Senator Nfon Victor Esemingsongo Mukete was a patriarch who pointed out the dangers in neglecting the Cameroon Anglophone crisis as well as the truth about it, but nobody paid any attention.
For years, he was a lone voice in the wilderness, and a lot of it came across as self-serving. But I’ll tell you, Senator Nfon Victor Esemingsongo Mukete was right.
Nfon Victor Mukete, the colossus who straddled Cameroon and Nigeria politics at the highest levels died Saturday, April 10, 2021, aged 102.
Appointed in May 2013 among the country’s pioneer senators, Mukete’s time at Senate coincided with outbreak of the Anglophone Crisis.
While he stuck to his belief in a united Cameroon, he repeatedly expressed disillusion with how his much-cherished reunification had turned out.
Nfon Mukete was one of the few CPDM members who publicly called for a return to the federal system of government as solution to the #AmbazoniaConflict. While this put him at odds with regime hardliners it also infuriated Ambazonian activists.
In 2015, at a meeting in Kumba sponsored by the Presidency of the Republic to promote vaccination in primary schools, an envoy of the First Lady started reading a message in French.
This disrespect caught the ire of the traditional leader who stood up and addressed the group of Presidential envoys including the Governor of the South West Region.
He said these words: “What are you people doing? These kids are Anglophones. They don’t understand French. You have to speak to them in a language they understand.”
He then proceeded to leave the grounds with his aides. The Governor and the SDO ran after him. Sure enough, a person was brought in to give the message in English.
Senator Mukete, April 5, 2019, seized the floor at Cameroon’s Senate saying: “I love this country, I fought for the reunification of this country… This is what has driven some people against the wall to go and take guns against the very foundations of this country.”
It was a dramatic scene as Senators met in plenary to examine and adopt the bill on decentralization ahead of the December 6, 2020 regional council elections.
In the presence of members of government and in what was supposed to be a question and answer session, Senator Nfon Victor Esemingsongo Mukete, eldest member of Cameroon’s senate went out of himself, mounted the rostrum and held the house spellbound with an emotional outburst.
The Paramount Ruler of the Bafaws said the pain is too much for the people of the North West and South West Regions, wondering why the authorities in Yaoundé have decided to be indifferent.
In a move that shocked many, Nfon Mukete insisted that only a return to federation can restore normalcy in the restive Anglophone regions.
“The system has failed, federation is the only way. Ten states federation so each region can manage its affairs. Why are people afraid of federation? I am not talking like this because the country should be divided. No! I fought very hard for the reunification of Former Southern Cameroons and Former La Republique du Cameroun. And I can never destroy it. But the country should be federated. Look at America, South Africa, Switzerland, Nigeria, Canada, Belgium, Germany, Mexico, Russia and Rwanda,” Senator Nfon Mukete said.
He hit his walking stick on the assembly floor saying: “What is all these nonsense? My people are dying; they are suffering and we are playing games here in Yaoundé. We should be careful. I don’t care. Go and tell anybody. Go and tell Paul [Biya]. Quote me anywhere.”
Even the sound of a falling pin could be heard as many watched the eldest lawmaker in bewilderment.
Nfon Mukete harped: “I am talking with tears. I am over a hundred years old. I was about saying this on the floor of this house. Let us have honesty, integrity, impeccable dispensation of the justice we want in this country… I love this country. I fought for the reunification of this country. Someone came because of money and decided to kill the English language. That was the beginning of trouble…are we mad? These are some of the things that have driven the people to take up guns … Let us have functional units. The regions which were created in the 1996 constitution, let them be there. Each region should be there with capacity to deal with the affairs of their people. They should be able to run their regional services – educational, health services and so on.”
Cameroon has lost a political leader with a deep understanding of the people’s history and of the Anglophone problem.
His courage, position and force to articulate the problems faced by Anglophones and his advocacy for change remain unrivalled. No other Cameroonian, especially Anglophone Cameroonian, will ever be able to fill this role.
As Dr. Wilson Eseme posits, the loss is immense. A monument is gone. A chapter has closed. An era has ended!
Unfortunately, Nfon Mukete’s lone voice in the wilderness may never be heard again. But come what may, the fight for justice will continue.