Your Excellency; welcome to Cameroon, ‘land of promise’ and ‘land of glory’; after winning your second and last mandate as President of France, Cameroon’s (former) colonial master. I know you come as a master who wants to see first-hand how his (former) estate is faring. No gainsaying the fact.
Your decision to visit Cameroon this Monday, July 25, 2022, may seem innocent to many, but by God’s design, it’s providential. July 25, in the church’s year, his the feast day of St. James, one of the two sons of Zebedee and the first matrye of the 12 apostles. James is famous in the Bible because his mother, wife of Zebedee, who had great influence on Jesus went kneeling infront of Jesus, requesting that he commands that his two sons, James and John, take the first position in Heaven: one on his left and one on his right. Although Jesus disappointed her by saying that her sons may only have the privilege of sharing in his suffering, the decision on who goes to Heaven is that of his father, not his.
The announcement of your visit to Cameroon today creates the same anxiety and expectation Zebedee’s wife and children had as Jesus was approaching the end of his mission on earth. Just as they thought Jesus could reserve the two privileged positions for them in Heaven many a Cameroonian in general and citizens of native West Cameroon in particular, look up to your visit and meeting with Cameroon’s long-serving President, as a moment of clarity. Just like Jesus used the opportunity of Zebedee’s wife’s intersection to clarify the limit of his powers, you may also use this visit to clarify your concerns about the plight of Cameroonians, to which France has contributed directly or indirectly.
You are visiting Cameroon, when citizens of native West Cameroon are yearning for greater autonomy or outright autonomy from mainland francophone Cameroon because of the French colonial legacy of assimilation. President Biya himself confessed to have found difficulty absorbing the Anglophone minority when he last visited France, but for their tenacity. Today, Anglophones and those who have opted to call themselves ‘Ambazonians’, are monitoring every move of yours in Cameroon today and looking up to knowing whether you have understood anything about their language since 2016.
Like James, the first apostle to be martyred, thousands of native West Cameroonians have been martyred for their fate in the former British colonial heritage for their English language and common law system. You are visiting when the remaining few surviving English-speaking Cameroonians are ‘afflicted in everyway, but not perplexed; persecuted but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed’, (confer 2 Corinthians 4:7-15). And still hoping you may do something (even though a majority do not believe in your sincerity).
Like Jesus, you may be telling them you don’t have the powers to divide Cameroon into two (that is, grant the wish of Ambazonians), but you can bring pressure to bare on our leadership to grant native West Cameroonians (living in the North West and South West Regions), greater autonomy. France’s concern about the welfare of minorities pushed them to fight for greater autonomy for Quebec in Canada.
Today those living in the French speaking region of Canada proudly refer to themselves as nationals of Quebec in a united Canada. That is why Canadian Prime Minister could easily declare that Quebecois are Quebec nationals in a united Canada. That is why they enjoy greater advantages than ordinary Canadians. That is why they attend schools in France on home tuition. That is why they go to ‘Le Jeux de la franchophonie’ with a Quebecois-only football team, not Canadian national team as Cameroon does for Commonwealth games, year-in, year-out. That is why it suffices for any Canadian to declare that he/she is Quebecois and becomes one, just as Cameroon nationality code indicates who can become a native West Cameroonian.
His Excellency, can you impress it on Cameroon leadership that a better way of ensuring Cameroon remains one and indivisible would be to replicate the Canadian example of special status to the Cameroon situation?
Would you be kind enough to reason President Paul Biya to the effect that if he continues delaying on granting greater autonomy, many an English-speaking Cameroonian could change their minds, given that the Universal Declaration of human rights is categorical on the fact that no one be forced to belong to a country s/he no longer shares its modus operandis and modus vivandis?
Given that with technological advancement and free movement today, nationality has been reduced to one’s ability to contribute to the social, cultural, political and economic growth a country, not just the fact that one is born there and that the constitution states so (and many a native West Cameroonian are not fulfilling such criteria toward Yaounde today), can His Excellency from France agree with His Excellency at Etoudi, that henceforth, native West Cameroonians should proudly refer to themselves as Ambazonian nationals living in a united Cameroon?
Even if the point were not to go back to 1961, can English-speaking Cameroonians be offered the same privileges Quebecois have in Canada today? Can they be allowed to organize their Anglo-Saxon school and common law systems their own way? Could they be allowed to take part in Commonwealth games with the Ambaxonian-only team as Québec does for la francophonie games? Affaire a suivre…
In the meantime, welcome Mr.Emmanuel Macron, French Président. Kindly make hey while the sun shines.
*Colbert Gwain is digital rights advocate, author, radio host and content creator @TheColbertFactor
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