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vendredi, décembre 4, 2020

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Kumba, the healing power of empathy and how we are all failing as a nation

Wanda People, more than a week after the Kumba Massacre that saw a dozen innocent students tragically lose their lives, the images still haunt people’s minds. In our opinion column, in the grip of this recent tragedy, Nathanaël Sanduo analyzes the ins and outs of a crisis that has already been going on for far too many years in Cameroon.


Once labeled as a nation of peace, both politicians and civilians used to boast about the fact that despite harsh living conditions one could go to sleep without hearing sounds of bullets and people mourning their deaths. Cameroon is no longer that peaceful nation both politicians and Cameroonians can brag about. How are we all failing as a nation and how can we overcome by nurturing empathy?

Victor CAMIBON, Jennifer Anamgim, Princess Ngemone, Che Telma, Rema Zakame, Chema Syndi, Renny Ngwane. These names are haunting me. I am totally against filming a dead body. It is disrespectful towards the dead and their families and it only serves our morbid curiosity and our insatiable appetite for attention. I wish I never saw the images of their soulless bodies. But I saw them and I have to live with that for the rest of my life. I have to deal with that reality. The reality of how we all failed as a nation to protect those little kids. They did not die, they lost their lives and the countless beauty within it. In fact, someone purposely took their life and we are all to blame. The killers, the government, we the people. If you don’t feel any guilt, you’re either a very privileged person blinded by the relative comfort you’re enjoying or you’re simply a heartless person. 

We can all argue that we were not the one holding the guns. That’s true but that’s just a way to clear our conscience from feeling the guilt of these children’s death. Our country is failing and we are all to blame because we were all unable to protect those kids. All of us.  You must probably be asking yourself how you could have avoided that tragedy because you were not in Kumba and probably like myself you live outside the country. Well let’s start from the beginning. I learned in school that democracy is a system of government by the whole population or all eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives.to put it simply it is the government of the people by the people.  It derives from two Greek words dēmos which means “people” and kratos which means “rule”. Basically, we entrust our government officials with our power, the power of 26 million of Cameroonians by voting. In a perfect democracy election are held and we as a nation we chose do renew our trust because we are satisfied by the government we’ve elected or we decide to vote government officials out because they’re not good enough. President Biya is in office since 1982. They’re claims of rigged elections every single election year but unfortunately, I don’t have any tangible evidence to back those claims since our own judiciary system confirmed his victory. We have to live by the rules of the land. I’m a law-abiding citizen therefore even if I’m suspicious and can’t make a move because I need tangible evidence.  We the people may have the feeling that we are being robbed. We the people are left with the sentiment that our vote doesn’t count. We the people chose massively not to vote having the feeling that our vote is useless. The abstention rate was a record high: 70%. We chose vain complaints instead of voting. 70% of the population chose not to vote. I will disagree with Pr Kamto on his strategy of boycotting the elections. The empty chair policy only worked when you’re in position of power not when you’re seeking for it. We can make a difference once in power not otherwise.

THE POWER OF FEAR

What happened in Kumba is the result of our failure as a nation once again. We have given the power to our government officials either by voting them in or by refusing to vote them out. Mostly we have allowed our country to fail because we’ve accepted to be ruled by fear. We fear to voice our opinion, we fear that if we get too political, our business is going to be affected, we fear that a bamileke might rule the country, we fear that northerners are plotting revenge because our first president HE Ahmadou Ahidjo never received national homage and is still buried outside the land of his ancestors, we fear to protest when government officials embezzle huge chunks of our money, we fear to vote because we think that our vote will not count, we fear to raise our voice when injustice is performed before our own eyes, we fear to go out for a peaceful protest because we might never come back home alive. We fear to say that it is a shame that our president tweeted and did not bother to pays a visit to the families of the victims, he is said to be the father of the nation, which father hears that his children died and sent a state representative ? by the way we cameroonians who’ve reached the voting age are not children, we refuse this paternalistic way of seeing things,  we fear to say that sister Mary is a hero because she was brave enough to call out mister Atangana Nji when he was giving that appaling speech, families lost their child they do not need you to make them feel guilty for their lost it’s a disgrace and a profound lack of empathy,  we fear to do anything because we were told that we will lose everything including our own life. We fear to say that what’s happening to our brothers and sisters and now our children in the south west and north west region is a shame. We fear that we may never make it in our homeland, that’s why we leave our family, we leave our friends to go abroad. We fear to write to our government officials to tell them specific things we’re unhappy about. We should not fear to hold the government accountable because they should always remember that they work for the people, they are our employees therefore we’re their boss, not in a derogatory way that’s just how democracy works: government of the people by the people. We should not fear to tell them that they’re in service to us, not the other way around. We fear our government so much that  we blame the French government and other foreign power for our own failures. Yes, they have their fair share of responsibility in this chaotic system, but what about individual responsibility?

