During his keynote address, on September 30 in the Major National Dialogue, Former Cameroon Diplomat at the UN, Dr. Simon Munzu said he prefers federation as the form of the State. While applauding the initiative, the Federalist urged PM Dion Ngute to also spread his collaborative tentacles on the international scene.
My personal preference is for a federation. However, our purpose here is not to place a political science label on the Cameroonian nation. The path to achieving the two specific objectives that I have mentioned lies not in the name by which the thing is called but in the content that it is given. It is through the transfer of essential competences and the allocation of adequate budget resources that we can enhance the effective protection of the identity and culture of the former British Southern Cameroons in all domains as well as the effectiveness of the autonomy of each of our ten regions
NATIONAL DIALOGUE ON THE SITUATION IN THE NORTHWEST AND SOUTHWEST REGIONS OF CAMEROON, Yaounde Conference Centre, 30th September to 4th October 2019 KEYNOTE ADDRESS DELIVERED BY DR. SIMON MUNZU THE CRISIS IN THE SOUTHWEST AND NORTHWEST REGIONS OF CAMEROON – LESSONS FROM OUR PAST AND VISION FOR OUR FUTURE
YOUR EXCELLENCY, THE HONORABLE PRIME MINISTER, HEAD OF GOVERNMENT
I sincerely thank you for the honour of inviting me to address this first plenary session of the Major National Dialogue on the situation in the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon. It is well known by Cameroonians that since 1992- 1993, from inside the ruling CPDM where I was Secretary for Economic and Social Affairs of the Central Committee and, as Senior Lecturer at the University of Yaounde, a civil servant, I insistently drew the attention of our leaders and governing elites to the existence of an Anglophone problem that needed to be taken seriously and addressed. My party did not listen to me. That was a long time, a very long time ago. In the light of the events of the past three years, I could say today to former colleagues of the CPDM: ‘JE VOUS AVAIS DIT’. But I won’t do that. I want us to look forward.
Since the beginning of this crisis, I have relentlessly advocated the convening of a national dialogue on the situation, to be preceded by a preparatory meeting of the people of the Southwest and Northwest regions. I regret that this preparatory meeting did not take place, but I am delighted that a Major National Dialogue on the situation in the Northwest and Southwest regions is now taking place. I applaud the President of the Republic, Head of State, for convening the dialogue and congratulate you, Honorable Prime Minister, Head of Government, for being designated by the Head of State to chair it.
HONORABLE PRIME MINISTER
MY FELLOW CAMEROONIANS
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN
The subject of my address is: ‘The Crisis in the Southwest and Northwest Regions of Cameroon – Lessons from Our Past and Vision for Our Future’. Today is the 30th of September 2019. Tomorrow, we will enter into the month of October. It will also be the beginning of the fourth year since the ongoing crisis in the Northwest and Southwest regions of our country started in October 2016. We meet here this week to trace the path for the return of peace to these two regions and the return to normalcy of the lives and livelihoods of their inhabitants. We do so in the full understanding that we cannot get peace if we do not provide justice. To attain this objective, we must be willing, in our sincere and truthful examination of the situation, to draw the lessons of our past and define a vision for our future.
Who are we? We are the sons and daughters of a territory whose overall boundaries were set not by us but by foreign powers in treaties to which we were not a party; a territory which was divided into two zones of unequal size, again under the terms of treaties between foreign powers to which we were not a party; a territory in which two foreign cultures were grafted, one in each of the two zones as delineated by foreigners, on hundreds of indigenous cultures prevailing within it, with each of the two foreign cultures being raised to national status within its zone.
We are the sons and daughters of a territory whose two parts, as delineated by foreign powers, could have remained permanently separated if the people of one of them had not chosen in February 1961 to forge a new nation together with the people of the other. In forging this new nation, we recognized that each of the two foreign cultures had left its imprint on our land and on our people and that, therefore, in the new nation, each should be given equal status and be allowed to flourish in its zone of influence while we nurtured both as our common heritage.
We are the sons and daughters of a territory in which, over time, we deviated from the underlying foundation of our new nation. We crafted and applied a system of governance in which, instead of giving full value and space to each of our two non-indigenous cultures and allowing them to mutually strengthen and enrich each other for the benefit of all the inhabitants of our nation, we allowed one non-indigenous culture to dominate the other. This National Dialogue offers us the opportunity, during the discussions in plenary and committee sessions, to illustrate this phenomenon that lies at the root of the current crisis, so that there should be no doubt as to its reality and the pervasiveness of its effect.
We are the sons and daughters of a nation in which the governing elite at national, regional and local levels and the people whom they govern hardly dialogue with one another on a daily basis, thus failing to develop a culture of mutual tolerance, of adherence to shared values and of pursuit of the general interest, among Cameroonians at home and in the diaspora. There has been a tendency to use the state apparatus to silence the voices of citizens and impinge on their civil liberties. Citizens on their part have tended more and more to defy state authority and to resort to the street as their preferred forum for expressing their grievances and making their voices heard.
We are the sons and daughters of a nation in which we have ingrained in our psyche the perception that only the viewpoint of the governing elite should shape the policies of our country in all spheres, making it impossible for citizens who do not hold public office to inject their expertise constructively into the conduct of our governance and the formulation of policies and strategies in all spheres of our national endeavor
We are the sons and daughters of a nation in which we neglect the teaching of the history of our country and the promotion of knowledge about its key actors over the decades. By so doing, we create the conditions for the distortion and truncating of this same history by perverse forces, as has been so amply demonstrated in the course of the crisis that we have witnessed, and continue to witness, in the Southwest and Northwest regions of our country since October 2016.
