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Dialogue With Southern Cameroons: Biya’s Fear Of The Known 

By Peterkins Manyong

Fear is certainly a very irrational feeling. It is not always engendered by any consciousness of danger. Quite often fear stems from ignorance of the unknown. People fear death not so much for the pain that precedes it, but from the fact that the dying person doesn’t know the nature of the world he or she is journeying to.

There is, however, a third form of fear: fear of what is already known. That is the kind of fear the regime of President Paul Biya has for the Southern Cameroons. The recent recommendation by the African Commission for Human and People’s Rights, ACHPR, that the La Republique should engage in "constructive dialogue" with the Southern Cameroons is the greatest piece of euphemism in legal history.

The hard fact is that the ACHPR, the legal arm of the African Union, AU, has recognised the Southern Cameroons as a separate entity in Cameroon. The fact that La Republique was called in the Banjul ruling, to comply with seven demands and the Southern Cameroons only two says it all. A 7-2 defeat in a football match is a crushing defeat, no matter from what angle it is perceived. The Southern Cameroons captured ideological territory by its victory.

In brief, it was the breakthrough in the struggle. If, therefore, the Biya Regime is afraid of engaging in dialogue with Southern Cameroons liberation movements, SCAPO, and the Southern Cameroon’s National Council, SCNC, it is not because she doesn’t know what she would encounter on the negotiating table. Of course, the position of all Southern Cameroons liberation movements has been unequivocally stated: Southern Cameroons problem is not that of marginalisation, whether at the level of appointments or development.

Nfor Ngala Nfor, SCNC Vice National Chairman, was making this point at a recent press conference in Bamenda. He said that if Biya in his next cabinet gives half the ministerial positions to Southern Cameroonians, the problem would not have been solved. The problem of Southern Cameroonians is the confiscation of their statehood. The issue of statehood was reiterated by SCAPO’s Vice Chairman, Augustine Ndangam in a press conference he held following the delegation of powers to him by SCAPO Chairman, Kevin Ngwang Gumne.

From the above premise, it is logical to conclude that La Republique will be reminded at the negotiating table that the two states: the Southern Cameroons and La Republique du Cameroun, entered a union of two separate states. That by that act which is like a marriage contracted on the principle of joint property, the identities of the two states were sunk.

And that, like in Victor Epie Ngome’s play "What God Has Put Asunder"where WECA (West Cameroon) and Garba (East Cameroon) are united in holy wedlock by Rev. UNOR (United Nations Organisation) the marriage of La Republique and Southern Cameroons has broken down irretrievably or "hit the rocks" to use the popular phrase .A separation is therefore inevitable.

That on January 2, 1984, La Republique seceded from the union by reverting to the name it had before the union pact was signed. That the action legally brought to an end the union between the two states that took place in 1961 (October 1). Like in all marriages based on joint property, there has to be the sharing of assets and liabilities. The Southern Cameroons laid the groundwork for this very significant exercise when it produced the very enriching document known as the Buea Peace Initiative, BPI, as far back as 1993.

At the negotiating table, La Republique will also be made to understand that after seceding from the union, she should have taken the next logical step-pull her occupation forces from the territory of the Southern Cameroons. That on the contrary, she not only intensified her military presence there, but proceeded to suffocate the citizens of that territory by denying Southern Cameroonians the access to the fresh air of freedom, including the freedom to remind themselves every October 1 that they were once a self- governing state.

Another known fact which La Republique would hate to be reminded of is that the history of the relationship between them and the Southern Cameroons is a history of the systematic destruction of its hegemony, viz, the National Produce Marketing Board, NPMB, Cameroon Bank, the Tiko and Mamfe Airports.

Even if its negotiators would, in the spirit of all negotiations with the mission of ensuring lasting peace, decide to count no dead bodies, they would out of necessity relive history. And that is by asking for the restitution of all these very essential services because no thought, however, great, can suppress all other thoughts. Another reason why La Republique is scared of dialogue with the Southern Cameroons is that the African Commission will be present and thus make any moves like buying over the negotiators, difficult, if not impossible.

Even if the ACHPR decides to stay away, which is very unlikely, La Republique won’t find its task easier because the Southern Cameroons will be anything but soft towards traitors. There is sufficient reason to believe that at the negotiating table, the Regime will be facing hardliners like Chief Ayamba and others who may just be as old and therefore not very pliable people easy to hoodwink.

Proof that SCAPO and SCNC leaders can be trusted is their tenacity during the period the case was being examined by the ACHPR. The fact that the Regime had to create its own SCNC, with the likes of Chief Isaac Oben and Samuel Tita Fon as its leaders and tried to lobby for the withdrawal of the case from Banjul, is eloquent testimony that the genuine Southern Cameroons team was impregnable and uncompromising.

Time is as great a great manufacturer, Charles Dickens tells us just as it is a great demystifier. By this the writer means that many changes and developments take place with time and logically, obscure many things .The Regime believes that with the passage of time, the idea of dialogue could be forgotten, especially with actions like improving on the road network in Bamenda.

While carrying out these infrastructural changes, the Regime pleaded with the ACHPR to extend the time given for the "constructive dialogue" it recommended by another 180 days. But even after this period expired the Regime is very far from willing to engage in it, as La Republique’s Communication Minister, Issa Tchiroma, said last July.

Dialogue is a very hard pill to be swallowed by an oligarchy that understands no other form of governance than that by decree. The Regime has been swallowing the truth about the plight of the Southern Cameroons with a lot of sauce. That truth shall never go down until she learns to swallow it without any sauce at all.

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