Instead we’ve all chosen the comfort of our little lives in Cameroon or abroad all left with either resentment, hate or resignation to deal with. Cameroonians are amongst the most literate and educated people everywhere I go. We’re a country of proud people. We’re so proud we’re still waiting Pep Guardiola to send his apologies to Eto’o. We come out with huge theories on how our country should be run but nobody acts towards that goal rejecting the fault on the government but when come the time to vote we’re nowhere to be found.  There’s something we should stop waiting for waiting for a saving angel, a celebrity to lead, by doing that we step away from our individual responsibilities and project them onto someone else. Never assume things, you never know what people are going through, what they’re doing behind the scene. Even if they’re not doing anything that’s with them and their conscience. Ask what you can do and stop looking at what others are doing. We deal with our emotions in different ways. 

My good friend Henry once said “solidarity is a shared value amongst Cameroonians, a golden one, but yet we have absolutely no sense of collective interest” we always think that we’re not the evil politicians are. Inaction is as equally evil as bad deeds are. Our country is not failing because we have evil politicians, our country is failing because we’re all watching and doing nothing. 26 million of Cameroonians are watching. We’re a new generation and we refuse to choose between being dead heroes or living cowards. Every generation blames the one before, I refused to let my children and my grandchildren blame our generation for failing to have measured what was at stake because this could be a huge turning point. It is up to us. There’s an alternative and it’s called action. We all want peace. Let’s all together come as a nation, let’s come together as one to find common grounds, to open the dialogue on how we the people could make a change. Frantz Fanon wrote in his book famous posthumous book Wretched of the EarthEach generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it”. Democracy is the government of the people by the people, let’s all choose in a democratic way how we change make things move forward. We’re all intelligent people. There’s an old saying in western countries attributed to Einstein that says “everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live his whole life believing that it is stupid”.

Cameroon is far from being a perfect nation. We have to keep in mind that our democracy is only 60 years old. Our president is older than our democratic system. The French democracy in comparison is 231 years old. Let’s be humble and enthusiast about the future.

“Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it” Frantz Fanon

EMPATHY, NOUN

THE ABILITY TO UNDERSTAND AND SHARE THE FEELINGS OF ANOTHER

We have to build our nation. We cannot achieve that goal if we do not as a whole acknowledge the pain and the suffering our people are going through. It is not by blaming and shaming that we march toward peace which is something we all agree is a good thing for our nation. Let’s start with some facts here our brothers and sisters of the south and north east region are often mocked, we called them “anglophone” in a very contemptuous way yet we love what they brought to the nation: their food (Eru, Achu, Ekwang just to name a few) their leaders, HE John Ngu Foncha, HE Salomon Tandeng Muna, HE Augustine Ngom Jua. One should not forget that thanks to them we were able to achieve the reunification of both Cameroons. Even if I’m not in favor of parting ways with both anglophones regions it will be very dishonest not recognize that their unremitting calls for fair treatment has fallen into deaf ears and resulted in a much worse situation. Cameroon is one and indivisible thus all his children should be treated fairly and when we notice something going wrong it is our duty as citizens to raise our discontent. We francophones failed to do so because of fear not because we do not care. No Cameroonian should be treated as second class citizens. Look at how we treat our brothers and sisters from that region and ask yourself genuinely if you would’ve loved to be treated that way? Families are being torn apart. The promising silicon mountain was hindered in its progression due to this conflict, many businesses have been closing down. It’s a huge lost for those who took the risk to dream of a better life for themselves while creating jobs that would have benefited our country.

Our ability to go from where we are now and achieve great things is unbelievable. We have the resources both human and under the ground. 46% of our population is below the age of 16 that’s why when children die it is the death of our nation and it is not acceptable. People have been dying under our watch since 2016, we didn’t raise our eyebrows, peaceful protesters were silenced in the first place because they were just asking basics rights, lawyers and teachers branded as terrorist… we shouldn’t wait until there are any death to protest especially those of innocent child. Let’s Erase the fear once and for all!

Abusing the government and calling everyone names won’t change the situation. The blame game is a game we all lose if we chose to play because nobody wins when the family feud. We should all take a moment and look at what history teaches us.

