but the new form of government that they inherited was in every respect, structure and content, foreign, imposed, restrictive and alien to Cameroonian forms of traditional governance. It was created with the complicity of the colonizers whose major goal at the time, were to maintain their interests in the country. The contradiction between these two heritages has become another point of “divergence” in modern Cameroonian governance, and sometimes antagonistic towards traditional forms and norms of governance. Reconciling the two has indeed become a major objective of the Cameroonian leadership since independence.

V. The Ahidjo Period: Consolidating the Gains of Independence 1960-1982

Ahmadou Ahidjo became the first president of the Republic of Cameroon (1960), the Federal Republic (1961) and the United Republic of Cameroon (1972). Ahidjo, with the support of the French, wasted no time to consolidate his power. By 1961 he had creatively coerced English Cameroon into joining French Cameroon in a Federated Republic, continued the war with the UPC nationalists who disagreed with him on the terms that he had negotiated with the French government for independence, circumscribed the rights and liberties of individuals and institutions that stood on the way of his ambitions. By 1972, a referendum was called and Cameroonians overwhelmingly voted to become a United Republic of Cameroon under the leadership of Ahidjo.

The advent of the “United Republic” led to the disappearance of multi-partism in Cameroon and to the birth of a single national party – the Cameroon National Union (CNU). The rationale Ahidjo gave for these harsh policies, (which sometimes resulted in excesses in the loss of human lives) was the fact that the country was too fragile and would likely break apart if there was no strong leadership to guide it. Commentaries about Ahidjo’s rule in Cameroon vary, but the reality was that he was the leader who began to build the Cameroonian nation-state from a situation which Dr. Bernard Fonlon, in an article titled: “Will We Make or Mar,” referred to at the times as : … a country where three cultural currents meet – the African mainstream – the French and British tributaries and the culture of the westernized few; a country in need of a cultural initiative dominated by the westernized few; the subjugation of the English speaking Cameroonians by their French counterparts; the existence of an African dominant culture, which is dormant and the need to develop a Cameroonian culture which comprises of a blend of the West and of the African” (pp 9-33).

Cameroon survived under the Ahidjo regime because of the willingness of its peoples to work together just as they had done to resist the colonizers, and, due sometimes to the coercive but astute leadership of President Ahidjo. The institutions of state were all under the careful watch of the president and his cronies, and the modes of political expression were suppressed and/or modified under his one party system.

VI. The March Towards Democratic Freedoms and Governance in Cameroon – The Biya Presidency

President Biya took over the mantle of leadership of the state of Cameroon in 1982 and after the initial conflicts with Ahidjo subsided, he was overwhelmed by the support that the people had given him during the crisis. He therefore set out to begin the process of democratization in Cameroon. Biya began his presidency by stating that:

“The new hopes which sprang from the depths of the nation
immediately after the 6th of November 1982… called for the
greater liberalization and democratization of Cameroonian
society. I am therefore leading the country along the
difficult but salutary road to liberty. Liberty that I wish for
and that must be conscious, tolerant, and constructive,
that must take place with orderliness and responsibility,
liberty that I consider as a new guarantee of political health
and maturity.”

The key objectives of the “New Deal” policy were: 1) Stringency and probity in the management of the national heritage; 2) Moralization of Behaviors; and 3) Democratization and communal liberalism sustained by free enterprise. This policy agenda is what President Biya has methodologically pursued in the coming years. The question at this point is whether President Biya has kept his pledge or not? Let us look at the record.

VII. The First Phase: of Democratization in Cameroon

The New Deal process comprised of two major stages in the development of democratic institutions in the country – the apprenticeship stage ( the transitional period), and the introduction of a multi-party democracy stage. Major events in the transitional stage included at the political level:

    • Pluralistic council elections of 1987
    • Pluralistic parliamentary election of 1988, and
    • The reorganization of the CPDM party to ensure voting within the party with a plurality of candidates. These reforms led to the Bamenda Congress of the CPDM party on June 28, 1990 where effective multi-partism was introduced in Cameroon

These major political reforms were followed by the passage of key pieces of legislation that constituted the legal guidelines within which these new changes were effectuated. The major pieces of legislation that also passed were: to amend the constitution, to lay down the new requirements for passports, to ensure the freedom of the press, to institute freedom of Association, to lay down regulations to govern public meetings and demonstrations, and to further reorganize political parties to ensure effective participation from the public. All of these reforms marked the first phase of the President’s democratic agenda and they embroiled the country into political activities never before experienced during the reign of President Ahidjo.

