By Boh Herbert
Buea was bound to produce its surprises. Here is my list of the most intriguing ones so far, as read in reporting out of the foot of Mount Cameroon.
- Mrs. Anna Foncha could not travel from Bamenda to be in Buea because, as she told a local radio station, her invitation from the presidency was not delivered until the very last hour before the celebrations were due to open. The 91-year-old realized she could make it to Buea, but her health would take such a beating from the excellent roads the regime has tarred all across Southern Cameroons that she won’t have the strength to attend the celebrations.
- The reunification monument which is supposed to be the showpiece of the celebrations had hardly been unveiled for a full day than the good people of Southern Cameroons had given it a not-so-Christian name. The monument has appropriately been named the Crematorium. Talk of throwing a wish horse in hell fire!
- With time running out, the emperor is not yet seen as the star. Stealing the headlines is one of those SCNC vandals, Mola Njoh Litumbe, who has earned the only standing ovation not praising reunification, but for literally “spitting on the grave” of what he considers a farce of a reunification.
- Freed of the obligation as a member of government to “Dimabola”, Professor Ephraim Ngwafor helped Njoh Litumbe to rob salt into the reunification wounds by pointing to the regime’s failure to respect Article 18 of its own Constitution.
- I guess you have to forgive Bishop Emeritus Lysinge for not expecting that use of the word “conversion” could leave such a bad taste in the ears of Southern Cameroonians. The pastor should re-read Exodus. Moses, he will find out, did not invite the Israeli people to conversion when asked to lead them out of slavery in Egypt into the Promised Land.
- Prime Minister Yang reportedly missed the best opportunity he has had so far to acknowledge that any reasonable government negotiates – if need be - with even armed insurrections, instead of blackmailing the civil society groups SCNC and SCAPO into conversion – here you go, Mgr. Lysinge – into political parties before any meaningful dialogue can be opened between them and La Republique. Never mind that La Republique engaged the same groups in an international court in Banjul, The Gambia!
- What is a celebration like this worth unless – in the absence of the ceremonial release of white doves to signify peace (of which the president apparently wants nothing) – the emperor chose instead to release a few jail birds? "All bird, nobi bird? Haabaa!"
- How symbolic that the president came to the hometown of Ewukem’s Prisons Buea; that he came to the home of West Cameroon’s Prison Warden Training School; that he came to the hometown of the country’s best production prisons to sign a decree granting pardon and commutation of jail terms for certain privileged jail birds - some of them freed ostensibly "by order of the colonial master Hollande". Sorry, Chief Inoni. Not this time! Her Majesty the Queen of England has not spoken yet.
A few more words on this freedom for jailbird decree before I close:
- The decree teaches something some already knew: if you want to steal in Cameroon, heed the slogan is “chop broke pot”. Petty theft or petty corruption does not pay. You want proof? It is especially all the “grands katikas” – I mean all the “grands bandits” – those who have done the most harm to the country - that are walking free. The petty thieves and pickpockets neither have wings strong enough nor godfather's powerful enough to help them in their flight from jail.
- The decree proves - if ever there was still need for evidence - that those who have looted the public treasury will be free while citizens pay the price for daring to seek freedom! Remarkably, there will be no presidential pardon for those students of the University of Buea, who will continue to languish in jail for daring to protest against poor learning conditions or calling for an end to practices such as “sexually transmitted marks”. There will be no presidential pardon for SCNC/SCAPO members who are in jail for daring – many times, over all these past years, notably since 1990 - to celebrate the same illegality called reunification that Mr. Biya is visiting Buea at this moment to celebrate. There will be no amnesty for political prisoners, such as the writer Enow who is held at the Kondengui Prison for daring to run for president from a region whose votes are exclusively reserved for the emperor and whose supporters had the effrontery to embarrass the emperor durng one of his latest trips to Europe.
- The decreee teachers that persons thrown in jail for committing even the most violent of crimes do not even have to have shown remorse to regain freedom. Apologies to all what the Buea Production Prison stands for. The UB students who appealed for clemency in writing will not walk out of jail. Despite being signed only a few days after celebrations marking the so-called Youth Day, the presidential pardon does not aim to release juvenile delinquents serving short sentences in jails across the country.
Writing these lines got me wondering: is it possible that the president treats fellow Cameroonians in jail the same way the “lottery” system works when picking the turkey that is ultimately presented to the American President on each Thanksgiving Feast to receive presidential pardon at the White House?
Don't get me wrong. Look - I want to see Chief Inoni free. I want the student leaders freed. I want SCNC members freed. I want political prisoners freed. But, I hate to even imagine that anyone - be he the president - thinks any of these Cameroonians is just another turkey.
When News Breaks Out, We Break In. Minute by Minute Report on Cameroon and Africa