In a readout after an audience with President Biya at Unity Palace last May 17, the US envoy said: “…the President and I discussed upcoming elections. I suggested to the President that he should be thinking about his legacy and how he wants to be remembered in the history books to be read by generations to come, and proposed that George Washington and Nelson Mandela were excellent models.” While lamenting the absence of dialogue which has escalated the Anglophone crisis, Ambassador Barlerin indicted security forces for “targeted killings, detentions without access to legal support, family, or the Red Cross, and burning and looting of villages.” Jolted by self-righteous indignation and a mundane craving to ingratiate themselves to the corridors of power, gaffing, goofing, dilatory goons, masquerading as intellectuals and opinion leaders; including fifth columnists and sundry regime apologists, took to the airwaves to castigate the Ambassador; casting banal, vituperative aspersions on his person and declaring him, persona non-grata. The bile and vitriol, including the obnoxious threat by one Banda Kani; who on live TV, said Ambassador Barlerin will return to America in a coffin, is a diplomatic sacrilege that does not edify Cameroon as a nation. Cameroon deserves better. The impropriety of inflaming primordial sentiments against a resident ambassador is simply mind-boggling and inexcusable. And never again should it happen! The attacks, like the sycophants behind them, are not only pathetic; they are cheap and only reinforce Cameroon’s image as a banana republic with highly dysfunctional institutions where bizarre things can happen. In the event, the civic callousness by self-seeking morons who plumbed the abyss of diplomatic rascality and drag the nation to a hitherto unprecedented low; did a great disservice to the nation. This is a shame and Cameroonians deserve full explanation for this embarrassment. On the face of it, there is nothing the Ambassador said that has not been in the domain of public discourse. Images of arrests, torture, executions and burning of Anglophone villages have gone viral on social media. It also does not require a rocket scientist to figure out that Biya is tired. At 85, Biya is far on the left side of the average age of African Presidents which is 63; that’s pension time, or nearing it, in most countries. Put in context, the European equivalent is 55; which is also the average age of American presidents at their inauguration. Since taking office in 1982, Biya has seen five French presidents - Francois Mitterrand, Jacques Chirac, Nicolas Sarkozy, Francois Hollande and Emmanuel Macron. In the same period, Americans have elected six different presidents – Ronald Reagan, George H Bush, Bill Clinton, George W Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump. Biya is also Africa’s oldest president and the second longest- serving ruler; behind Equatorial Guinea’s Obiang Nguema, in power for 38 years. The president’s frequent trips abroad for medical tourism continue to fuel speculations about his failing health. Keen observers can determine Biya is showing more wear and tear mostly in the wrinkles on his face; the deterioration in his husky voice; the alleged diapers, uncontrollable flatulence, protracted anal blasts and the declining swagger of his gait as witnessed during official outings when he can barely walk. Biya now cuts the picture of an isolated man, frail, distraught, distracted and completely out of touch. Honestly speaking, to vilify the US Ambassador for advising an 85-year-old president to step down, after 36 years, is a travesty that insults and diminishes even Biya’s own person. Beyond the specifics of avuncular admonition and verbal castigation, the assault on Barlerin is nothing more than self-seeking, ignominious, whimsical and disdainful diplomatic brigandage; more so as it transcends the fine line between free speech and hate speech. Those sycophants, who saw Barlerin’s statement as an attack on their power and unearned privileges, must be told in whatever language they understand that Biya, like every mortal, will eventually leave power.
Rather than castigate the US Ambassador for advising Biya to step down after 36 years in power, Cameroonians should hail Ambassador Barlerin for speaking truth to power. If there ever was any doubt about the abysmal level to which governance or leadership in Cameroon has fallen and how small the minds are in very high places, the utterly reckless and bizarre response to the US Ambassador, Peter Henry Barlerin, for advising President Biya to think about his legacy; a move interpreted by Yaoundé as a call for Biya to step down, is a melodrama which speaks to the intemperate desperation of Cameroon’s vampire elite in their quest for Biya to remain in power, and provide cannon fodder for their bare-face corruption and pillage of the nation’s wealth.