Former Bar Council President, presidential candidate and Deputy Prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Bernard Acho Muna says the Cameroon government under the leadership of President Paul Biya lacks the goodwill, zeal, honesty and is afraid to dialogue with leaders of the Anglophone movement.
In an exclusive interview with The Voice newspaper in Yaounde, Muna said the government must prove that it is ready to solve the current Anglophone imbroglio by coming to the negotiation table with clean hands.
“I think there is still much to be done. Peace in Anglophone Cameroon is still been threatened even if what the State is doing is thanks to the international community. The international community has to continue to mount pressure on the government so that the rights of Cameroonian citizens should not be violated,” Muna stated.
He however regretted that the international community intervened in the crisis timidly and that it was only thanks to the declarations and statements of some political leaders that the international community even started giving a listening ear to the Anglophone crisis.
Ben Muna urged the government not be afraid to sit down and talk to those who advocate secession, federalism and all what not.
“There are two levels to consider here. First of all, the government’s action has not only to do with the North-West and South-West regions. The government’s action has revealed a certain habit when it comes to solving problems. In 2008, when demonstrations were held in Yaoundé, Douala, the CPDM-government first stifled the populations before discussing. This practice must be stopped. It is not the United Nations that will come and tell us to sit down and negotiate.
“When there is a problem, one sits down and discusses. For reasons that only the CPDM-government masters, it still refuses the option of discussion. I think we should call all those who demand secession, federalism and sit down to chat a way forward.”
He said the legality of the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium, CACSC, headed by Bar. Felix Nkongho Agbor Balla should not be an obstacle to dialogue.
“Felix Nkongho took part in discussions with the government as a member of the Consortium. Now that the government could not impose its will, it used unhealthy tactics by declaring the Consortium illegal before arresting the same gentleman she was discussing with. This shows that the government is afraid to sit down to negotiate an end to the crisis with the different protagonists.”
Quizzed whether he personally favours a referendum consultation on the form of the State, he insisted a referendum should take place after discussions. Hear him; “Before calling for the referendum, you must first know the terms of the referendum. Before asking the people whether they agree with federalism, secession or the form of the present State, we must first agree on the terms of the referendum. 22 million Cameroonians cannot all sit on the negotiating table but at the bottom it is the population that has to decide, that is what gives legitimacy to the decision.”
Talking about Anglophone protest leaders in prison, he said he goes to prison every two days and can testify the people who were arrested in Bamenda and Buea and brought to Yaoundé have no families for the most part in the city. “So they have to deal with their daily problems. They normally eat, but they hope to be released very soon. They do not understand that they are accused of terrorism, hostility against the State; they do not understand that they are treated like terrorists. They do not understand all these charges brought against them.”
How it all started
Taking a trip down memory lane, Barrister Muna recalled in 1964, Foncha saw that President Ahidjo made the decisions alone, without consulting the others and opposed it. He complained and finally it was in 1990 that this problem was evoked and this time the government refused the dialogue with the All Anglophone Conference.
He acknowledged the fact that Foncha resigned from the system several times. And in communion with Solomon Tandeng Muna, wrote to the Head of State; denouncing the marginalization of Anglophones. But he insists “we should always insist on dialogue.
Some wanted to take up arms and enter into rebellion, but that is not what we wish for. 30 years after waiting, it is only now that the young people have begun to manifest; and when they do, they are treated like animals. I saw the girls who were raped in the dormitories lately in Bamenda. I do not think we can blame the elites of the northwest and southwest because they do not want their country to experience civil war. They still remembered the situation of the years 1955-60, in which there was civil war. They thought the solution could be in dialogue. I think the government has to be careful: the new generation that is coming will claim its rights fully.”
He revisited the recent press outing of Bar Council President, Barrister Jackson Ngnie Kamga during which he again distanced himself from the steps taken by the President of the Bar Council within the framework of the unrepresentative entity styled the “CONCLAVE” as outlined in a press release issued by him on 9 April 2017 without prior consultation with the detainees and the team of defence lawyers clearly stating that neither they nor the detained persons whom they defend are bound by any promise given or commitment made by the Bar Council President.
Muna expressed regret that the President of the Bar Council neither requested the release from custody of lawyers in detention nor raised the issue of lawyers in exile or whose freedom of movement is restricted.