At the same time, major legal changes were also made at the economic and social levels of the state. At the economic level, a more liberal investment code was passed into law, industrial free trade zones were established, the banking and agricultural sectors were restructured and an IMF structural adjustment program was instituted. At the social level many reforms were also enacted, prominent of which, was the fight against unemployment, the reform of higher education, the protection of infants and disabled, the adoption of the Beijing platform and a new health policy, to name but a few.

The second wave of democratic reforms came with the enactment into law, the revised constitution, on January 18, 1996. This constitution created avenues for the increased participation of citizens and local communities in public life, it guaranteed the separation of powers and preserved public liberties. Specifically it called for the creation of a Senate, an audit bench, a constitutional council. These reforms constituted the foundation for the successful presidential elections in 2004. Presently, the country is moving forward to translate many of these reforms into reality. Primary among them is the institution of a Senate, and regional assemblies, the election of provincial governors and the other aspects mandated by the 1996 constitution. These political reforms followed by the total administrative decentralization of the administrative institutions, have prepared the way for the next presidential election.

What then can be made of all of these constitutional and political reforms? Firstly, the initial phase of the reforms shocked and surprised the public and resulted in the formation of a multiplicity of political parties such as the Social Democratic Front (SDF) led by John Fru Ndi. the UNDP led by Bouba Bello Maigari, the UDC led by Adamou Ndam Njoya, etc. The birth of the SDF and other political parties opened a new chapter in Cameroon’s political history that would later serve as a major point of “divergence” in the country.

Secondly, President Biya succeeded in these reforms because he had solid credentials and administrative experience. As a consummate public servant with a legal background, he was very methodological in his approach to these reforms. The reforms were well thought out and delivered at the right time. In addition, his personal attributes of tolerance, perseverance were complimented by his characteristically firm and decisive actions as a leader. It is therefore his approach/method which partly accounts for the success of the reforms so far. His vision and strong leadership at the helm of the state, coupled with strong economic measures which guaranteed Cameroon’s economic and financial stability during a turbulent global economic period, facilitated the implementation of the IMF’s SAP conditionalities. All of these factors have strongly contributed to the success of the democratic reforms in Cameroon.

VIII. Homage to Our Heroes

Of course the reforms and changes have not been without strong criticism from within and without. There are those who contend that President Biya has been too long in power and therefore needs to step down. On the other hand, there are those like myself, who argue that for meaningful change to occur in any country, there needs to be stability, continuity and an enabling environment. President Biya has had a vision that needed time, experience and fortitude to implement. He has already done his part and history will be his witness; it is now left for Cameroonians to build on the solid foundation that has been established.

Also, there are those who continue to think that a war is necessary in Cameroon before the country can truly settle down to build its institutions. For such individuals, I do not think they have had frank conversations with our African brothers and neighbors of Tchad, CAR, Congo Brazzaville Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire). Cote D’Ivoire, Liberia Sierra Leone etc., etc. I suggest they do that and not take Cameroon’s peace and stability for granted. War should be the very last thing that Cameroonians should crave for, because it is likely to take the country several years behind. Cameroon has been lucky to have been spared of these upheavals, and we should never take the peace we enjoy for granted. It has been the hard work and resilience of our leaders like Presidents Ahidjo and Biya that has produced such peace and stability, and never, I repeat should we ever take this for granted We absolutely cannot look at these examples as teachable lessons.

IX. Conclusion

In conclusion, I began this essay by citing the three essential attributes that have characterized Cameroon’s march towards a truly liberal democratic society – the Cameroonian people’s quest for freedom, the Cameroonian willingness to learn and experiment with new ideals and ideas, and the visionary and astute leadership of the country under President Paul Biya

As we as Cameroonians go to the polls to re-elect the leadership for the next years we must reflect on the peace and stability we have enjoyed UP to this point on the continent of Africa, something we have always taken for granted. We must also understand that the leader we elect TOMORROW must be someone who will ensure that the work of all of our great leaders of the past, whose blood and tears, ideas and fortitude brought us this far IS MAINTAINED. What we want is a leadership that guarantees continuity.

As we remember them, we must note that there are also the unknown and unsung heroes of our country whose stories have been buried with them. We also celebrate this day in their honor. In the same vein, we humbly pay homage to the following leaders who are no longer with us: Andre Marie Mbida, Mayi Matip, Ernest Ouandie, Felix Moumie, Reuben Um Nyobe, Ahmadou Ahidjo, Solomon Tandeng Muna, E.M.L Endeley, P.M. Kalle, N.N Mbile, Chief Abel Mukete of Kumba, Chief Victor Ngomo Obie of Ndian, Douala Manga Bell, Charles Atangana, Charles Okala etc., etc. We go to the polls this day in their honor, for, without their sacrifices we will not be standing here today.