HONOURABLE PRIME MINISTER
MY FELLOW CAMEROONIANS
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN
At this National Dialogue, which is purposely dedicated to the situation in the Northwest and Southwest regions, we are challenged, with the gaze on our past, to set the vision for our future.
We face the challenge of acknowledging that the coming together of the former British Southern Cameroons and the former French Cameroon on 1 October 1961 to form the Federal Republic of Cameroon is the single event in the history of the composition of our great nation of which all Cameroonians ought to be proud the most. Unlike other developments in the constitution of our nation, this one was decided not by foreign powers, but by us, Cameroonians.
We face the challenge of remaining faithful to our initial intent to make of Cameroon a country of One Nation and Two Systems in which each of the two non-indigenous cultures is considered our common heritage, given equal value and status and allowed to flourish in its territorial zone of influence and to strengthen and enrich the other for the full benefit of every Cameroonian. If we persist in making one of these dominate the other, we lose the benefits that come with promoting both. There can be no doubt that a bilingual, bicultural and bi-jural Cameroon strengthens our place in the world and renders us more competitive on the international arena. By contrast, we are diminished as a nation when our two heritages are not treated equally and display a lack of respect for each other.
We face the challenge of ensuring that in our united country, neither of the territories constituting the union is allowed to dominate or assimilate the other as this is bound to be met with strong resistance, such as we have witnessed in the past three years. For, let it be said loud and clear: in 1961, in electing to join the Republic of Cameroon, the people of the British Southern Cameroons chose to achieve independence as envisaged by the Plebiscite Question that was put to them. They did not vote to deliver themselves into marginalization, domination or assimilation over time.
We face the challenge of recognizing that in our nation we do not have all the angels on one side and all the devils on the other. We need to create synergies between the governing elites and the ordinary citizens at national, regional and local levels, to build a culture of permanent dialogue between the governing and the governed and to develop in each Cameroonian at home and in the diaspora a passion for mutual tolerance, a passion for adherence to shared values and a passion for the pursuit of the general interest in all national endeavors.
We face the challenge of teaching the history of our country to its people and of promoting public knowledge and awareness about its key actors through all the decades, thus creating the conditions for the avoidance of distortion and truncating of this same history by perverse forces within and outside the country.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN
At this National Dialogue, we should make a heroic start at meeting these challenges. Our efforts should be guided by two specific objectives: first, to restore to the territory and people of the Northwest and Southwest regions their full sense of identity in a Cameroon that is united in its diversity; and, second, to respond positively to the aspirations of each region of Cameroon to a greater degree of autonomy that would better serve its inhabitants.
This entails making the necessary adjustments to the form and functioning of the State. Some would say that the two specific objectives that we seek are to be obtained through decentralization of the unitary state. Others would claim that they are best achieved through federation. And others still would assert that the form of the State best suited for their achievement is confederation. My personal preference is for a federation. However, our purpose here is not to place a political science label on the Cameroonian nation. The path to achieving the two specific objectives that I have mentioned lies not in the name by which the thing is called but in the content that it is given. It is through the transfer of essential competences and the allocation of adequate budget resources that we can enhance the effective protection of the identity and culture of the former British Southern Cameroons in all domains as well as the effectiveness of the autonomy of each of our ten regions.
The process of addressing the situation in the Northwest and Southwest regions may not be fully achieved this week. But, with this Major National Dialogue, it has begun. At this dialogue, we should envisage and recommend subsequent stages to be accomplished in addressing the situation in the Southwest and Northwest regions as well as modalities for their implementation. This should include subsequent overtures and engagement with those Cameroonians at home and in the diaspora who, having been invited to this National Dialogue, were unable for one reason or another to attend.
Undoubtedly, the responsibility for addressing the situation in the Northwest and Southwest regions is primarily that of the Cameroonian State and people. This does not preclude the possibility, where necessary and appropriate, for Cameroonian actors to cooperate and collaborate with international actors to achieve positive results. We encourage you, Honorable Prime Minister, Head of Government, to pursue such international cooperation and collaboration in your quest for a lasting solution to the situation in the Southwest and Northwest regions.
YOUR EXCELLENCY, THE PRIME MINISTER
MY FELLOW CAMEROONIANS
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN
It is clear to every one of us that the moment has come for us to end the suffering of our people and to return normalcy to their lives and livelihoods. It is time for children to regain their right to education and be allowed to resume school. It is time for the tens of thousands of refugees in Nigeria and the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons to return to their homes in their towns and villages. It is time for the functioning of the economy to resume its normal course in the Northwest and Southwest regions.
This week offers us the opportunity to work together to ensure justice and peace for the inhabitants of the Southwest and Northwest regions and to confound skeptics and critics at home and abroad. Cameroon belongs to all of us. All of us belong to Cameroon. The duty to save our country in time of peril falls upon all of us. Therefore, from this rostrum, I call on every Cameroonian to join in the journey to justice and peace that begins with this Major National Dialogue. Let’s tone down the verbal violence and hate speech. Enough blood has been spilled – let’s stop the killing.
With the will to succeed in every one of us, all of us will succeed. God bless the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon.
God bless Cameroon.