The recent abductions, murders, arsons, rapping, looting, wanton arrests, kangaroo military trials, and dehumanization of Anglophones by state agents in Cameroon are cause for deep concern. Indeed, the dispersal of a peaceful protest march organized by lawyers and teachers of West Cameroon extraction, which led to a wave of unrest that is being brutally suppressed by the forces of lawlessness and disorder, has caused indignation all over the democratic world.
The regime in Yaounde calls the carnage an attempt to maintain peace. This repressive tolerance called peace has gained a hegemonic place in the discourse of intellectuals, mass media, lawyers, the international community and even clueless local political hacks in the Republic of Cameroon.
Peace: What Does It Mean?
Before deliberating about the ‘peace process, let me quote a few lines of the novel by Sagar Parsi titled “Discovery of Peace” according to which peace is that state in which one feels free to survive. Here questions arise: is this peace persisting in the carceral state of the Republic of Cameroon? If yes, how much? Let me share a brief story with you my dear readers. There once was a king who offered a prize to the artist who would paint the best picture of peace. Many artists tried. The king looked at all the pictures. But there were only two he really liked, and he had to choose between them. One picture was of a calm lake. The lake was a perfect mirror for peaceful towering mountains all around it. Overhead was a blue sky with fluffy white clouds. All who saw this picture thought that it was a perfect picture of peace. The other picture had mountains, too. But these were rugged and bare. Above was an angry sky, from which rain fell and in which lightning played. Down the side of the mountain tumbled a
foaming waterfall. This did not look peaceful at all. But when the king looked closely, he saw behind the waterfall a tiny bush growing in a crack in the rock. In the bush a mother bird had built her nest. There, in the midst of the rush of angry water, sat the mother bird on her nest – in perfect peace.
Which was the picture that won the prize? The second picture. Why? Peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. Peace means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart. That is the real meaning of peace. Peace can mean different things to different people. It is the way freedom struggle and terrorism are used for same types of acts. One can be a freedom fighter for one and a terrorist for another. But we have to distinguish between the two. Same is the case in different parts of the world. For uncouth oppressors, those fighting are terrorists, for people of these areas they are freedom fighters.
Peace can be peace of a graveyard where people remain buried along with their aspirations. They can’t resist whatever is done on them. Peace can be peace of a living society where every member of it and every section of it feels satisfied that justice has been done to them. Justice and peace are two sides of the same coin for peace deserves priority for those who want peace out of sincerity not peace as a camouflage for subjugation and perpetuation of primitive, barbaric, and nihilistic oppression. This is the essence for those who work for peace with justice and not those to whom peace in itself, is an end without satisfaction of those demands and aspirations which led to the disruption of peace.
The composite peace process loses its motion when anything awful happens. Peace processes are always fragile unless they get support from the ground level. A peace process becomes mockery when the abductions, tortures, rapings, arsons, killings, looting and plunder continue unabated on the ground. The dream to become an emerging country nation by 2035 is, most of the political analysts would agree, highly improbable without resolving the criminal annexation knot in Cameroon, with its attendant exclusion, “deratification” (meaning according to TV journalist Jacques Ndongo Ze, extermination of Anglophones) from the Republic of Cameroon.
The reaction of the Cameroon authorities to the protests evokes echoes of the totalitarian practices that many of us remember from the days before communism in Central and Eastern Europe collapsed in 1989: harsh censorship of the domestic media led by Senior Peter Esoka and Minister Issa Tchiroma, blackouts of reporting by foreign media, refusal of visas to foreign journalists, and blaming the unrest on a conspiratorial clique of manipulators and other unspecified dark forces supposedly manipulated and sponsored from abroad. In fact, it is like shaming heaven for its peaceful purity.
Indeed, the language used by some government representatives and the official media is a reminder of the worst of times during the Stalinist and Maoist eras or Radio Milles Collines of the Rwanda genocide epoch. But the most dangerous development of this unfortunate situation is the current attempt to seal off Anglophone Cameroon from the rest of the world by cutting internet services.
Even as I write, it is clear that Cameroonian riggers and misrulers are frantically trying to reassure the world that peace, quiet, and “harmony” have again prevailed. We all know this kind of peace from what has happened in the past in countries such as Burma, Cuba, Belarus, and a few other countries—it is called the peace of the graveyard.
Merely urging the Cameroonian government to exercise the “utmost restraint” in dealing with the aggrieved Anglophone people, as people-centered governments around the world do, is far too weak a response. The international community, beginning with the United Nations and other international organizations like the African Union, as well as individual countries, should use every means possible to step up pressure on the blood-thirsty Cameroon thugtatorship to:
- allow foreign media, as well as international fact-finding missions, into the country in order to enable objective investigations of what has been happening;
- release all those who only peacefully exercised their internationally guaranteed human rights, and guarantee that no one is subjected to hostage taking, torture, and unfair trials;
- enter into a meaningful dialogue with the representatives of the Anglophone people, not bribed gangsters.
Unless these conditions are fulfilled, the United Nations should seriously reconsider whether restoring the botched independence of the former British Southern Cameroons in a country that includes a peaceful graveyard is not the best idea. To brace the peace process, and to build an atmosphere which is conducive to working out suitable strategies for the future that is a peaceful settlement of all the bilateral problems between the two neighboring nations is imperative. Let the echelons of the peace wake up and do it for the sake of the dispossessed and excluded Southern Cameroonians so that everyone can survive with peaceful and dignified life. I hope it will last and we see a better tomorrow. Even morons within the Cameroon kleptocracy can get this.
Tatah Mentan is Theodore Lentz scholar of Peace and Security Studies and Professor of Political Science. He has authored many books on burning world issues in areas like political economy of international relations, the predatory wars of corporate globalization and democratization in a netarchic world torn and convulsed by corporate capitalist cannibalism