Change is part of life. To try to go against change is to try to go against the very essence of the meaning of life. So when I read of high government officials and party apparatchiks, moving to Bamenda and Buea, I listen in to hear what the proposals are. Nothing, but a language that divides and the worn-out chant: ‘all is well’.
If there are thousands and thousands of people marching in the streets, if you feel the need to mobilize and explain, then all cannot be well. If people are being shot, buildings burnt and massive arrests taking place and the rule of law starts becoming arbitrary then all cannot be well. Not with my soul, or the soul of any human being.
In this country we are becoming confirmed experts at reinventing the wheel. Unfortunately this happens every time we are faced with a serious problem others have had to deal with before. It appears to me that the easier thing to do should be just to take a look at what others who have struggled through the same tribulation have done. In our case the most obvious thing would be to seek out Canadian experts or at least read up on what they have done. I am more than convinced that our Prime Minister who spent close to nineteen years in Canada knows what all of this is about. He most certainly must have traced the way ahead and unfortunately found some hawks in his path. So then what happened in Canada?
The Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism (1963-1969) is one of the most influential commissions in Canadian history. It brought about sweeping changes to federal and provincial language policy. The commission was a response to the growing unrest among French Canadians in Quebec, who called for the protection of their language and culture, opportunities to participate fully in political and economic decision-making.
Some of the issues that have always excited public attention in Canada from time to time inter alia have been summarized as follows:
the perception of fairness or unfairness in hiring and promoting speakers of one official language over speakers of the other;
the choice of one language over the other for meetings, documents, and internal memoranda (which are sometimes collectively characterized as the work “environment”);
the promotion of bilingual job candidates over people who only speak only one or the other of the two official languages;
the availability (or lack of availability) of language training for public servants, who cannot advance without the ability to speak both languages;
the costs associated with language-based hiring and promotion practices, including the practice of paying a “bilingual bonus” to public servants capable of speaking both official languages;
the need to provide government services to some Canadians in English, and to others in French.
I am sure all of the above might sound very familiar to many. That is not all. According to Wikipedia’s article “OFFICIAL BILINGUALISM IN THE PUBLIC SERVICE OF CANADA”. By the early 1960s, the issue of Canada’s seemingly perpetual inability to create an equitable distribution of jobs in the country’s rapidly expanding public service was becoming a key grievance underlying Quebec nationalism. In 1961, a Royal Commission studying the structure of the federal bureaucracy in Canada organized a special committee to study the issue of bilingualism within the Public Service. The Commission’s 1962 report included recommendations that the federal government “adopt active measures to develop bilingual capacities among its employees on a selective basis”, and that it more actively recruit qualified French Canadians who would have the potential to advance to the senior ranks of the federal administration (Canada, Report of the Royal Commission on Government Organization, vol. I. Ottawa, 1962, p. 267).
The Royal Commission’s multi-volume report, published in 1969, recommended a radical redesign of the Public Service of Canada, in order to establish full equality between the two official languages in the federal administration, and a permanently equitable distribution of jobs, at all levels of seniority, between French-speaking and English-speaking Canadians (Canada, Report of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, vol. III, The Work World (Ottawa, 1969).
So what is the situation today in Canada? According to Wikipedia, “Today, the built-in barriers to the hiring and promotion of francophones have been overcome. French-speakers ceased to be underrepresented in the Public Service in 1978, and the percentage of public servants who are francophones has been growing steadily ever since. At the management level, French-speakers ceased to be under-represented in 1995. There is now a growing over-representation of persons with French as their first official language in the Public Service. In 2007, francophones occupied 31.5% of positions in the core public administration, and 26.9% in institutions subject to the Official Languages Act, overall.”
So if we were to borrow from the Canadians the first step will have been the creation National Commission headed by an Anglophone with an Anglophone majority with a mission to make recommendations come into law to rectify the injustices that are known. The archives of this country are loaded with petitions and statistics on the issues now being raised in the streets of Buea and Bamenda and elsewhere. Talking about “états généraux” which funnily enough does not have a proper English translation is nothing concrete.
I have just returned from the attending the 17th Conference of the International Anti Corruption Conference (IACC ) in Panama City. I was elected Chair Council that runs this Conference in 2014 and my mandate runs till 2020. The IACC is the premier global Conference on Anti Corruption. This Panama Meeting brought together 1800 participants, which included the ICIJ (international Consortium of Investigative Journalist) the group of investigative journalists who leaked what is unfortunately now known as the Panama Papers. The theme of this year’s conference was “Time for Justice, Equity, Security, and Trust”. Yes, the Conference was about corruption, but my mind was totally immersed in the news I was from home. As a consequence, I thought of home through the prism of the theme “Time for Justice, Equity, Security, Trust”. In effect Justice and equity is what the cries in the streets of the English-Speaking regions have been about. As matter of fact the same cry can be heard also in many other regions of the country. Security was not provided for those exercising of the simple right to demonstrate peacefully. Even when this was by students chanting “no violence” they met with the furor of Cameroonians in uniform that exercised incredible violence as if they had a score to settle. So what about trust? We have a Constitution that consecrates bilingualism and provides for the respect of common law legal culture without defining the legal institutions that have to ensure their enforcement. As you know, the 1996 provides for autonomous regions with elected officials. This was an idea conceived to counter the argument that was raging after the AAC and the strong movement for a federation. 20 years after nothing has happened. At the very least, the spirit could have been respected by the appointment of governors to regions from where they originate while waiting for elections. The rise of corruption, caused the introduction of article 66 on the declaration of assets. That has not happened and government appointees continue to steal the peoples’ money at the most alarming rate. Instead of dealing with the root of the problems we face, we struggle away with the symptoms. There is no ground for trust. Consequently any promises made are just taken for what they are: promises. Life is about trusting. Those who have lost trust, will always take the chances that they believe will lead to their happiness.
The problems we now face have been exacerbated by serious governance challenges, tribalism, favoritism, and corruption. A system in which everyone is on the rampage at the expense of the state, the poorest and the powerless has slowly been put into place. The victims of this are francophones and Anglophones. The distortion that is being brought by those who paint the issue as an Anglophone Francophone issue is astute. They are trying to mask a failure of governance and the impending threat of system breakdown following the state capture of our resources by a greedy few. Land grabbing is as rampant in Kribi as it is in Limbe. Lack of roads is shameful in the Northwest as in many other regions. Development in the three northern regions and economic hardship has been cited by international reports as being one of the key causes of the ease with which the youth are seduced by Boko Haram. If repression is the only answer to simple demonstrations by the unarmed then we should brace ourselves for sad times in this country. A list should be drawn of all the graduates from ENAM, FMBMS, IRIC, POLYTECHNICS, and other prestigious schools in the country. That list should be used to determine the parentage of all of these graduates. Then we will understand the level of nepotism in our country. These are facts that respect no linguistic or cultural divide. Between 75% to 80% of Cameroonians are under 25. Cameroonians youths now are hungering for a better future. That is an idea. You can oppress all you want but you cannot kill an ideal. That is the inevitable nature of change. There is a wind blowing and it is slowly turning into a tornado, there is nothing we can do to change the direction of this wind, but we can certainly adjust our sails to reach our destination.
In the final analysis we can blame everything on secessionists or any other person for that matter, even on me, since I have now been openly accused of fanning the flames of secession. The facts will not change. In the words of Tony Robbins, “change is inevitable, progress is optional”.