On this day also, we must all re-affirm our commitment to the development of Cameroon, the country which we so dearly love, and, to the leadership of Cameroon headed by President Paul Biya whose magnanimity has brought us where we are today. He has been the captain of the ship throughout this period and we owe him an eternal debt of gratitude. He has done a lot for the nation, what then can each of us do to take these democratic gains forward and now?

At this point, I will return to the words of Dr. Fonlon who asked the question that has stood the test of times: “Will we, as Cameroonians Make or Mar?” In my humble opinion we must rally behind the candidacy of President Paul Biya. With his election, history will bear us witness that we do not want to make the mistakes that our neighbors have made, and that we as Cameroonians are willing and committed to the future of our beloved country Cameroon.

Go to the Polls and VOTE for the candidacy of President PAUL BIYA

Dr. Henry Akwo Elonge is an Associate Professor of Public Administration in Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia and the author of Cameroon Parliament Volume One (1940-1990).

Biya’s Last Odyssey: Cementing a Half Century Legacy of Service to Cameroon

Emmanuel Konde With the exception of those Cameroonians who never rose to exercise political power in Cameroon despite their valiant and historic struggles, we have seldom elevated to a pinnacle beyond reproach those who not only accessed power but actually led. It is therefore not uncommon for Cameroonians to speak of, and write about, Ruben Um Nyobe, Felix Roland Moumie, Ernest Ounadie and a host of others who gave their lives in struggle for authentic independence in glowing terms. Few have done same for those who exercised political power. Hence, names like Ahmadou Ahidjo, John Ngu Foncha, Solomon Tandeng Muna, and Paul Biya—all pragmatist politicians, are never mentioned in the same light as our idealist heroes.

By nature an emotional people, we have permitted our emotion to spew into the intellectual realm analyzing and writing history, a trend that has colored the historiography of Cameroon. Our penchant for that, which never was, as an emotional people, is understandable. But this orientation must be altered. It is simply wrong to worship our dead who died fighting and excoriate our leaders who navigated through the treacherous waters of colonialism and neocolonialism to help sustain our native land. We must aspire to abandon histrionics and rationally embrace the process of writing history by combining the work of our nationalist heroes who never lived to rule for one day with the work of our political leaders who managed to rule despite the constraints imposed on them by forces external to Cameroon.

Enter Mr. Paul Biya

One of Cameroon’s political leaders of enduring stature whose praise has not been sung enough is Paul Biya, President of Cameroon since 1982. President Biya stands astride among the few as the only Cameroonian who devoted the greater part of his life to the service of his Fatherland. At age 78, fifty of these have been spent managing the affairs of Cameroon. It is no exaggeration to assert without ambiguity that the greatest political gift that the people of Cameroon have had since German colonization and amalgamation of the various tribal polities into an embryonic nation during the last decades of the nineteenth century was initiated by Paul Biya upon his ascension to the supreme office of the land in 1982. What I am alluding to is the gift of political freedoms, which have expanded and flowered over the last three decades in Cameroon.

We must recall that under colonial rule and the first quarter century of independent Cameroon our people were denied the simple freedoms of assembly, association, and speech. But no sooner President Biya assumed the reins of power in 1982 than he set in motion a transforming ethos that is still unfolding. Experiencing this great transformation that President Biya has wrought in Cameroon in just three decades–a vibrant and dynamic media and flourishing of opposition political parties–attests to what a well-contrived and executed plan of democratization can bring. We cannot but be appreciative of Biya’s work which, though slow and incremental, constitutes a social force of stability.

It would be naïve to think that the process of democratizing a fragmented polity in a few decades. The leading democracies in the world took longer than a century for democracy to blossom; for Cameroon, a poly-ethnic society comprised of people acculturated to identifying with their particular tribal systems of governance, the process might take even longer. Hence, whether we admit it or not, Paul Biya is responsible for setting Cameroon on the course toward democracy. Therefore, Biya can arguably be posited as a transitional figure in the evolution of Cameroon politics from absolute authoritarianism to an incipient participatory democracy.

Nevertheless, we cannot be oblivious of one constant political reality: that all political transitions are fraught with pitfalls because of the inconstancy of human nature, especially when the citizenry is ill-educated in politics, their expectations high, and no quick fixes or magic wands at hand to bring about the desired results instantaneously. That’s why Cameroon’s political transition needs to be guided skillfully by a leader with tried and tested experience. To this end, history has placed Paul Biya in an unenviable position to lead Cameroon toward opening up of this once closed society. This task, it must be submitted, is Herculean and fraught with pitfalls

But who is this man, Paul Biya, whom history has anointed to guide Cameroon‘s political transition? Why should he be re-elected once more to lead Cameroon during what might be his last tenure as president? This synoptic appraisal of Biya’s political career proposes to present a brief biographical sketch of the man and to demonstrate why his re-election in the upcoming 2011 Presidential Election would augur well for Cameroon.

