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So This Is What Fons Have Become! 

By Clovis Atatah In Vienna, Austria

It finally came to pass that President Paul Biya last week travelled to Abakwa, saw the place his regime attempted unsuccessfully to destroy, and "decided" to conquer it once more, this time not exclusively by military force – despite his intimidating display of firepower – but also by the sophisticated use of deceit as a weapon of political warfare. It came to pass that during the presidential visit members of the so-called elite class in the North West ran around like excited dogs on heat.

Fons greeting the presidential couple

This excitement was even more palpable amongst the fons, recently described as royal beggars, whose days of power, respect and authority are now a distant memory. These are fons who should have learnt lessons from their people’s widespread and determined rejection, since the early 1990s, of their close association with the oligarchy in Yaounde. These are traditional rulers who should have learnt a lesson from the demise of their greedy Kedjom Keku colleague, and who should have been put on guard by the recent overthrow of the playboy fon of Oshie.

But no! These greedy individuals, who have expropriated the traditional institution with connivance from the venal oligarchs in Yaounde, care only about their personal bellies. These fons, who all too quickly crowned President Paul Biya Fon of Fons, found nothing wrong with this same man staying away from their region for nearly 20 years.

These objects of disgrace to the North West population found nothing wrong with the repeated rejection by President Biya of their numerous requests for audience. These royal beggars, who refuse to shake hands with even their most accomplished sons and daughters, were quick to shake hands with Chantal Biya, whose qualifications, were I to enumerate them here, would cause many heads to spin. As if the ignominy were not enough, they crowned her Mafor of Mafors!

Fortunately, it did not rain in Bamenda and people like Fon Angwafor were therefore spared the trouble of holding umbrellas over Mr Biya and his wife, Chantal. But despite the helpful attitude of the skies, the fons brought various forms of humiliation upon themselves, which it is needless to enumerate here.

Also sad but equally amusing was the fact that the whirlwind generated by the blades of the presidential chopper as Mr Biya flew off, blew off the caps or crowns of some fons. I have maintained for some time now that the chieftaincy institution in most parts of Cameroon has become both outdated and irrelevant, and is now even counter-productive. Conservative Cameroonians have been quick to defend the system, and would wish to see the chieftaincy institution unchanged.

But it is evident that the institution is in rapid decline – in "reverse" gear if you please – and is fast becoming a powerful tool in the hands of "feymen" and criminal syndicates working in cahoots with Yaounde oligarchs. To "unreverse" the gear, in my view, the chieftaincy institution should be democratised and the people given more power to decide who becomes a local monarch and how he/she works. Details of how this democratisation could proceed can be worked out by the people.

I’m aware that many Northwesterners would be alarmed by any proposal for the democratisation of their fondoms. "Kai! You now want fons to be elected? Over my dead body!" one had exclaimed when I expressed similar views some years ago. But I wonder what these conservatives think when they witness fons kissing in public, fighting for food at public occasions, dishing out titles to women of easy virtue, auctioning communal land and extorting money from hapless subjects.

Even those who admit the moral decay of the Northwest fondom are still generally too surprised how fast their fons managed the feat of diving this low. It is however not surprising, especially considering how Northwest fons staked their fortunes on le renouveau by crowning Mr. Biya Fon of Fons.

Since that crowning ceremony, the regime has operated like a Mafia set-up, and a gist from recent Wikileaks release of United States diplomatic cables only confirms what has been widely known in Cameroon for sometime. Britain’s Guardian newspaper, which received advanced copies of the Wikileaks cables, reported: "Cameroon’s president, Paul Biya, described as running government finances ‘like a petty cash fund’, booked himself and his entourage a $1.2m three week holiday by chartered jet to the French resort of La Baule. They took 43 rooms in two luxury hotels costing $60,000 a night, went on shopping sprees and splashed cash on casino nights.

‘We have received first-hand accounts of Biya’s entourage paying to refuel his airplane with suitcases filled with hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash,’ reported the US embassy in Cameroon. ‘When Biya travelled to the United Nations general assembly in September 2008, a member of his entourage was caught as he tried to escape from Biya’s Geneva hotel with a bag filled with 3.4m Swiss francs (about $6.8 million) in cash.’"

That is how the Fon of Fons operates. You can now see which example his subordinates, ordinary fons, are emulating. It is hoped that Cameroonians would muster the courage to "unreverse" the gear with which the big fon and his subordinates have been driving us to disaster.

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