 When I was a kid growing up in Yaoundé I attended the French educational system until my Baccalauréat (GCA A level) . My uncle Kunde was a huge fan of Bob Marley and one of his favourite song was Buffalo Soldier in which Bob Marley sings “if you know your history then you’ll know where you’re coming from” we come from colonial oppression but we were able to overcome those times. If western nations were able to have a sit at a table to divide the African continent in general and Cameroun in particular, I deeply believe that we’re smart enough to have a sit at the table of peace. We owe this to our country, for the beautiful things we love about it, our founding fathers fought for our freedom not for us to take things for granted and wear t-shirts with their names on it. We owe this fight for future generations but mostly we owe this fight for ourselves. I believe in non-violence therefore let’s find a way to fight peacefully. 

We all praise Nelson Mandela for what he was able to achieve to bring south Africa together after years of apartheid. After 27 years in prison he did not called for revenge upon his oppressors. With the help of Nobel Prize winner Desmond Tutu and many others they came up with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. After the genocide in Rwanda a similar commission was created in order to put a divided Rwanda on the path of reconstruction after the atrocities. Let’s not wait for more blood to be spilt to react. To our brothers and sisters in the northern region hear this: we love you!  we stand next to you! we feel your pain!  We want a peaceful Cameroun! Our generation will not be the one who only criticize without bringing tangible solution to the table. We should enter the political debate. We were slowly made to believe that politics is an insider’s thing. You don’t need a phd to understand basics things that are affecting your day to day life. My four brothers and sisters all attended anglophones schools, I’m the only francophone in the house. I spent a year in GBHS Mbengwi. My junior brother was affected by Bamenda’s 2016 riots also he had to stop going to school. We’re all in the same boat…

Writing is a form of therapy, I love to write this is how I’m humbly contributing. We’re a nation of talented people, hardworking fathers and mothers, famers, doctors, bayam sellam, contractors, lawyers, musicians, athletes, teachers, dreamers. Painters. Entrepreneurs.  we’re so talented that everyone is important. let’s use this hashtag all over social media in order to make our voices heard #EndAnglophoneCrisis I know all Cameroonians are dreaming for a better life but for now those dying are our brothers and sisters from the North West and South West Region. We do not forget our brother and sisters in the far North regions who are being slaughtered by boko haram. I extend my thoughts and prayers to our Nigerians and Ivorian friends we love you all. We all want our country to thrive. Every want to go to paradise but we’re all afraid to die. We all watch Netflix, foreign movies and tv shows. We’re are all in awe to see how beautiful things are. When I was a kid, I use to dream that I would snow at Christmas like in the Christmas movies I loved so much. Unfortunately, that’s part of the things we see on TV and dream about that will never happen and thank God because winter is only cool on television. What about others things? guess what? it is possible but all it takes is action. Because of our collective inaction children have died and we’re all to blame. If we want that never to happen again remember this: any action is better than inaction. Let that sink.

We all need to ask ourselves how we can erase the fear that’s been holding us back for so many years. My intention is not to judge neither to point fingers. We owe this introspective work, all of us,  to Victor CAMIBON, Jennifer Anamgim, Princess Ngemone, Che Telma, Rema Zakame, Chema Syndi, Renny Ngwane. May your souls rest in perfect peace. Ubuntu

We are all Cameroonians and if we look deeply in our heart, we’ll find more things that connects us to each other and to this country than the opposite. Jovi best put it in his song Man Pass Man Part IV

“Tu es Francophone or you be anglophone? Tara me a be na Cameroun. Maintenant on me demande de choisir Comme si j’avais choisi qu’on m’accouche ici. Commençons du début on go pas à pas, Mes ancêtres sont came de Maroua, le nom de mon couso est Karawa, Là là même je long à Ngola. Les princesses de Bamoun, j’ai même des cousins à Garoua. Moi, toutes mes sœurs sont nées à Douala. On a tous fait l’école à Bamenda. Je know all les motos de Moliko.I say Perika the born me na for Tiko. On est tous des frères, on est tous des bros. On connait le vrai, on connait le faux. On est UN rien ne nous sépare. C’est comme si tu me ask de move le bras. Je prie Dieu qu’il me donne un mouna. Je lui donne un nom de Yokadouma. Pour bâtir la villa pour la mifa, je go tcha mon terrain à Japoma. Le pays de mon père c’est le Mboa” Jovi, Man Pass Man Part IV.

Nathanaël SANDUO.

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