This writer is of the conviction that Mr. Biya’s last tenure at the helm of the Cameroon state will be devoted to cementing his legacy, which translates to working assiduously for the welfare of the nation. As the man of our times, whose experience far exceeds the combined experiences of his opponents, to him must the mantle of national leadership be handed one more time. Indeed, none can argue that President Biya has not accumulated and invested enough political capital. All would agree that it is time for him to spend it on the people he has served this past half century (1962-2011). All Cameroonians at home and abroad must, at this critical juncture in the political history of Cameroon, lend him their support.

Education for Political Leadership

Paul Biya was born among the Bulu people of Cameroon in February 1933, at Mvomeka’a village in Sangmelima, Dja and Lobo Division in South Province. Bulu is one of the ethnic groups that comprise the Beti-Pahoiun family in Cameroon. He was 49 at the time of his ascension to power in 1982. A well-educated, debonair, suave, and cosmopolitan man, the highlights of Biya’s early schooling consisted of six years of rigorous Roman Catholic seminarian education in colonial Cameroon, after which he attended the prestigious Lycee Leclerc in Yaoundé and distinguished himself. Biya later undertook studies in politics and public law at Sorbonne University and other French elite institutions of higher learning. This educational formation prepared him for the future administrative and political roles he would play in the years to come.

Upon completing his education in France, Biya returned to Cameroon in 1962, entered the civil service, and meteorically climbed to the apex of his country’s political hierarchy. During the first twenty years of his public career Paul Biya served under his predecessor, President Ahidjo (1962-1982). From 1967 to 1975 the positions Biya held in the Cameroon government involved functions directly related to national education and the presidency. In January 1964, Biya was named Director of the Cabinet at the Ministry of National Education; by July 1965 he had risen to the post of Secretary-General in the same ministry. Biya was appointed Director of the Civil Cabinet of the President in December 1967; and in January 1968, he became Secretary-General at the Presidency. Biya retained both positions simultaneously.

A consummate bureaucrat with exceptional management skills, Biya gained the rank of Minister in August 1968 and that of Minister of State in June 1970, even as he remained Secretary-General at the Presidency. When in 1972 the Cameroon federation was transformed by national referendum into a unitary state, on June 30, 1975 Biya was named Prime Minister. Four years later in June 1979 the Cameroon Constitution was amended to designate the Prime Minister as the President’s constitutional successor. On November 4, 1982 President Ahidjo abruptly resigned from the office of president, Biya succeeded him as the second President of Cameroon.

Cementing the Legacy

Ideological proclivity and emotionalism aside, from all apparent indications President Biya is the Cameroonian best qualified at this historical juncture to lead Cameroon. Of service and loyalty to the state he has demonstrated with unequal zeal and uncharacteristic finesse. No other Cameroonian loves Cameroon more; none has spent more years of his life in the service of our beloved Fatherland; no one else understands the Cameroonian political psychic any better than President Biya; and no Cameroonian is better qualified than President Biya to lead Cameroon.

Granted, no single person was born to rule Cameroon. But the times and challenges demand of certain individuals who have accumulated the requisite experiences…. Assuredly, the task of leading Cameroon into mature statehood is not meant for just any man or woman. Many good and gifted men who tried their hands at rising to prominence did not make it; those who succeeded in rising to political prominence found the task of leadership rather daunting. Among those left standing from the now seemingly distant epoch of Cameroon nationalism, Biya alone has made it. This, in itself, is a testament of the workings of Providential forces beyond human understanding.

Given Mr. Biya’s experience serving Cameroon these past 50 years, it should be apparent to all that no other candidate knows Cameroon better, and none more suitable to meet the challenges that await our beloved Fatherland. President Biya has been there and done it all. He deserves this last chance to correct all past errors–economic and political–and, by so doing, set Cameroon on a smooth course towards realizing our national aspirations. We summon the sons and daughters of Cameroon at home and abroad to come together at this crucial moment in the life our native land and lend their support to President Biya as he undertakes the last leg of his political odyssey. We call on all Cameroonians to rise up, to rise up to the wake of a new dawn and join President Biya in this historic journey toward completing the work he began some fifty years ago.
 
 
Emmanuel Konde
Professor of History
Albany State University